Dennis Potgraven
Mar 25, 2019

The rising potential of China’s new seniors

Set aside your millennial obsession for a moment and focus on China's fastest-growing generational group.

The rising potential of China’s new seniors

There is certainly no shortage of research or advice when it comes to marketing to millennials, touted as the most significant demographic in marketing. China is no exception when it comes to millennial obsession. However, a closer look reveals that elderly people (defined as over-60s) represent the fastest growing generational group in China. This group accounts for over 170 million people, representing more than a quarter of all Chinese households. Not only are they getting more comfortable with technology, they are also open to new experiences and products, making them a hard-to-ignore group. Based on our Meaningful Brands and Prosumer studies, we found a particular group of seniors within the post-60’s demographic that displayed a high potential for business growth. We call this group China’s 'new seniors' and the following are five distinct trends and accompanying opportunities that arise from this group.  

1. Life after parenthood

Self-love. China's new seniors are starting to develop more self-love than any other older generation. In the words of a respondent, “I have been working so hard to earn a living and raise my child. Now it’s time to live for myself and spend more time on things for myself.”

The new seniors are vocal about doing things they like, but also don't want to undermine the strong emotional bond they share with their grown children. However, the reality is that young adults in China still count on the support of their parents, be it economic (mortgage loans) or social (help with raising grandkids).

Brands can play a key role in addressing the tension between the willingness to support and the higher need for self-enjoyment. 

2. Pragmatic, healthier lives

The new seniors’ pursuit of a healthier lifestyle is a key trend, showcasing a pragmatic mindset that is worth exploring. The concept of health is not limited to solving physical problems or resolving health worries, but to having a healthier lifestyle, and more importantly, peace of mind. In order to achieve the goal, new seniors rely more on expertise than previous experience among peers. They are also more open to new health concepts and new ways of staying healthy.

However, there are several obstacles to be tackled. Faced with multiple and complicated messages about health, it is a considerable task to tell the fake from the correct, which often leads to poorly informed choices and expenses.

What can brands do to help? Showcase the importance of health and help seniors lead heathier lives by offering trustworthy advice and solutions that are easy to implement.

3. Explore socialising

China's new seniors are no longer limited by working hours, so finding meaningful ways of spending time, such as travel, are becoming a new need in this new life stage. Hobbies like travel are increasingly explored with friends rather than family.

But the issue is there are not enough qualified products or service to meet the customised needs of the elderly. Most brands haven’t realised that seniors’ needs should be properly listened to and understood. Their experience needs to be upgraded.

The brand role in dealing with this problem should be offering them a new experience enabling them to be together, facilitating in attaching and establishing deeper relation and curiosity for new cultures and new places matching this generations interests.

For example, e-commerce platform PinDuoDuo offers seniors social bonding via a mechanism called acquaintance e-commerce, where they can invite friends to join a bargain to get an attractive low price. Seniors are hyper active in this game, not merely due to the low price but also to the socialising opportunity the app offers.

4. Building technology enthusiasm

Contrary to the perception of the elderly not being digitally savvy, technology is welcomed and widely accepted amongst China’s new seniors, since new technology enables them to keep up with the latest trends and new opportunities. Instead of regarding technology as a burden, their expectation about the role of technology is that of a convenient life reformer. The challenge, however, is whether they are equipped to make technology a part of their lives despite the willingness to embrace technology.

Therefore, the mission should be taken by relevant brands to give them user-friendly service, by demonstrating functions in a more comprehensive way. Involving their children is another good choice. For example, Taobao has encouraged young people to be tutors for their parents' first Taobao experience, and WeChat launched a rap instruction video to educate elderly people on the app's functions.

5. Invest with peace of mind

China’s new seniors are cautious with their investments and shy away from investing in high-risk, high-reward products that may impact their financial well-being. An investment decision is usually made in consultation with their family.  Peace of mind, trust and stability are extremely important factors in the decision-making process. 

It is brands’ mission and chance to get closer and earn more credibility by offering easy choices. 

The underlying sentiment of the above observations and opportunities is clear. The elderly generation cares less about bargain value and more about quality, convenience and experience. One of the key triggers of activating this market is digitisation as Alibaba has done by streamlining payment methods, customising shopping recommendations and digitally connecting with children.

Increasing presence on mobile, speaking directly to seniors via messaging chatbots, using visuals on social platforms, tailoring search terms specific to this audience and focusing on content rooted in Chinese culture, are also tools of activation. China’s new seniors are poised to be mainstream consumers, and brands that define communication strategies for them early on will find rewarding returns over time.

Dennis Potgraven is chief strategy officer at Havas Group Greater China.

Campaign Asia

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