Older Generations and SMS Messaging

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sms messaging for older generation

Everyone knows Millennials and Generation Z’s are already using mobiles in droves. My son and daughter are in the Z generation. They handle technology as if it were in their hands when they were born. But older generations are generally slower to pick up on the technology trends. And that’s been true with mobiles as well. But a surprising number of baby boomers, and even the silent generation (over aged 71) are using mobiles.

As of 2013, 40% of people over 55 used a smartphone in the UK according to a survey by Deloitte. Globally, smartphone use in that age group grew from 20% in 2012 to 31% in 2013. By the end of 2015, 50% of people between 55 and 64 will own a smartphone and 18% of people over 65 will too.

If you’re trying to reach out to these older demographics, it might be time to consider mobile marketing. But what kind should you choose?

Many of these surveys that find increased ownership, also find that older people aren’t using the Internet on their mobile. They use it as a phone and maybe a few apps but they don’t surf the web.  I know that’s true for my 76 year old mother. I got her an iPhone 6+ for her birthday this year. Before that she had an old (and I mean old) flip phone that she didn’t even know how to use well. I figured the big screen would make things much easier for her. And it did to some extent. She checks her email, and might open the weather app from time to time. She’ll make and take calls too. She’s a bit slow to take to technology, but even she is doing it.

My 80 year old Dad on the other hand, has had an iPhone for quite some time. He is very comfortable with it and will text, call, and use apps (he doesn’t surf the web though because the screen is so small!). My anecdotal examples back up what the surveys are saying. Older generations are getting used to mobiles, but they don’t use them to their full extent like the younger generations.

The takeaway here is that SMS messaging is something that older generations can do on their smartphones. They may not see mobile video ads, or even mobile friendly websites. But they will see text messages.

Reaching out via SMS messaging

If you’re interested in reaching these older generations via mobile, SMS messaging is one of the best ways to do it. But you might need to rethink the campaigns you’re already running for the younger generations.

The Canadian Business Review had a great article on the types of things to keep in mind when designing SMS campaigns for older users. Here’s a summary of their recommendations:

Think simple – Keep your SMS messages as clear and straightforward as you can. Older generations aren’t always up to speed with Internet speak, abbreviations, or new meanings to words. For example, sick will always mean ill, not cool, awesome or amazing as many younger people use it today!

Think easy – Technology may still be a challenge for many so if you offer a coupon or other deal via text, make it easy to redeem. Tell them just to show the message rather than give a link to go and print the coupon, or ask them to cut and past the coupon code into a web page. The simplest method will get the highest redemption.

Ask for referrals – “Back in the day” people believed in word of mouth and personal testimonials. Once you’ve got someone on your list, ask them to share the info or offers with other people too. Maybe even give them an incentive for doing so. The Business Review article claims this will cut your marketing time in half.

SMS messaging can work for the over 55 crowd too. And the number of people using mobiles in that age group will just keep increasing over time. So why not get started before everyone is doing it?

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