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The smartphone generation gap: over-55? There’s no app for that


Over a quarter of adults in developed countries will be 55 or older. The attractiveness of the 55+ group has long been recognized: with longer life expectancy, older consumers are likely to continue working, accumulate an ever‑greater share of global wealth and be increasingly interested in technology. This age group – which is likely to continue growing in absolute numbers and share of adults over the medium term – is likely to control a large proportion of disposable income in their countries. They are not just an untapped market; they are a lucrative untapped market.

For wireless carriers, targeting the over‑55s could be particularly effective. Carriers should ensure that all aspects of service, from the structure and explanation of tariff plans, to customer service are appropriate for this group. They could also offer all‑you‑can‑app tariffs, which would provide unlimited access to customers’ preferred services for a fixed fee. Network operators may wish to offer multi‑generation family tariffs, which would, for example, allow older generations to gift air time and data bundles to relatives.

Carriers should create dedicated customer service programs labelled as ‘for first‑time’ users, but with seniors likely to be key users and beneficiaries of such a service. The service should include online, telephone based and in‑store assistance with app downloads, browsing, GPS based navigation, video calling and mobile instant messaging. A dedicated customer service plan could become a key differentiator in a market in which self‑service is being increasingly pushed by operators. Mobile carriers may consider setting aside dedicated retail space for first time smartphone users within their stores to grow revenues not just from older consumers but also from tentative smartphone users of all age groups.

Discoverability remains a key inhibitor to app downloads. App store providers may need to consider adding filtering options based on demographic relevance. Moreover, as some consumers in this age group may delegate the app discovery and download process to friends or family, app developers may need to consider adding a functionality that allows approved users to take control of devices remotely.

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