When the Web first moved into the mainstream with the launch of the Netscape browser in 1995, Boomers were already in their 30s and 40s. They were well established in adulthood, and behavior patterns had been set. During the 1980s they were adopters of the then cutting-edge technology of cellular phones, which was a key element of the “Yuppie” persona that defined the Boomer generation in the 1980s. But, in the same way that Gen-X grew up with cell phones but were slower adopters of text messaging than Millennials, Boomers were slower adopters of the Internet, and use it differently than younger generations. But “different” doesn’t mean that they are not tech savvy or frequent users – and in some cases they are behaviorally identical to their younger counterparts.
Boomers who fall in the middle of the tech-savvy spectrum still often use technology differently than their younger counterparts. The key difference is that the Web, in particular, is not seen as a destination. It is transactional. You go online to do something. Even use of Facebook, which Boomers have been joining in large numbers, follows this pattern. For a Millennial, Facebook is a destination, so much so that it is reducing the importance of having a driver’s license — which had been a key rite of passage for Boomers. It is this difference that is most important when using technology to communicate with tech-savvy Boomers.
Another key cultural implication that must be considered when trying to reach the wide spectrum of those who might be considered a tech-savvy Boomer is that Boomers do not see themselves as old or out-of-touch. Unlike previous generations, many Boomers see their 50s (and up) as their prime. It’s not that they are unaware that there is a youth culture, but Boomer culture has been very dominant up until very recently, and much of the current technology innovation is being led by Boomers: For example, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is 55 years old.
Implications and Action Items
When targeting tech-savvy Boomers, it’s important that the form and function of all communications resemble the other cutting-edge, or leading-edge, sites they may be visiting – but one must also address the reality that they may need higher-contrast visuals and larger fonts. Imagery should be aspirational, not evocative of the nostalgia of youth.
Email is still the primary digital communication tool for Boomers, but for tech-savvy Boomers you may want to expand to blogs, podcasts, mobile phone apps, mobile optimized websites, and even the Kindle and iPad. The Kindle has seen wide adoption among Boomers and seniors because it is a simple, single-use device made for reading. The iPad already has magazines like Popular Mechanics publishing for its format.
Here are some important tips for being relevant and engaging to tech-savvy Boomers:
- Engage them through the same channels you would engage any tech-savvy person
- Optimize digital experiences to support Boomers more transactional use of the Web & digital technology
- Utilize aspirational imagery, not nostalgic images of the past
- Consider issues around accessibility and ensure that high contrast text/background and larger fonts are used
- Ensure that the definition of “tech-savvy” includes a spectrum that matches the reality
- Create specific criteria for each end of the tech-savvy spectrum to ensure the communications will be effective
Author: Carlen Lea Lesser, RTC Relationship Marketing