Monday, July 02, 2007

E-marketing: Most seniors reachable online

E-marketing: Most seniors reachable online

by Joshua Slatko (Med Ad News)

Seniors 50 years old and older represent a large but frequently overlooked opportunity for online marketers in the health-care sector, according to a report by media investment management company GroupM. This group comprises nearly one-third (31%) of the U.S. adult population and is particularly important to marketers due to its disproportionate demand for health-care related information and products. The GroupM report offers a number of suggestions for marketers attempting to communicate with the senior market through online media.

"The thirst for health information on such topics as self-diagnosis and medication side effects is driving more older consumers online," says Gerard Broussard, research and analytics director, GroupM Interaction ( "Our study provides pharmaceutical companies and other senior-oriented advertisers with a road map for tapping into this lucrative market. We’re recommending specific actions marketers can take to engage the 50+ consumer on the Web."

The GroupM study, conducted by market research company Millward Brown (, comprised telephone interviews with more than 500 respondents 50 years old and older. The study’s findings revealed that most seniors (88%) have sought health information, and more than two thirds (67%) that sought health information looked for the information online.

The study concludes that almost half (48%) of seniors are already using the Internet to search for health-related information. In addition, the majority of the other half may be reachable by online advertisers. The study findings show that this other half can be fit into one of four segments, three of which may represent potential marketing opportunities. These segments include gatekeeper users, senior hopefuls, trust challenged, and old school.

Gatekeeper users are individuals who are not confident using the Web on their own, thus they have friends or family do their searching for them. About 12% of U.S. seniors surveyed fit into this category. The GroupM report recommends that marketers craft messages specifically for those gatekeepers. Other possible tactics include promotions that encourage the gatekeepers to surf the Internet with their loved ones or to teach their loved ones how to conduct Web searches on their own.

Senior hopefuls are individuals who do not currently go online but might consider doing so if Websites were simpler to use, if they could find the information they need quickly, or if a gatekeeper would search for them. About 15% of U.S. seniors surveyed fit into this category. The GroupM report recommends that marketers develop easy-to-find, one-stop-shop content to appeal to this segment.

Trust-challenged users are individuals who use the Internet routinely but do not seek online health-related content because they doubt its credibility. About 11% of U.S. seniors surveyed were trust challenged. GroupM recommends that marketers certify their messages via promotions that include recommendations from credentialed health-care professionals such as physicians, and enlisting other online seniors as word-of-mouth advocates.

The old school category includes individuals who may simply be unreachable for marketers via the Internet. This group, accounting for about 9% of U.S. seniors surveyed, does not go online and believes that there is no reason to use the Web. The GroupM study suggests that access has little to no effect on this segment’s decision not to surf the Internet.

The GroupM study includes a few other key findings for pharmaceutical marketers. The first is that the Internet ranks surprisingly high among favored sources of health information for seniors. Among the seniors surveyed, the Web placed second only to doctors as a primary source of health information and fourth among total sources. The Internet ranked ahead of friends and family and pharmacists as a primary source, and ahead of medical books, pamphlets and fliers, and advertisements, among others, in the ranking of total sources.

Another key finding is that pharmaceutical company Websites are trusted by more than two thirds of seniors surveyed. Several other types of health-related Websites are more trusted; information on disease-specific sites is considered credible by 96% of seniors surveyed, health portals by 87%, medical-institution sites by 86%, and sites advertised on television or in magazines by 79%. The information on pharmaceutical company Websites, on the other hand, is trusted by 67% of the seniors surveyed.

Joshua Slatko can be contacted via


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