In this week’s guest post, Kim Walker, CEO of Silver Group, details the development of a unique marketing audit tool for brands called The AF Brands app. The app measures how well brands respond to physiological ageing. The trial version of the iPad-only app is available now and free to download from iTunes.

“A recent survey of more than 10,000 consumers in the UK revealed that 82% of those over 55 years feel their favourite retail brand doesn’t understand them or their needs. In fact, 95% said they would even consider ‘cheating’ on their favourite retailer by shopping with a competitor that perhaps understands them better.

The key word here is ‘understand’. What does this really mean in terms of the customer experience and why is this any different for older consumers than for younger ones?

The fundamental thing to know about the spending patterns of older consumers is that age alone is a poor proxy for spending behavior. Treating the older consumer as a homogeneous group is extremely naïve, bordering on stupid.

Our studies confirm that consumption is driven more by attitudes than ages. Notable exceptions are the triggers of life-stage and, particularly pertinent to ageing consumers, major life events such as retirement, divorce, empty-nest, health crisis and such.

We argue however, that beyond attitudes and behaviors there is another, often overlooked yet more unique aspect that distinguishes the needs of older consumers from younger folks; the depressing reality that our body, our mind and our senses are experiencing a variety of impairments that accompany our natural ageing process.

These physiological effects amplify from around 50 years of age. What makes things more difficult for brands is that few self-respecting older consumers will freely acknowledge or admit their impairments and hence the impact on their ability to shop. However, with knowledge, brands can anticipate them and in so doing continue to deliver an ‘ageless’ customer experience that enables adult consumers of all ages engage with a brand; we call this Lifetime CX. To achieve this requires the careful scrutiny of almost every customer interaction, or touchpoint; each must be re-evaluated and adapted in response to the physiological effects of ageing. But how!?

In our book Marketing to the Ageing Consumer, we codified 25 ways that ageing impairs the senses, body and mind. These ‘effects of ageing’ must be considered when evaluating the interaction or touchpoint that a customer has throughout the entire purchase cycle or customer journey.

This thinking has been incorporated into an iPad app that scores each touchpoint, providing a rigorous method to identify the preparedness of band in adapting to the effects of ageing. The unique AF Brands audit tool measures how well brands respond to physiological ageing. The trial version of the iPad-only app is free to download from iTunes.

The tool has been used to evaluate customer journeys for businesses in the telecoms, financial services and hospitality industries.

Most products, services and customer experiences are optimized for the young, creating unintended barriers for older customers. In a world that is ageing as never before and with a growing army of relatively wealthier older consumers, it makes absolute sense for every business to embrace them.

Anything less is short-sighted or worse, ageist.”