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elderly consumers: a new take on the old

February 09, 2013

Marketing to those on the latter side of life's continuum is not a novel idea and, given their rising purchasing power in the developed world,  has been the focus of marketers in a number of industries.  An academic publication, the Journal of Consumer Research in a recent piece, puts the spotlight on those at the very end ofthat continuum, those who require "friends, family and service providers" to enable their consumption activity, labelling them as the "elderly consumption ensemble"  or ECE". 

An interesting, if ancillayr, takeaway from the foregoing research article is that the very elderly "used various strategies to negotiate their identity with others. Sometimes they attempted to convince others of their not-old identity through verbal arguments. Other times, they tried to prove that they were not old by independently performing activities." That looks like an, as yet, unfulfilled marketing opportunity.  Considering how technology has enabled many with physical limitations to be full and meaningful participants of society; before long, one could expect them to fulfill their desire to be the "independent" consumer they were before infirmities stemming from the passage of time limited them.

While many in the retail and travel trade have their sights set on this burgeoning and potentially lucrative segment, today's reality  is a long way from fulfilling the preceding thought. In fact, the travel trade with hotels, airlines and restaurants remain woefully unprepared to meet their needs for a variety of reasons not the least of which is the preponderance of form over functionality in design. A principal reason is that many decision makers in the spheres of operations and design necessarily are "young" and, therefore, insensitive, to the dynamics of this market.

Examples abound:   poorly lit restaurants where menus are illegible to most except those in the 20's and 30s; airlines providing 2 toilets in a business class cabin that seats 40 (US airlines compound that by shutting off one of those for the cockpit crew for extended periods of time); hotel rooms with alleged avant-garde designs that feature a "flowing desk" attached to the wall (limits leg space), not to mention lighting (as in Hydepark room photo
this photo of a room in a high-end London hotel). The list is long but so are the opportunities for those who would like to cash in on the trait the researchers identify: the longing to consume independently. 

 

 

 

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