Saturday, October 18, 2008

Selling To Seniors: Are You Ready for the Baby Boomers?

There’s a huge demographic bubble about to burst all over the web. The Boomers are coming! The Boomers are coming! Get ready or miss the herd as they pass by your site.

Seniors Don’t Use the Web the Way We Do
My father is 82 and in the past 10 years he’s had 11 different computers. He blows them up like M-80s and proudly proclaims “That extended service contract more than pays for itself.”

Well, maybe it does when there’s a good chance that dad’s system is going to lock up, shoot sparks out of the back of the box and delete important files “all on its own.”

The Surfing Habits of Seniors
Unlike Gen-Xers, Gen-Yers and the Millennium Kids who grew up with mouses in their little chubby hands, seniors see computers with suspicion, distrust and a modicum of fear. They’re less likely to make an online purchase for fear of identity theft (even though the nice waiter at the four-star restaurant can swipe the credit card on a reader and have it posted all over the web by sunrise).

Seniors Follow Links
Older, less experienced consumers tend to follow links and are less likely to use search engines. It’s fun to look at my dad’s surfing history. Dementia has definitely set in. But that’s how many seniors surf. They bounce around like ping pong balls hoping to find the right site.

Seniors Rely On Guides
Seniors are often guided by everyone from the nice librarian to grandma’s eight-year-old little girl with 2000 downloads on her iPod, a cluttered space on MySpace (complete with pink unicorns) and even has her own website. These young ‘uns teach seniors the basics of site navigation.

Seniors Don’t Scroll
Or at least they’re less likely to than younger, more savvy users. That means that all critical information should appear above the fold of your site’s home page, with lots of body text to encourage the senior user to look below.

Seniors are Confused by Navigation
Many aren’t even aware of site navigation. Embedded text links help to direct the Gray Panther through the Plexiglas maze that is today’s feature-filled website.

Seniors Like Big Links
“Better to see you with, my dear.” [Little Red Riding Hood; pg. 8]

Clearly labeled, consistently labeled and always in the same spot – a navigation bar at the top of the page, for example. Older users are less likely to use a site map to navigate a site. Many don’t know what a site map is and those that do think it’s too much hassle, man.

Seniors Don’t Use Browser Buttons
Again, the web is alien turf to many seniors who don’t know what a browser is. So, they don’t know what browser buttons do. And they’re not inclined to experiment, unless you’re my dad who will click on any link on any site and in any email. Apparently, he’s going to receive $650,000 from the Nigerian Ambassador just for holding some assets in his name.

Savvy users employ next and back browser buttons with ease. They also use their browser histories to return to site worthy of a second look.

Seniors Will Not Read Day-Glo Pink on a White Background
Are you kidding me? Many of these senior prospects can hardly read black text against a white background. Think accessibility of content. How easy is it to read, how easy it to navigate the site for a newbie?

This tsunami of seniors is already knocking on your commercial site door, booking cruises, buying yoga books, comparison shopping for cars and getting fitted for a truss.

The easier it is for a senior visitor to make the purchase, the more purchases will be made. It’s that simple.

One final thought: add a telephone number to your home page for customer service and order taking. Those old hippies may not be comfortable giving a credit card number on a website, though they’ll gladly provide it over the phone.

Make it easy to make the sale, make more sales.
Paul Lalley

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