How to sell to Seniors Online: Usability guidelines and tips for marketing to seniors on the web

Why should you try to sell to seniors, adults 55 to 60 and up? The answer is the same one the criminal gave when asked why he robbed banks: “Because that’s where the money is! “Heads of households ages 50 to 65 possess 30% of the total discretionary income in this country, with those 65+ controlling an additional 13%, according to a 2005 study by The Conference Board.

A “silver tsunami” is on its way as the leading edge of the Baby Boomers turn 62 in 2008. Today’s seniors are increasingly likely to be using the Internet. Seventy-two percent of 51 to 59 year-olds and 54% of 60-69 year-olds are online. The number of wired seniors will only grow, according to a January 2006 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

How do you sell to this lucrative market? Seniors behave differently on the web for a variety of reasons. As a member of this group, I’m aware that as physical abilities diminish with age, both visual and cognitive behaviors are affected. Here are some tips:

  • Font size should be the equivalent of 12 point.
  • Instructions should be clear and simple, tested on seniors before they are published.
  • Use straightforward, benefits-focused sales arguments and be open with costs.
  • Don’t talk down. Remember, most of our teachers are now seniors and they are no fools.
  • Provide full disclosure about your offerings and substantiate your claims.
  • Avoid confusing acronyms, market-ese, or jargon they may not understand.

Here are some particular characteristics you’re likely to find with seniors. All have memories of severe recessions or even a market crash. They remember the days when sales promises were unregulated and hucksters ran rampant. Thus they tend to recoil from flashy promises and hype.

Seniors tend to be more conservative than they were when younger. They also tend to experience more anxiety with age. As a result you need to provide clear messages about transaction security, describing your security policies using text and links rather than logos they may not recognize.

Most seniors I have tested will abandon a site before asking for help. Thus, if you haven’t tested your site’s usability on several seniors, you are likely to be losing customers without knowing it. First, test for conventional usability guidelines, the first step toward dramatic improvement in conversions. Then begin to focus on senior-specific usability issues. Follow the proven usability and conversion maxim: “Test carefully and test often.”

As you observe these basic usability guidelines and these senior-specific suggestions, you’ll find greater success with this profitable market.

For More Information

See Improving Conversion Rates, Usability & Web Analytics for an overview of how we can help improve conversions on your web site