It’s something that Western marketers may have steered clear of in the last few years but there is some evidence that aiming advertising at the older generation in China could have substantial benefits. The general apocryphal view is that it is easier to reach China’s ageing population through channels such as television and newspapers rather than online and that social media is just not for them.
According to a recent social media impact report for China, the demographic for social media is becoming a lot more diverse and 10% of users for WeChat now fall into the senior citizen category. With over 500 million users signed up the platform that’s an awfully large number of people that marketing executives could be targeting.
With plenty of free time and a good deal of disposable income, bringing the older generation into the online world makes sense. For Western brands that have ignored this demographic in the past, the good news is that older people in China are not as anti-technology as many seem to think.
It seems that far from turning away from new technology many older people are learning how to use smartphones and platforms such as WeChat and Weibo to stay in touch with their relations and also to carry out a bit of shopping.
According to China Central TV, a university in Harbin City has been teaching pensioners how to use the latest technology:
“A total of 40 students attended a lesson on Thursday and among them the oldest was 87-year-old Bai Wanfang. ‘My three sons are in Beijing. Communicating with them on WeChat is good,’ said Bai.”
If some industry insiders are to be believed, Western companies could take advantage of a significant online market if they have a product that is of interest to the older market. First and foremost they will need to create a sense of online community which senior citizens will feel they are a part of. Indeed, some brands are now creating digital meeting places where this particular demographic can renew old acquaintances, stay in contact with family and develop new friendships.
Not only that, the future, as with many areas of the world, may well belong to the older consumer. In China the senior population is growing and is, even now, a significant part of the population. There is also the realisation that the middle age population that is fully conversant with online technology will, in time, become the next senior citizens of the country.
With more disposable income available perhaps than many of their younger peers, those involved in e-commerce have a vested interest in getting more senior citizens to become netizens. This is particularly relevant in areas such as travel, which older people are doing more of, and retirement pastimes. According to Chairman Media:
“Another major group will be the hobbyist, with more free time after retirement and more money, many seniors will take up hobbies to fill their free time. Photography, art & crafts, dancing, and events services will all become more attractive to the senior population.”
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