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Consumer Trends Online — Part 2: Beyond Trust

I recently attended a talk by Dan Levine, an expert on consumer trends. He presented five key trends in consumer online behavior. This is the second article; Part 1 covered the trend More Reviews, Less Trust.

Consumer Trend #2: Simpler, Speedier Interactions

Consumer Trend #3: Consumers Choose Self Help

Remember travel agents? You’d call them up and tell them where you wanted to go, and then a few hours later they’d call you back with some suggestions. After a little more back-and-forth, a few days later you’d get an envelope in the mail with your tickets and vouchers all ready to go.

Now I have the United Airlines app on my phone. It stores my frequent itineraries, my seat preferences, my Frequent Flier number, my corporate and personal credit cards, lets me buy a ticket with just a few clicks, sends me a text when it’s time to check in, and displays my boarding pass on the screen. If I’m checking a bag, I print my own luggage tag at the kiosk in the airport and drop the bag at the counter. No wait. No hassle. Nothing to lose or misplace. Simpler. Speedier. Self help.

I put these two trends together because they both point in the same direction. People don’t want to wait, and technology makes it easy for them not to have to because they can do things themselves whenever they want.

Like the More Reviews, Less Trust trend, you can see simple and speedy self help everywhere. My doctor’s office now lets you fill out all the paperwork remotely over the Internet, so that you don’t have to arrive 15 minutes early, fish around in your wallet for your insurance card, and wait while the receptionist puts it on the photocopy machine. The ski lift knows you purchased a ticket online so you can go straight to the slopes; no waiting to buy a pass, no sticky ticket gunk to later scrape off your jacket zipper or ski pole, and it even sends you an email with the number of vertical feet you bagged that day. You can check out your own groceries if you don’t have time to wait in line, and Amazon is piloting a store where all the products have RFID, so you just put them in your bag, scan a barcode on your phone, and walk out the door with no checkout at all. Simpler, speedier interactions via self help.

Senior care companies can argue that older people don’t buy into this trend, and therefore they don’t need to adapt. You might be able to make that argument for 75-year-olds, but the 65-year-olds I know are all-in on simple, speedy interactions and self help – and they’re the ones helping their 85-year-old mothers find appropriate care. And 55-year-olds might as well be millennials.

Now, of course, no one is going to actually move into a senior community without visiting first, and few people would hire a caregiver without a face-to-face meeting. Simplicity and speed don’t replace personal connections where they’re important. It just means you can replace them where they’re not important. If your sales process involves leaving voice mail, mailing out brochures, or expecting people to tour before they know what you offer and how much it costs, you will start to see a decline in engagement as your competitors let people get price quotes and take virtual tours online.

As Mr. Levine said in his presentation, look for the places where it is painful for customers to interact with you – and make those things simpler and speedier.

Consumer Trend #4: Video & Immersive Experiences

Virtual tours. Do you have one yet? You should. Video is everywhere now because people expect it. My husband recently fixed our dishwasher with help from a friendly guy on YouTube. My daughter figured out a tricky element in a sewing project by watching an online help video. Neither of these videos had fantastic production values. Similar to grammatical errors in reviews, a video that’s a little rough around the edge can be more credible than a slick presentation that looks suspiciously like an advertisement.

And we’re at the very beginning of this journey, according to Mr. Levine. Virtual reality goggles and 3-D user interface experiences are no longer science fiction, but real.

Here’s the catch: despite the proliferation of video content, people have only the same amount of time to watch. You need to make sure that your video is short and to the point, engaging and entertaining, and easy to find!

Consumer Trend #5: Wearable Technology

I put this one last because I think it’s the least applicable to online marketing for senior care companies. While about half the visits to Caring.com come from mobile devices, family caregivers overwhelmingly return to their desktop computers when they need to do serious research online. Our audience is unlikely to search for a nursing home from their Apple Watches. But wearable tech is poised to revolutionize senior care by allowing our elders to live longer in their own homes with less care from others. Are you paying attention?

Content Spark: Love in the Later Years

With Valentine’s Day on February 14th, love is a top-of-mind topic this month. And there’s plenty of opportunity for your senior care organization to include older adults in the focus: whether discussing romance later in life and celebrating couples’ special anniversaries, or passing on ‘love wisdom’ from seniors to the youth and sharing stories of familial love and friendship.

As Valerie Johnston of Healthline points out: love is even better in old age and seniors can show the rest of us how it should be done!

Content Tips for Any Senior Care Company

  • Personal stories, visuals, and quotes are key ingredients for your ‘love’ content this month. Making an emotional connection with your audience is particularly important with this topic — inspire an “awwww!!!” reaction and your content has a great chance of being shared. Tell a heartwarming story with a beautiful photo or video and you may even ‘go viral’; in fact, many love stories, videos, and quote/photo ‘memes’ do get a lot of social sharing engagement.

    Remember 96-year-old Fred Stobaugh and his video-recorded song, “Oh Sweet Lorraine” for his late wife in 2013? That video has been viewed over seven million times on YouTube, and he remained popular in social media up to his recent passing. This viral hit had the life-long ‘true love’ story conveyed by an organization helping the senior; included quotes from and interview footage with Fred, as well as images of Fred and Lorraine over the years; and evoked emotions in millions of people (many of whom shed some tears too).
  • Consider a list or compilation approach — it could be a list of ‘seniors top 5 tips for keeping romance alive’ or ’10 of our favorite movies about love in the later years’ or a list of 5 quotes that are very relevant to seniors and love. Or maybe it’s the ‘5 best gifts for your senior Valentine’. Eskaton senior living chose “5 Benefits of Love & Chocolate” for their list.
  • Make it local — whether covering ‘the top 5 date spots or activities for mature couples in Cincinnati’ or by interviewing a matchmaker or relationship expert in your community to get his/her tips for dating in your later years of life (this U.S. News & World Report article even included advice from family attorneys on this topic!).
  • On the riskier or more complicated side of love is the sub-topic of sex and seniors: Baby Boomers don’t really want to think about or read about the possibility of their parents still having sex at this age, and some seniors may blush at the mention as well. However, STD transmission among older adults is unfortunately a common and growing problem, says eldercare expert Derrick Y. McDaniel, while citing some related statistics on Huffington Post. So, this may be an opportunity for education among those who need to know and need to take action accordingly — but you’ll need to be prepared to manage any negative or ‘raised eyebrow’ feedback you can get with such content. This is particularly true when covering the often-sad subject of love and sex for couples where one of the spouses has Alzheimer’s (or the somewhat taboo topic of ‘well spouse affairs’).
      Content Tips for Senior Living Communities
    • Are there couples at your community who have been married for more than three decades, like Mira and Bob Graves at Quail Lodge Retirement Community had been in 2014 press coverage of their love story? Their story was virally shared on Facebook more than 500 times in the first 24 hours after Sunshine Retirement Living had posted the story. It was a heartwarming story with a lovely photo, and touched thousands of people online. Do you have a resident couple with a similar story (or two) to share at your senior living community?
    • Have any residents met and fallen in love after moving into your community? That’s another wonderful story you could feature this month, with the residents’ permissions and participation of course.
        Content Tips for Home Care Agencies
      • The Valentine’s Day buzz can sometimes be sad for those struggling with loneliness. Consider covering the holiday from the angle of helping those alone feel less alone — such as this Huffington Post piece by Lisa Copeland (a dating coach for those over 50): “How to Overcome The Loneliness of Valentine’s Day.” Psychotherapist Cynthia Peikoff, LCSW also has some thoughts on this subject that you may find helpful to your story. However you cover this topic, be sure to mention that in-home care is a great source of companionship and joy for seniors living alone — without making an obvious “buy now” pitch (be genuinely caring and helpful in your tone and content).
          Caring Resources to Support this Spark
            Additional Resources to Support this Spark
          • Love What Matters — a website and social programming (Facebook & Instagram) that highlights “moments that matter” and the various forms that love takes, through the personal stories of real people
          • Love for the Elderly — a nonprofit (started by a high school student in 2013) focused on “bringing joy into the lives of the elderly” through handwritten letters, care packages, and other ‘social impact’ programs

            Content Spark: Heart Health and Senior Care

            February is American Heart Month, an observance to raise awareness about heart disease and how it can be preventing — both at home and in the community. According to The American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death of women and men in the United States — with 1 in 4 deaths caused by heart disease.

            And 80% of people who die of coronary heart disease are age 65 or older. Given how pervasive this concern is among those senior care organizations serve, it’s an excellent topic for your content this month.

            Content Tips for Any Senior Care Company

            • Discuss the facts associated with heart disease, including identifying different cardiovascular diseases (coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, etc.), early warning signs of heart disease, ways to prevent it, and what to do post diagnosis.
            • Motivate and excite your audience about heart health — give simple, practical actions they can take to prevent heart disease or to slow the progression of heart failure.
            • Consider covering this story from a medication management angle. Family caregivers often help their aging parents with medication management and your content can provide helpful guidance to them. Interview an expert (cardiologist, geriatrician, and/or pharmacist) to get their recommendations for individuals who are taking cholesterol-modifying medications, beta blockers, nitroglycerin, and ACE inhibitors and ARBs — such as side effects and tips to avoid them, as well as reminders about mixing these drugs with others. Or maybe do a product review article on common blood pressure monitors — having your residents as the product testers giving the feedback.
                Content Tips for Senior Living Communities
              • Some foods and drinks are suggested for promoting heart health. Consider highlighting those in your dining menu this month, and/or share a related recipe on your blog or social profiles (particularly Facebook and Pinterest).
              • Regular physical activity helps prevent heart disease. While any heart patient should consult his/her physician before beginning an exercise program, you can still highlight the exercise classes or activities your community offers and encourage participation to support your residents’ heart health.
                  Content Tips for Home Care Agencies
                • Are your caregivers trained to look for the early warning signs of heart disease, and/or providing meal preparation services that include helping the senior with heart healthy nutrition? If so, highlight that expertise this month.
                • For home health agencies: Include in your content how your staff help older adults with their heart disease treatment and/or heart health regimens.
                    Caring Resources to Support this Spark
                      Additional Resources to Support this Spark