Marketers listen up. Throw the radio out of the window. Throw your stereotypes out the window too, they are holding your organisation back.

It is a digital age. Marketers are moving away from traditional marketing techniques and using different tools such as the laptop, iPad and iPod, as well as different channels including podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, Email, Skype and mobile to name just a few.

Times are changing and older people are more technologically savvy than you may think. They could also be your organisation’s most valuable consumers. Before we see why, let’s have a look at how older consumers are often perceived.

Common perceptions of the older consumer.

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s 2013 research report found that 71% of Australians felt that age discrimination in Australia was common. In the report, the Honourable Susan Ryan AO, Australian Age Discrimination Commissioner, identified common stereotypes of older Australians. These were that older Australians are unable to learn or change and are likely to be sick, the victims of crime and an economic burden on society. These negative perceptions were found to be reinforced in the media with the most common words used to describe the portrayal of older people being forgetful, slow, frail, vulnerable, a burden, a grump and sick.

The report also found that a common experience of age related discrimination is the feeling of being ignored by corporate Australia. This was underpinned by a lack of understanding of the financial capacity of older people.

One respondent aged 65+ said, “I had a friend who was looking to buy a new car…with cash. She walked into the dealer and was basically told that she “probably wouldn’t be interested in these types of cars” and that she should look at some of the other businesses down the road.”

33% of persons aged 65+ reported difficulties in accessing services and products and another 27 % were refused a service or had difficulty making a purchase.

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Other common perceptions of older people were that they were resistant to change and it was difficult to have a conversation with them about technology.

One respondent aged 65+ said, “There is a presumption that old people will have difficulty with the newer technology, the computer technology – they just design it in such a way and don’t bother thinking about the older market.”

These perceptions prevent marketers from reaching the segment of the population that may well be their most valuable consumers. Here is why.

The reality.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, persons aged between around 55 and 70 have the highest net worth and therefore the highest spending power.

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Further, while those aged 65+ may not be the age group with the highest levels of internet usage, the majority of Australians aged 65+ do use the internet everyday. Source: Sensis Social Media Report 2015.

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Let’s also look at device ownership statistics. 60% of people aged 65+ have a laptop, 41% an iPad or other tablet, 58% a desktop computer. All significant portions of people aged 65+. If marketers are overlooking these channels in their marketing strategy, they are missing out.

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When asked how they wanted to be seen, respondents to the Human Rights Commission’s report replied, “Just like young but with more wrinkles” and, “Like everyone else. Age doesn’t need to be factored into it.”

In today’s competitive world, older people are too important to be ignored. They could well be your most valuable consumers.

We understand older consumers. Talk to us.

Image credit: Kumsval via Flickr creative commons.