Marketing expert GILL WALKER explains how to go about selling to the baby boomer generation, who want service, experience and social engagement.
Boomer retirement: only on my terms
There is an important distinction to make about boomers versus their parents. Their parents were driven more by needs and necessity and for boomers who have always wanted to be different from their parents it’s more about wants, especially experience-based ones. They definitely don’t want to be defined by age.
I recall a piece of research that asked boomer men and women what they were looking forward to in retirement. Men’s thoughts tended to be along the lines of ‘more time for sexual relations’ and women were looking for a new experience, such as ‘swimming with dolphins’. Obviously hard to do both at the same time but interesting to note, both related to experiences rather than ownership.
From a marketing perspective, it is vital that for boomers you dial up the experience that they will get. It’s about self-approval based motives over social approval-based motives, which appeal to the young. A good example of this is technology in the home – a must for all homebuyers.
For boomers, it’s more about the rational benefits of technology, not skite technology. Smart technology that controls the temperature of the home, saves money, checks your health, automatically turns on the lights in the corridor when you go to the bathroom at night, are more attractive than home cinema and surround sound.
My advice is for retirement developers to watch mainstream property marketers more closely as their housing options without the ‘age tags’ will have greater appeal to boomers in the next few years.
Boomers want social engagement as that is the secret to youthfulness; they want a lifestyle with less worries, more ‘me time’, and importantly they want to stay healthy (mentally and physically) so as not to be a burden on their kids or have to go to aged care. Boomers will look to flock with friends not just family especially if their family are dispersed around the world.
For boomers self-interests is a new ‘religion’ – whether that is travelling to remote places, new business ventures, kayaking or cycling which they now say is the ‘new golf’ for older men. Many of the older golf-based retirement villages in the US are taking out some of the space to put in walking and cycling tracks. Boomers like to exercise on their own terms, not at clubs where they need to book, or have formal access. Adding in incidental exercise into your action packed non-retirement lifestyle is very important.
Boomers like service and are prepared to pay for it. In the past ten years, boomers have been responsible for the proliferation of home service bridging the gap of people staying at home. From exercise, home maintenance, cooking to cleaning - bring it on.
Boomers will continue to work much longer than their forebears and are unlikely to see themselves as ‘retiring’ in the traditional sense. Consequently, being close to work is likely to be a consideration, as will be the need to work from home, which might mean developers have to provide a separate entrance for the home business, extra car parking, or even serviced offices within the community. In some US retirement villages, nearly 40 per cent of the residents work, which creates new dynamics for opening hours for specialist facilities and resident committee meetings.
Remember the mantra of universality of design, which is the principle that buildings, products, and environments should be inherently accessible to people with and without disabilities; this is important irrespective of age. This might mean wider interior doors and hallways, lever handles rather than twisting knobs, smooth, ground-level entrances without stairs, and light or sound activated devices.
Being wired in every room is important, not just for the obvious business or recreational technology requirements, but also to cater for the flood of e-health technologies that will be demanded so that people can age well in their own place.
Interestingly, boomers will have to work harder to form their lifestyle and social networks in retirement as many were dual income families and therefore didn’t build friendships in readiness the same way their parents did. Marketers who start to foster relationships within the community for social interaction will help build bridges faster and will be appealing to boomers.
Intergenerational developers have a head start, especially with boomers – they just need to build the right product.
Lastly, remember boomers have bought and sold more property than previous generations and are therefore more experienced at buying off the plan. What we also know is that boomers want to own their retirement residences, and have at least one eye on an improved investment outcome. So the DMF model has less and less appeal, as they feel both parties should benefit financially.