Small Business: The 50-plus goldmine

Canny businesses can make baby boomers lucrative and loyal customers.
Absolute Wilderness director Grant MacDonald.
Absolute Wilderness director Grant MacDonald.

Baby-boomers, born in the post-World War II years of 1946-1964, make up about a quarter of our population but account for more than half of all disposable income.

Most likely mortgage-free, with children who have left home, they're asset rich and at the peak of their earning capacity, says Chris Schultz, managing director of Senioragency, an advertising and marketing agency specialising in reaching consumers aged 50-plus.

Although they're big consumers of health and wellbeing, travel and lifestyle products, boomers are often overlooked by bigger companies, says Schultz.

"Very few big businesses have identified the boomer opportunity. For example, 60 per cent of all new cars are bought by people in this age group, yet car ads always show people in their 30s," he says.

"But smaller, local businesses see the opportunity because they're more closely in touch with their customers and are more flexible."

Boomers like to be recognised for their purchase, patronage and loyalty, so the personal touch is a must, says Schultz. And contrary to some perceptions, boomers are easily reached online.

Karen Newton is an owner of women's swimwear brand Covertogs, which sells online and targets consumers aged 50-plus.

When the business started about three years ago, Newton was unsure about selling online to an older demographic.

"What emerged from our focus group research, and from talking with women since starting the business, is they like buying swimwear online - obviously given certain returns and refund policies," says Newton.

"Trying on swimwear in shops is something women don't necessarily enjoy, especially as they get older, so they like being able to try it on in the privacy of their own home and where they can check it out with their nearest and dearest."

Print advertising has also helped the company connect with boomer consumers, says Newton.

As a boomer, she has opted to advertise in the kind of media she engages with.

Andrew MacDonald is an owner of Absolute Wilderness, a Nelson-based firm that makes freeze-dried meals. A large proportion of the company's customers fall into the baby-boomer category and they're largely directed to the company's products by word of mouth, says McDonald.

"Baby-boomers are very much about reputation and quality, so they're willing to say if something is great or not - and they tell a lot of their friends," he says.

"Most importantly for connecting to this market I've put my cellphone number on the website. A lot of people still want to talk to a person and by being able to call the guy running it, they're able to have any questions answered. It's much better than sending an email or talking to a random customer service person."


Coming up in Small Business: Some small businesses are building brands and creating a following by blogging. Why do they blog and what benefits are they seeing in their operations?
If you have a story to share, drop me a note: nzhsmallbusiness@gmail.com.

- Herald on Sunday

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