Women: Well-Connected And Wired

By Stephen Reily Monday, June 8, 2009

Women: Well-Connected And Wired

Among the fastest-growing demographics on Facebook are women age 55-plus! The growth of Boomer women on social networking sites is confirmed by a white paper released by VibrantNation.com, based on a survey of 1,000 well-educated Boomer women with household incomes above $75,000. The study reveals three major findings:

1) Vibrant Women, as this sector of the 50-plus crowd is dubbed, are better connected than marketers presume, and their connections are growing with age. They’re defying stereotypes that their world of relationships shrinks.

Reasons for the growing network include technological advances in her lifetime (Internet, cell phones). In addition, these are the women that liberated the workplace, laying the groundwork for extended engagement in careers.

Before the workplace revolution and Internet, women’s external connections declined as they aged, centering on family and home. The best-educated generation of women in history, many left home for college, backpacked around the world, and later followed their own, their husbands’ or their partners’ careers to multiple cities. Women 50+ expect to see new places, learn new things and meet new people.

The average active 30-day personal network for women 50-plus in this study is a robust 48. For the most highly connected third of these women, that 30-day network includes an average of 99 personal contacts.

2) After personal experience, Boomer women depend on the opinions of “women like them” (even strangers) more than anything else. Since so few marketing dollars are spent against these women (who spend so much more than their younger peers), they represent the most influential, underserved word-of-mouth marketers alive.

Eighty-eight percent of women declared referrals from others (including online testimonials from strangers) as one of the top three sources in making a purchase decision. In contrast, less than 60% identified advertising as a similarly important influence; less than half defined television as a primary purchase motivator.

Women 50+ are also highly selective about the sources of information they rely on when deciding which specific brand, product or service to purchase. Almost three out of four (71%) reported that they rely on advice from outside their personal networks only if the source exhibits great knowledge about the product or service in question.

3) Vibrant Women tap into existing relationships and seek out new connections not just because of social orientation, but because their needs and interests change as they age. They report motivational drivers that differ markedly from earlier life stages as well as from younger women’s motivations to buy.

Almost every respondent reported that motivations regarding purchasing decisions changed dramatically as she entered her late 40s and 50s. This shift arises not from traditional assumptions about consumers nearing retirement, but rather from a constellation of psycho-social factors that come into play at midlife and beyond: financial stability (most reported increased income in their 50s), life stage transitions (empty nest, losing a parent/spouse), physical changes (menopause, surviving breast cancer), new family roles (grandparent, caregiver), and social changes (travel/volunteerism raise social and environmental awareness).

They’re twice as likely to select brands based solely on personal needs than in their 20s or 30s. Similarly, they’re four times less likely to focus on the needs of others (husband, children, etc.) in their 50s and 60s as they were during their 20s. Finally, this segment of women is more than six times as likely to make purchase decisions based on their personal values (environmental and/or social) as they were in their 20s.

Marketers who fail to address these powerful motivating factors among women who look to each other for answers and referrals – online and in the “real” world – will fail to win business from these valuable, well-connected consumers.

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Source: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=107426