Service design for seniors

July 28, 2014

Take a moment to list a few of the values which make the opposite sex happy. Three or four is enough.

At Brand Manual, we’ve done this exercise dozens of times, and found that we often tend to stereotype others. ALL the ladies we know prefer pink, shopping, massages, and art, while ALL of our male friends are enamoured with their career and cars, sports and beer. But is this really the case? Or are these lazy conclusions based on a lack of understanding of details and nuances?

The same kind of lazy conclusions can be drawn in marketing to older consumers. Marketers often fall into the trap of stereotyping seniors on the basis of their physical abilities (weak, disabled, slow), their socio-economic parameters (less income, modestly living, strict budget) or their technological phobias (being less familiar with IT, conservative outlook, not interested in the online world). However, we all know seniors who buck these stereotypes.

Some of the most influential politicians, world famous musicians, entrepreneurs, activists and artists represent the elderly population. And we wouldn’t consider labelling them ‘seniors’, or treat them as people with ‘special needs’. For the most part, they are vital, with lifetimes of experience, are often sharp-minded, and have the free time to get the most from life.

senior plaza
If we designed services especially for seniors, what should they look like?

Extensive research data supports this view. A.T. Kearney’s ‘Global maturing consumer’ study (2011-2012) highlights results of over 3,000 elderly consumers from different countries. According to the research, seniors define themselves as ‘old’ from the age of 80. Up until they become octogenarians, they refer to themselves as ‘mature’, ‘experienced’, ‘senior’ and ‘late middle age’.

With regards purchasing power (the much sought after ‘grey-Euro’) there were some surprising findings. Seniors tend to buy less, yet they compensate lower quantity with higher quality (i.e more expensive) products from well-known brands. And yes, they are brand loyal. It is not uncommon for a senior to have life-long experience of a brand name, guaranteeing their dedication to a level of quality.

As for technology, the results are no-less surprising. According to A.T. Kearney’s study, over 85% of the over 60 population, and 50% of over 80s, use mobile devices. And what about their internet use? Reportedly, over 50% of seniors use the internet, while half of these regularly shop online.

At Brand Manual, when we start working with new clients, the first thing we do is map their customer’s journey. Simple or complex, depending on the clients needs and depth of analysis, customer journey mapping helps to design services which aim serve customers. Experience has taught us that service providers (our clients) often focus on the most obvious part of a customer journey – from stepping in to stepping out of the store. Yet for customers, the journey starts and ends much later – from finding the store online to arriving back home and using the product. Understanding the entire customer journey, and using that knowledge to make every brand/customer interaction convenient and intuitive creates return customers. A good brand exists because of loyalty and positive feedback from its repeat-users.

customer journey section

With this in mind, how is a senior customer’s journey different from that of a junior’s? We believe that the difference is minimal, if at all. Yes, senior customers might need more time to adjust and make choices, but their goals are the same – to spend their money to satisfy their needs.

However, A.T. Kearney’s research found that when talking about retail experiences and problems they faced, seniors often highlighted physical difficulties (products placed too high or low to reach), inconvenient packaging (texts are too small to read or printed badly), inadequate personnel (impolite spotty teenagers with no insight or experience to help customers). But these complaints should not simply be relegated to a senior’s brand experience. Poor store layout, bad packaging and terrible service have affected every age group one time or another.

The problems thus are not in a specific group of consumers, but in poorly designed products and services. And seniors are often unable to compensate for these shortcomings as easily as younger consumers can. They may complain less, but younger clientele will still be as upset as seniors at bad shopping experiences.

So this is the aspect of Service Design which should be addressed specifically – understanding a customer’s journey through considered, in-depth research, knowing that one change in how a brand presents itself can affect everyone, young and old.

The above article is a summary of the presentation:
Best-Marketing Practices: ‘How to market to the seniors?’
Brand Manual: “Service design to the seniors?!” Stanislav Nemerzhitski, Kaarel Mikkin
12th of June, 2014, Tallinn