Direct mail or online – how do you communicate with retirees?

Do older people respond better to direct mail than email?

 

It’s been a long time since I was asked to write a printed piece of direct mail, but it seems that getting in touch by post is still relevant for older people.

According to figures from research group TGI 35% of retirees are likely to renew a service after a reminder in the post and are most likely to respond by post too.

Asked about its marketing strategy for a report supported by Royal Mail, Saga told Marketing Week that older recipients valued well-written letters that were personalised and to the point.

Similarly Well Pharmacy (previously the Co-operative Pharmacy) says it’s found that older customers prefer complex messaging as direct mail that they can read, consider and file or throw away as they see fit.

What’s important here is understand the preferred method of communication.

Younger retirees are likely to have spent at least the latter part of their working lives immersed in technology and are completely comfortable with the style and speed of email and social media.

While it’s difficult to draw lines according to age, it’s likely that the older the age group, the more likely they are to prefer traditional methods of communication.

The trick for marketers will be to discern where their customers sit in this sliding scale and communicate appropriately. With all the data available within their organisations today, it would good to think they can research previous interactions with each customer to get that communication right.

Image: GraphicStock

No disrespect. Writing about older people

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Four years ago I started editing a website offering advice and shared experience for the family and friends of older people.

The content was a mile away from my usual diet of B2B and B2C marketing communications. And here was the problem. It required a completely different approach in the voice that we use.

Most of my “day-job” B2B clients want to appear professional and approachable without being over-friendly. They want to be enthusiastic without being over-zealous. And the B2C clients want a tone that defines their brand and appeals to consumer aspirations.

This project is quite different. There are plenty of topics here that come under the label of “eurgh”. We believe we can’t ignore them, so we approach at least some of them with a  dollop of humour. After all, it’s the grimaced smiles that get us through some of the darker days.

The trouble with the humour is that it has to sit alongside pieces that are just truly heart-rending, and we never want to offend or belittle the traumatic stories that some of our readers have to tell.

So we take it gently. We need to show respect to our readers who have volunteered to tell their stories of life with ageing and frail parents.

We always aim to be useful. We want our content to be  illuminating, enlightening and offer an opportunity to talk. We treat people’s stories and their pain with the honour they deserve. But when we have permission to smile and turn on the humour to get us through, we do.

More older people are renting homes – at least temporarily

Renting property in retirement

The notion that older people are blocking the housing market for younger people by sitting in family homes they no longer need is perplexing. Family homes are not what young people want so where’s the problem? Or is it that if they moved out everyone on the ladder could step up a rung and then there’d be room for those starting out?

Whatever the argument, a new report from Saga suggests that actually older people may be actually competing for smaller homes in an unexpected way.

More older people are renting

The survey finds that a third of over 50s are currently living in rented accommodation. That’s up from 25% in 2011. Saga reports that the biggest increase in renters is in the 50-54 age group, and that 20% of renters over 50 are single. And Saga thinks many of them are waiting to get back onto the bottom rung of the housing market.

Why’s that happening? The rise in “silver splitters” is a likely cause. As people live longer they’re continuing to evaluate their happiness into their retirement years and divorce is a more common option. That involves selling the family home and splitting the assets. One family home doesn’t necessarily equate to two smaller properties in the same area, so people are taking their time to decide where and how they are going to invest again, if they can.

Downsizing on a single income

Moving into specially built retirement apartments or villages may not be an option. While these properties range in price dramatically depending on the provider, facilities and location, they are generally not cheap. One apartment could easily eat up the value of an entire family home.

Moving away to save money

Moving to a different part of the country is also often mooted as the answer to unlocking the value of assets. But anyone hoping for a pretty cottage in the Cotswolds or a charming cathedral town will be disappointed, as these have become destinations of choice for retirees. And even last week there was a surge of searches around moving to Scotland, as shocked pro-EU voters wondered if Scotland might leave the UK and rejoin the EU in the next few years.

Competing in the first-home market

All this suggests then that it’s in the small home market that older people may be competing with first-time buyers. If that’s the case, then calling retirees out for holding up the property market by staying in the large family home is a tad unfair.