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?

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