How Baby Boomers Make Purchase Choices Online and on Mobile - eMarketer
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How Baby Boomers Make Purchase Choices Online and on Mobile

October 28, 2015 | Retail & Ecommerce | Demographics | Mobile


Lori Bitter
President and Senior Strategist
The Business of Aging; Author of “The Grandparent Economy”

Although the baby boomer generation is broadly defined as consumers between the ages of 51 and 69, the demographic is heavily stratified. When it comes to mobile device adoption, there are key differences driven by gender and age. Lori Bitter, consultant at The Business of Aging and author of “The Grandparent Economy,” spoke to eMarketer’s Maria Minsker about those patterns.

eMarketer: Is there a gender gap among baby boomers that suggests men are still using mobile devices more than women?

Lori Bitter: We see women attached to their tablets. They like them for book reading and for going online. They appreciate the portability. Men also use them to read, but they’re not quite as attached as their female counterparts. Women are, however, a little behind in terms of smartphones. Men use more of their apps and women haven’t caught up yet.

eMarketer: Are baby boomers browsing the mobile web, or are they more likely to use apps?

“If there’s a niche in the boomer market, it’s people who want to have the newest, fastest and best technology early on.”

Bitter: The ones who have smartphones do use the mobile web. Boomers like peer reviews of restaurants and store experiences, and are beginning to use tools like Yelp or OpenTable. But they still mostly choose to search [the web]. In focus groups, boomers seem to be confused about when they’re actually in an app vs. when they’re online on their phones. Apps are not part of their adoption curve yet.

eMarketer: Do the baby boomers who were early adopters use mobile devices differently than late bloomers?

Bitter: If there’s a niche in the boomer market, it’s people who want to have the newest, fastest and best technology early on. They behave like any other consumer—there’s a peak when it’s new but eventually interest falls away. The novelty wears off.

eMarketer: What are some misconceptions that marketers may have about baby boomers?

Bitter: A lot of marketers think of baby boomers and picture great grandparents or older grandparents—people in their 70s and 80s. They’re not thinking about who baby boomers really are and the fact that despite their age, they have had this technology in the workplace for most of their careers.

“Boomer women are also one of the fastest-growing categories on Facebook and Pinterest, so don’t count them out.”

Boomer women are also one of the fastest-growing categories on Facebook and Pinterest, so don’t count them out. They have money to spend, and often they’re not just spending on themselves. They’re spending on children, grandchildren and perhaps an elderly loved one. They control dollars across a number of generations.

eMarketer: How can marketers boost engagement on mobile devices?

Bitter: For younger generations, their smartphone is their life, but boomers have to be led there. For example, some consumers can’t keep track of their rewards programs, but marketers can remind them to use those points at checkout. Baby boomers think about points and coupons differently than younger populations, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like a deal. Building in reminders through mobile is a [good idea].

eMarketer: Do you think that baby boomers are more skeptical about the value of new technology than other generations, since they’ve seen the “next big thing” come and go so many times?

Bitter: The baby boom generation has probably seen more change than arguably any generation in history. I don’t think they’re afraid of it, but they do have a “been there, done that” mentality. They might not have bought the iPhone 4, and skipped right to the iPhone 6. They’re willing to wait. In general, creating urgency is very difficult with this population.

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