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  The Networked Boomer Woman: Hear Us Roar   The Networked Boomer Woman: Hear Us Roar  Mya Frazier  
         
 
The Networked Boomer Woman: Hear Us Roar To get there, brands need to shed any preconceived notion of older women as Luddites or self-sacrificing martyrs hesitant to indulge in purchases -- especially ones once neglected during those demanding child-rearing years.

Indeed, it’s quite the opposite.

A boomer woman has a serious network of online friends, family and coworkers. She’s also entered a new stage in life, shedding once frugal and restrictive attitudes toward consumption. Counterintuitive, yes, but a Boomer woman has more in common with a woman in her 20s than one in her 30s or 40s. She’s managing a household without children and an expanding disposable income.

“Discretionary income is growing faster than in other demographics,” said Stephen Reily, founder and CEO of VibrantNation.com, a site devoted to Boomer women and touted as “an online destination and peer-to-peer information exchange for women 50 and older.”

“This is a demo that’s still really up for grabs as far as brand loyalty because of the ways of making brand decisions in different stages of life,” Reily said. “They were really buying for their children. There’s this degree of self interest that sort of blossoms in this age. These women are saying now I’ve been giving and sacrificing for all those years and I really want to do something for myself now.”

 

So what does this mean for brands that want to reach this lucrative market?

The Boomer woman wants to be recognized, but 88% of this market prefers referrals from others (including online testimonials from strangers) as one of the top 3 sources “pushing them over the edge” in making a final purchase decision. So forget about bombarding her with traditional advertising messages. She wants to hear from women just like her, according to a recent study by VibrantNation’s “Well-Connected and Wired,” a quantitative study of 1000 Boomer women.

The study also reported that the average active 30-day personal network for women 50+ is a robust 46. In fact, fewer than 60% name advertising as an important influence and fewer than 40% said television was the primary motivator for purchase decisions. So yes -- Mom is indeed on Facebook and Twitter.

“In stark contrast to stereotypes of increasing marginalization and invisibility, over three quarters of these women report that the size of their networks have remained unchanged or enlarged over the past five years, with the majority citing expansive growth,” the study noted.

Indeed, baby boomer women have no intention of going quietly into old age. This is a market that’s only beginning to come into its own in terms of spending power. The general consensus from many studies is that the collective spending power of boomers tops $2 trillion a year, but will keep expanding, in large part due to the tendency of this generation to put off retirement.

 
According to VibrantNation.com, boomer women influence 80% of the $2.1 trillion in consumer goods purchases made by the boomer demographic each year -- the largest of any segment of the population. Every day, 8 of 10 boomers are online, making them the largest online consumer.

Considering what demographers call the baby-boomer cohort (those born between 1946 and 1964), it is indeed a graying of the workforce. In fact, according to recent studies from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the labor force will continue to age, with the annual growth rate of the 55-and-older group to be 4.1 percent -- four times the rate of growth for the overall labor force. And it’s women who are driving this growth.

Men’s share of the labor force will decrease by 2014, from 53.6 percent to 53.2 percent while women’s share will jump from 46.4 percent to 46.8 percent. Those may seem like ever-so slight uptick. But think again: Those aren’t small shifts when you are talking about an estimated 77 million boomers. It’s an uptick that can make a big difference in buying power -- especially considering that women’s influence on purchasing decisions has been long established by multiple studies.

VibrantNation.com is tapping this market by making inroads online and spurring a dialogue with the segment. Launched in January 2009, its weekly newsletter already tops 50,000 subscribers and the site draws 40,000 unique visitors a month, according to Reily.

The comments are at times raw and revealing. For instance, on a thread discussing the demise of the Saturn brand, “Dallas Lady” writes: “Funny........I had an automobile lust flashback this very morning. Dropping my son off at his high school, I saw a brand new, funky orange/gold, Ford Mustang convertible being tooled around the parking lot (still in paper license plates) by a teenage girl (likely a senior showing off her sr year present from overly doting parents). Setting aside my rolling eyes in disgust at such an expense in the hands of a 17 year old.....I gotta tell ya: It took me back in time, and I said to myself: ‘Self. That’s totally cool and awesome. You need to get you some of that.’ Dang, being 51 and jealous of a 17 year old's possessions really sucks.”

But how can marketers tap into that sentiment of indulgence?

“The first thing is for brands to recognize this is a market. In fact, it is the marketing trifecta. Usually, marketers have to choose the biggest market, the market growing the most, or the market with the most money. Boomer women are all of the above,” said Marti Barletta, author of the book, “PrimeTime Women: How to Win the Hearts, Minds and Business of Boomer Big Spender,” and CEO of The TrendSight Group, based in Winnetka, Illinois, whose clients include Ford, Frito-Lay, Logitech, Allstate, among others.

Her book argues that the female Boomer market is the prime business opportunity for marketers today in a huge number of segments, yet is completely overlooked by marketers.

Asked what brands get it, Barletta offered a rather truncated list. “People ask me this all the time and I have to stay none,” before relenting and giving a nod to Curves, the chain of fitness centers geared toward older women and department-store chain Nordstrom, which regularly features women with silver hair in ads.

And despite a rough patch for retail during the ongoing recession, she said apparel stores J.Jill, Coldwater Creek and Chico’s deserve credit for effectively reaching out to this market in women’s apparel.

Additionally, Barletta pointed to the struggles More magazine has attracting advertisers, as outlined in a recent New York Times article. It noted that the magazine’s average reader “makes about $93,000, around $30,000 more than the average for Vogue, Allure or Harper’s Bazaar, according to Mediamark Research and Intelligence. But More has hardly a luxury ad in it.”

“Tell me how that makes sense?” Barletta asked.    

[18-Dec-2009]

 
  
  

Mya Frazier is freelance business journalist. She can be reached at www.myafrazier.com.

     
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