Consumers 50-Plus Are Online Like Never Before. Here’s How Marketers Can Reach Them

By Mark Bradbury, VP Research & Insights, AARP Media Advertising Network

Adults 50-plus are a financial powerhouse of an audience, responsible for more than half of all consumer spending each year. Internet use among this vital demographic is skyrocketing; Nearly all of them are online now – 78% more than the number who were online just a decade ago, according to the latest MRI-Simmons data. But it’s not just the traffic volume that’s significant – 50-plus consumers are also using the internet more frequently for a wide range of applications including online shopping.

These shifts have major implications for marketers. They present a critical opportunity to connect with 50-plus adults online and influence their purchase decisions.

Here are three insights marketers can use to drive stronger digital engagement with 50-plus consumers.

Match their frequency — it’s higher than you might think

Today, over nine in 10 (95%) adults 50-plus are online – 112 million people in all. That’s an increase of 32 million in the past five years and 49 million over the last 10, according to MRI-Simmons. And they’re using the internet far more often now than they did just a few years ago. It’s particularly noteworthy that this figure is consistent across generations. Among adults between the ages of 50 and 59, 80% say they use the internet more. And among adults over age 70, the percentage is nearly identical at 79%.

The big question for marketers is: Will 50-plus consumers see your brand online often enough to stay top-of-mind? The key is to maintain a consistent, high-frequency presence, integrated across channels, focusing on environments that 50-plus consumers trust and prefer.

Appreciate their need for information — and accelerate their journey through the purchase funnel

Consumers 50-plus are, first and foremost, avid consumers of information. A vast majority of adults age 50-plus rely on the internet for information and solutions — and this extends to research they conduct to make purchase decisions. Eight in 10 say that the internet is the first place they look when they need information and that when they need to solve a problem, they search online for what to do. This is another dynamic that’s consistent across generations, with 85% of adults 50-59 saying that the internet is the first place they go, and 82% of adults age 70-plus saying so.

Meet the unique information needs of 50-plus consumers and you’ll quickly build brand awareness, brand favorability, and purchase intent as you help them move through the purchase funnel with ease and confidence.

Think “mobile first” — and optimize your transaction mechanism

More than 85 million online buyers are over age 50, an increase of 33 million since the onset of the pandemic. In any given month, more than seven in 10 adults 50-plus now make purchases online — often via their phones. Here again, there is little generational difference between consumers age 50-59 (74%) and consumers age 70-plus (70%). We are also at a tipping point for shopping online vs. in store, with more than half of adults 50-plus (54%) saying they are more likely to buy a product online.

For marketers, it’s vital to provide a consistent point-of-sale experience. The success of your digital campaign among 50-plus consumers will depend not only on efficient targeting and a compelling offer, but mobile-friendly design and a seamless transaction mechanism that makes buying a breeze.

Bottom line: Marketers are becoming increasingly aware that 50-plus consumers are comfortable with technology. This influential and financially strong audience is quite at home online for a wide range of activities including making buying decisions and purchases. How you reach them is important. Match their frequency and gain mindshare by being online wherever they are, build trust and value by meeting their need for information, and streamline the mobile shopping experience so it’s easy for them to buy from you again and again — and you’ll create lasting customer relationships that can help your business thrive.