Understanding the Boomer Durable Goods Shopper
March 3, 2023
Boomers, as a cohort, are in the midst of change in the way they shop for durable goods. For many, they are starting life anew. They have become empty-nesters. They may be entering retirement. They have plenty of money and are ready to spend it. These factors often cause Boomers to feel the urge to re-invent themselves!
Furthermore, Boomer divorce rates have skyrocketed – more than one in three Americans who divorced in 2020 were over 55 years old, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This creates a whole new consumer group made up of divorcees who had previously deferred to their spouses when making product choices, but who are now setting up households and making those product choices for themselves.
Shopping for Durable Goods
As Americans age, they begin to feel entitled to live well as reward for their lives well lived. This expectation is almost considered a sacred, fundamental right – it is the “American Dream.” Many seniors consider the acquisition of new home furnishings or other major purchases that reflect their status as validation of their lives well lived. Call it the “Good Life.”
Baby Boomers and other senior consumers are less subject to peer influence than younger consumers. They demonstrate increased individualism, because “keeping up with the Joneses” is not as important as it once was. Thus, marketing communications that invoke social status benefits don’t play as well as they once did. Largely freed from worrying about the reactions of others, Boomers tend to demonstrate greater practicality in buying decisions than younger consumers, and they are likely to gravitate toward products that reflect their own personal style.
Boomers are also more likely to respond to emotional stimuli than younger consumers. First impressions are important, and advertising messages that tug on a Boomer’s heartstrings will generally be productive. It is more important how a product or service makes a Boomer feel than what features and benefits it offers.
A Dichotomy in Purchase Decision-making
Older adults are not driven by time pressures to make their purchase decisions; after all, they generally have all the time in the world! Consequently, time-sensitive offers are not particularly compelling to them. That doesn't mean their purchase decision processes are drawn out affairs. They can usually make those decisions rather quickly, as they have probably made similar purchase decisions in the past and don’t need to spend a lot of time analyzing their options. After all, if they have made a purchase decision before and have experienced the outcome of that decision, they will draw on that past experience to arrive at a similar decision again. And that shouldn’t require a lot of time, no matter whether the purchase is big or small.
Not Everything Contributes to a Happy Purchase
To end on a bit of a negative note, seniors are well aware that they are reaching a point in their lives where “loss” is something they must deal with daily – loss of physical strength, loss of health, loss of relevance/authority, loss of peer group and more. Recognizing the losses they are experiencing, seniors want to be portrayed respectfully and realistically in advertisements as:
- Active and energetic
- Intelligent and experienced
- Healthy and fit
- Fun and enjoying life.
This is true, whether they actually envision themselves this way or not!
Messaging that talks to Boomers from this perspective will be positively received.