AGE AND BEAUTY: THE RISE OF THE GREY CONSUMER

As consumers, we are often good at telling brands that they need to improve to be more inclusive and representative. Yet, an aspect of inclusivity that is often overlooked or forgotten about in the fashion industry is age diversity. Understandably, most brands are choosing to target millennials, who are technology savvy for e-commerce and have the potential to become long-term customers as they get older. However, the number of consumers aged 50+ (also known as grey consumers) are increasing and now make up 40% of the UK population. Research cited by Fashion United, found that spending on fashion by the older generation is due to increase by 11 billion pounds (60%) from 2019 to 2040. This shows that the grey consumer should be a key consumer for brands to target now and in the future. Targeting the grey market will only benefit brands, as they can resonate with this larger audience and in turn, increase their profitability.

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According to data collected by Mintel, 5% of all ad spend is directed towards the over 50s demographic in the UK. The older generation in general, are not considered as fashion icons and as a result, we very rarely see older models in a brand’s marketing efforts or advertising campaigns. However, there are some luxury brands that are beginning to change this. For example, Kristin Scott Thomas, a famous 60 year old model and actress, featured in fashion brand Burberry’s 2018 Christmas campaign, along with Julie Walters, aged 70 and Elton John, aged 73. Jewellery brand Swarovski have also worked with a number of older models, including 70 year old model Maye Musk, who starred alongside model Karlie Kloss in one of their campaigns. Fast fashion brands and high street retailers, perhaps because they have a younger target demographic, have not been nearly as age inclusive as luxury brands.

Research shows the grey market holds 80% of all personal wealth and 70% of all disposable income in the UK. As such, they have money to spend on clothing and are considered as one of the more affluent demographics. Brands should make more effort to include older models and actresses in their marketing strategies, as this will show the brand is targeting and reaching out to the 50+ population.

It is clear that the grey market has huge untapped potential. There are multiple ways in which brands can become inclusive for the grey consumer. To get started, here’s a few simple measures brands could take –

1. Utilise email marketing to connect digitally with the consumer

Email marketing delivers the highest return on investment of any marketing method and is therefore, always a good tool to use. It is a particularly good method for connecting with the older consumer, as email is a medium they are familiar with and know how to use. The benefits of using email marketing, is that it is less expensive than other marketing methods and grey consumers can be segmented to receive different emails than other target demographics. This will help to personalise the content for each different age group based on their likes, needs etc.

2. Create tailored and personalised experiences for the customer

When I was carrying out focus groups for my dissertation, one key theme emerged from talking with consumers aged 50+. These consumers want personalised experiences. One suggestion that was made in the focus group, was that brands could create online shopping assistants to tell them what would suit them, and provide suggestions of a whole outfit, rather than a single garment. The same could be done for the instore experience.

Brands could also make stores more friendly for the older generation, by having seats in stores and trying to keep the store all one-level. Brands should also be unique. These consumers are generally retired and have the time to go shopping. As such, brands should make stores an experience so that consumers want to go into their stores. Sportswear brand Sweaty Betty is a good example of this as in addition to selling their clothes, they provide consumers the opportunity to eat, get their hair done and take a fitness class.

3. Improve the brands’ website so that it is easy to use

The older generation is less technology savvy so having a complicated website will only result in the loss of a customer. Is the website easy to read? Is the website easy to navigate? These are questions that should be considered. Research has found that older consumers often don’t shop online due to the hassle of returns. As such, it is important brands look at their returns process and whether it can be improved. Brands would benefit from offering a service where the customer can get someone to pick up their return and do the process for them.

4. Advertise Quality over Quantity

Unlike millennials, the grey consumer does not necessarily follow fashion trends, as they want products that will last longer than the fashion season. As such, older consumers will need to receive different marketing messages that focus on the quality of the product. For example, the brand can go into detail about how the product was made (showing close ups of the product), who made it and how it will be a classic and timeless piece in a consumer’s wardrobe. Euromonitor International found that within the grey market, 57% of customers regularly buy from the same brand. By targeting the older generation correctly, and utilising existing brand recognition, there is opportunity for consumers to become loyal to the brand.

I want to know your thoughts! What steps would you add in helping to create a more age diverse industry? Let me know in the comments!

*Photos sourced from Google Images and Dior instagram