Silver Surfers: Successful
Online Marketing to Seniors
Copyright © 2005 Kinesis, Inc.
If you are marketing to an older audience, don't discount the value of a
website. People over 50 account for more than 50% of discretionary
spending in the United States, and they are going online to buy. They
have money to spend.
According to recent Pew surveys, the number of online seniors jumped by
47% between 2000 and 2004. There are about 8 million "silver surfers"
(22% of Americans) who are age 65 or older using the Internet. About 58%
of Americans ages 50 to 64 say they surf the Net.
Of wired seniors, 69% go online on a typical day, compared with only 56%
of all Internet users. Silver surfers report using the Internet to stay
in touch with family and friends, using e-mail or sending online
greeting cards. Seniors report several other key reasons for using the
· To stay current with news and events
· To look up health or medical information
· To research products or services to purchase offline
· To make online shopping purchases
· To research and/or check on stocks or investments
"Wired seniors are often as enthusiastic as younger users in the major
activities that define online life such as email and the use of search
engines to answer a specific question," says Susannah Fox, director of
research for Pew/Internet. "They are as likely as younger users to go
online on a typical day. Communication and information searches attract
wired seniors and there has been sharp growth in the number doing key
Internet activities such as health searches, e-shopping and online
As people age, they are more likely to have usability issues. For
example, more seniors have myopia, cataracts, fine motor disabilities,
and short-term memory decreases. Therefore, if your company is targeting
this demographic, it is important to take specific steps to modify your
website appropriately. Don’t make it difficult for your senior visitors
to find what they need on your website. Here are few guidelines to make
your website more older-user friendly:
1. Use larger type, less content: Changes in vision can make is more
difficult to read a computer screen. Reduce the amount of text on each
webpage and use a medium-sized default font. Provide a way for older
viewers to increase the text size. This will make it easier to read for
individuals who do not see as well.
2. Make it easy to read: Use a sans-serif font that is not condensed.
Avoid novelty and cursive typeface. Double space body text.
3. Design with high contrast. Avoid reversed type and patterned
backgrounds. Use dark text on light backgrounds.
4. Keep terminology simple: According to recent studies by Fidelity and
AARP, many senior Internet users are not familiar with commonly used Web
terms. Things younger Internet users know well are a new language to
older users. Avoid web jargon. Examples include: “URL,” “link,” “message
board,” “emoticon,” and “IM.”
5. Be very clear: Use action-word links. Because senior users tend to be
more cautious in what they do on the Internet, use link terminology that
clearly explains what happens when a user clicks on the link. Explain
things concisely, but thoroughly.
6. Make links straightforward: Use an obvious method of displaying links
such as blue, underlined words. Make these consistent throughout your
website. Give users a larger target area to click on to accommodate for
users who may have fine motor coordination difficulties such as tremors.
7. Keep your site design simple and stable: If your site caters to
seniors and you want to change your site, make changes slowly over time.
The more success seniors have with your site and the easier it is for
them to use, the more confidence and loyalty they will develop. Keep
your navigation toolbar in the same place throughout your website.
8. Test your site: Before launching your site, have older adults try out
your website to evaluate its accessibility, readability, and ease of
More and more seniors are surfing the online world. The spending habits
and income of this demographic makes them a desirable target audience.
If your company wants to catch this wave, offer a website that makes it
easy for your users. Create a comfortable online environment for your
online senior visitors, and your business will reap the rewards.
If you liked this article, be sure to visit Kinetic Ideas, a marketing
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