Japan's older shoppers offer growth

14 February 2011

TOKYO: Advertisers seeking to engage Japan's elderly shoppers should focus on TV but should not neglect online, a report by McKinsey suggests.

The consultancy argued Japan may be regarded as a "harbinger of change", given its population is the oldest, in average terms, globally.

"Advanced, and even developing, nations around the world are greying," McKinsey said.

"In many respects, Japan can be seen as a test bed for companies in many industries to begin understanding how to promote to and attract this rapidly growing consumer segment."

To gain a deeper insight, McKinsey surveyed 3,000 people of all ages, and conducted in-depth interviews with 50 individuals of 65 years old or more.

It found the eldest of the featured groups bought food 225 times a year, surpassing the 219 similar store visits recorded by the typical respondent.

These trends were reversed concerning alcohol, where younger contributors logged 67 trips, compared with 56 among their senior counterparts, numbers standing at 48 and 35 when buying apparel.

The gap was less pronounced for electronics, with 26 separate shopping occasions for 18-34 year olds, measured against 20 for the over-65s.

Elsewhere, the amount of single-serve bottled drinks purchased by the normal member of the "silver" demographic came in at 0.81 a week.

This dropped considerably short of the 2.48 score for 18-34 year olds, 2.14 for 35-54 year olds, and 1.21 for 55-64 year olds.

While older customers go to a convenience store 1.17 times a week, this fell below the 1.84 average, although the former community posted above-average figures for attending coffee shops.

"In some respects, such as their patronage of restaurants and coffee shops, their habits are not so different from those of younger Japanese," the study said.

"They rise early in the morning and go to sleep early. They take baths, not showers. They own mobile phones and consumer electronics - but when they buy, they are more focused on price and ease of use."

However, just 10% of people aged at least 50 years old see shopping as "a fun day out", half the rating registered across the entire population.

Turning to media, older Japanese consumers read newspapers for nearly 30 minutes per day, matching the weekly total of many 18-34 year olds, a third of which never read press titles.

The senior audience also watches 12 hours of TV a week, and dedicates almost exactly the same level of time to browsing the web, leaving it only 13 minutes behind the typical Japanese netizen.

"The difference is that they barely touch the mobile Internet; for them, going online means booting up the computer," McKinsey said.

Advertisers must be careful in how they address senior citizens, but the report did find one strong correlation that could prove instructive.

"A close look at the McKinsey survey shows a remarkable overlap between the responses from older Japanese and those of women in general," it said.

"[This] indicates that strategies effective with women in some contexts might only need to be tweaked to target the senior set."

Data sourced from McKinsey; additional content by Warc staff