One of Mintel’s 2019 Telecom Marketing Trends, “Tech-savvy Seniors,” acknowledges the growing importance of marketing internet, cellular services and technology devices to those aged 65 and older. Historically focusing on younger consumers, telecom providers are realizing they have missed out on an important consumer segment. “Tech-savvy Seniors” grows from important shifts in the cellular marketplace this year.
When the cellular industry made the shift back to unlimited data offerings in 2017, it was catering to a young, data-hungry crowd. Unfortunately, by placing the emphasis on unlimited offerings, cellular providers were alienating consumers that don’t use a large amount of data, such as seniors. Mintel research on mobile network providers finds that only four in 10 consumers aged 65 and older already have or are interested in adding unlimited data to their phone plan—lower than any other age group. T-Mobile was the first provider to launch an unlimited offering aimed at an older age group. ‘Unlimited 55+’ is a significantly discounted unlimited plan for consumers aged 55 and older.
T-Mobile’s 55+ plan created a domino effect. In 2018, Sprint launched a discounted 55+ plan and Verizon began testing one in Florida. In 2018, Verizon’s 55+ plan has expanded into Missouri and Illinois. (AT&T also offers a 10% discount on service for AARP customers, as well as a basic, discounted seniors plan that works with flip phones.)
Additionally, Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile has continued to gain traction with unlimited data options or “By the Gig” plans. The latter option may be resonating with older consumers who don’t want unlimited data. A survey by Cowen and Company found that Xfinity Mobile’s customers skew older than those of the largest carriers. If Xfinity Mobile’s “By the Gig” appeals to seniors, Charter’s service, Spectrum Mobile, is likely to drive interest with their similar approach to selling data.
Consumer Cellular had cornered the seniors segment of the cellular market for years, maintaining a strong foothold thanks to its partnership with AARP. However, Comperemedia observed Consumer Cellular had begun sending win back mail in 2018, a notable shift in their direct mail strategy. Consumer Cellular, which had previously sent very little win back mail, ramped up efforts beginning in 2018 Q2, and has increased its win back mailings more than 12-fold year over year.
What we think
In 2019, we expect to see carriers diversify plans and connected devices for this segment while also developing new marketing campaigns centered on all they can offer to seniors. We also expect Best Buy (which recently purchased GreatCall, creators of the Jitterbug phone) to catalyze the market in this direction, since it will likely integrate home safety, connectivity, medical alerts and their Geek Squad to help seniors make the transition into a more connected lifestyle. In fact, GreatCall recently announced a new partnership with Lyft, that enables seniors to order a Lyft by pressing “0” to speak to an operator on their Jitterbug phones. As we look ahead, improved technologies and partnerships like these will make help make tech more relevant and independent living easier for seniors.