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Move over kids, give Grandma some room

Silver surfers represent a more important technology market than Generation X and Generation Y, according to new research from Gartner. Speaking at the company’s annual symposium in Australia, Gartner Fellow David Furlonger said that with an aging population in many mature and emerging markets, technologists, designers and marketers must refocus to seize this crucial opportunity.

“In recent years, technology decision makers have focused their work largely on the perceived wants and needs of younger demographics,” said Furlonger. “They have created and sold products targeted explicitly at an already-saturated market of financially poor ‘digital natives’ in Generations X and Y.”

He says this emphasis on the young is unsurprising, since many technologists are themselves part of these younger age groups. However, he believes it is a serious mistake, because it neglects the most promising technology market demographic of all – the affluent, increasingly technologically sophisticated older generation – who we in the media like to label ‘silver surfers’. Although they may be approaching old age, they are very interested in using technology and also have the time and the resources to pursue their interests.

According to unrelated research conducted by Australian mobile company Optus, 76 per cent of silver surfers in Australia use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family, with grandparents using it as a tool to keep up with their grandchildren. The research found that social media connectivity enables older people to reconnect with people from their past whilst also enabling them to find support in times of poor health and chronic disease.

“The consumerization of technology has made it far more accessible, especially in terms of usability, to people who may find PCs more difficult to manage,” added Furlonger. “The younger market has only linear growth potential and decreasing purchasing power, while the silver surfers offer exponential growth opportunities and growing purchasing potential.”

In many key Asia/Pacific markets, the segment of the population over 50 years of age is already 37 per cent, and is growing. These older individuals are healthier and more active, and they lead fuller lives than in the past. They also have more disposable income than in the past and typically more than younger people (post-war home ownership has so much to answer for, but that’s a discussion for another time and place…)

Gartner says that technology marketers can address the specific demands of the older demographic in a number of ways that extend well beyond product design. It is critical they understand the different subsegments within the overall silver surfer group, and how their products, services, packaging and messaging need to take these internal differences into account. For more information, head to the company’s website or watch coverage of the symposium.

“The silver surfer demographic is huge and growing, and clearly has both the ability and the desire to spend significant amounts of money on technology,” said Furlonger. “However, to date, most technologists and technology manufacturers have failed to deliver products and services that meet the needs of this market, and marketers have largely failed to target it effectively. To do so will require fundamental changes in their approach to product and service design, marketing and sales”

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