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Mat FinchWarner Breaks' Matthew Finch has over eight years experience in the online world, starting out as a developer before moving into e-commerce, online marketing and strategy. He oversees online marketing for Warner Breaks where he has significantly increased online sales and received a number of awards for campaigns.

Here, Mat talks about targeting older internet users - an untapped opportunity for many online marketers...

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There's bags of research out there about growing internet usage by older users. Is this what you have experienced at Warner Breaks?

Warner Breaks predominately appeals to the 50+ market. We have certainly seen a rise in website visitors over the past two years from older users.

However, we are seeing a split between pre-retired and post-retired. There has certainly been a significant rise in internet usage in the 50 to 65 pre-retirement group, where many of these people have exposure to computers and the internet through their jobs. In comparison, we are finding that the 65+ post-retired group are less likely to come online, unless driven by a younger household member.

We have also seen the way our users interact with online marketing is changing, with greater engagement and response to display, search and email marketing by older users.

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How has this affected your overall marketing strategy?

Online sales of Warner Breaks have grown considerably over the past couple of years. We have found online marketing a highly effective direct response channel, delivering a very strong cost-per-acquisition. As a result we have significantly increased our investment in online marketing.

However, traditional offline marketing is still essential to this audience, as many of our post-retired audience are not online. We will continue to invest in TV, press and direct mail.

The key to our success in 2007 and beyond is integration between offline and online, delivering integrated campaigns and supporting messaging.

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What work have you been doing to attract and retain older customers online?

We have invested significantly in display advertising and affiliate marketing to reach new customers, and of course search marketing.

Email marketing has increased significantly over the past 12 months as we find our customers are highly receptive to communication by email, delivering very impressive open rates and CTR.

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What are the key things you need to do to make your site more user-friendly and accessible for silver surfers?

We are doing a lot of work in this area. We have improved the layout of our website, with consistent navigation, clear separation of text and images, and plenty of white space.

We will further improve accessibility with variable font sizes, support for screen-readers and better consideration for colour blindness.

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Is this demographic being well covered by agencies, ad networks and affiliate networks?

I have yet to find a single ad network or affiliate network that can deliver high volume in this demographic. We tend to find users spread across a diverse range of sites, so we deliver a broad media plan. We find that age-targeting with ISP and webmail sites such as Yahoo! and MSN particularly effective.

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Are there any trends in online behaviour among older users that you need to be aware of, or is it consistent with other age groups?

I wouldn’t say there are any particular trends. I think it is about ensuring the messaging is relevant and engaging, and not too gimmicky. There needs to be a clear benefit to the user, beyond just a wow factor that appeals to younger audiences. We have had great success with viral competitions, where we keep the execution simple, with an incentive to forward on to a friend.

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Are any social networks or portals important to target for this age group?

It has been well documented that this age group are increasingly using social networks such as Myspace and YouTube. We have created a Flickr group to allow our customers to share holiday photos, which has been well received. We do have more plans to engage more with social networks over the next 12 months. 

User review sites are very important; with all of our hotels receiving regular comments on Tripadvisor. We are planning to launch customer reviews on our website later in the year. We have yet to use price comparison sites, as our product offer is unique, so not comparable with other holiday companies.

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Do concerns about security affect your ability to complete transactions online? What can you do to reassure customers?

From focus group research and our own web stats, we see that many older users are still not comfortable with transacting online, preferring to research through the website but make the final purchase over the phone.

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Can you give us any other interesting examples about online marketing at any of your properties/divisions?

This year we have begun using video within our display advertising, which delivers a CTR of over 1%.

We have also developed highly targeted email marketing, delivering different communication to segments of our customer base. In many cases this produces open rates of over 50%.

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Related content:
Mat's blog

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Published 31 July, 2007 by Richard Maven

529 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

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Kelvin Newman

It's quite interesting to see how firms marketed specifically at an older audience are working online. The great opportunity when dealing with this kind of market is huge influence trust can have on their purchasing decision.

This trust could be transfered from exisiting offline marketing campaigns or created organically online.

From my experience once you have created this relationship with a older audience it can be hugely rewarding.

about 9 years ago

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Neil Ainsworth

It's interesting to hear that the grey pound is engaging more on the social networks. We'll have to look this angle more for our older visitors. I guess I'll have to buy the farther in law a pint and see what he gets up to online these days as a start point!

over 7 years ago

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Roberta Walker

I would be interested to know if the demographics in your business have changed at all since 2007 when this blog was written.  A lot of research seems to have  been undertaken that year (Axa Insurance, Living in Wales Survey 2007, your comments) - but not a lot since except for the Oxford Internet Survey.I am interested because I undertaking an assignment for my college course which is underpined by current internet usage by the active retired.

about 7 years ago

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