Feeling abandoned, seniors are taking health matters into their own hands.
As the country seeks to reopen, seniors are feeling increasingly left behind as the threat of COVID-19 remains high for this vulnerable at-risk segment of the population. In fact, 80% of Coronavirus-related deaths in the United States have been 65 and older (source: CDC). That’s nearly 140,000 seniors that have been lost to this terrible pandemic so far.
With direct access to more than 32 million seniors, including 15 million online, TrueVoice has been tracking the real-time narratives of this audience since the pandemic began. What we uncovered is that the continued Coronavirus risk, coupled with growing feelings of abandonment, is significantly impacting seniors’ behavior, especially as it relates to health (and healthcare decisions).
Here are three of the most prominent behavioral shifts of seniors that Medicare marketers need to know and plan for during AEP and beyond:
- Slow Return To The Way Things Were: While the rest of the country speeds toward a return to normalcy, many seniors lack enthusiasm. Recognizing their high-risk status, seniors are in no rush to return to old habits. As a result, channels available to Medicare marketers have noticeably narrowed, with in-person interactions being avoided and mail remaining untouched for fear of virus transmission. While the transition to phone and digital venues is well underway, competitive clutter promises to challenge those seeking to breakthrough and engage seniors during open enrollment.
- Taking Health Matters Into Their Own Hands: Feeling abandoned and that they are viewed by many as “acceptable losses,” seniors are adopting a more proactive role in their healthcare decisions in an attempt to remain healthy, happy and cared for… now and in the future. This new dynamic will influence the way health and Medicare decisions are being researched, considered, and influenced both online and offline.
- Waning Confidence in Federal Programs: Continued threats to social health program funding and the federal government’s unpopular pandemic management, especially as it relates to seniors, has thrown the long-term stability and dependability of Medicare into question. In fact, nearly one-third of seniors engaging in Medicare topics online are expressing concern about the federal program and its future. This is creating a unique and timely opportunity for Medicare Advantage providers as seniors consider alternatives to Medicare…many for the first time.
These unique behavioral dynamics are creating new challenges – and opportunities – for Medicare marketers as open enrollment nears. However, one thing is certain, last year’s marketing playbook won’t work this year.
Gaining competitive advantage in this quickly-evolving consumer landscape means enabling more responsive and adaptable marketing while strengthening (not abandoning) the link between strategy, activation and performance. Marketing success involves models that can turn data rapidly into precise, actionable insight. It involves defining new types of messaging and content that is relevant, timely and wanted. And, it involves a commitment to continuous optimization and innovation. Taking these important steps will empower marketers to better understand and engage senior audiences:
- Focus on behavior, not age. Don’t assume all seniors are similar because they’re part of the same demographic. The over 65 crowd is far from homogenous. Mindset and behaviors vary due to an exponential set of factors. Prioritize understanding what they care about to create custom and segmented messaging and content that responds to their unique needs.
- Personalize messages. The most effective messaging and marketing aligns with an audience’s values, motivations and priorities. Adopt more responsive and adaptable marketing models that can rapidly turn behavioral data into precision messaging and guide new types of content that is relevant, timely, and in demand by seniors.
- Speak in their language. To effectively personalize marketing messaging, it is imperative to speak the language of seniors. Tap into the unsolicited online narratives of this audience to identify the vernacular of the customers and increase the resonance of marketing messaging, content, and communications.
- Be where they are. Seniors, similar to other consumers, use different channels in different situations and for different purposes. While traditional marketing (print ads, direct mail, TV, radio, etc.) can still be effective in certain situations, seniors are increasingly adopting and adapting to digital and social media. Do not limit marketing to any one platform. Leverage the behavior of seniors to understand and align the right channels for the right messages to the right audiences.
- Empower through education. As seniors become more proactive about their health, they are also becoming more proactive about researching and educating themselves on the issues they face (and the solutions available to them). As online researching by this audience becomes more prevalent – a trend that promises only to grow – the most powerful healthcare marketing will be educational. By creating resources and content designed to educate, marketers can deliver meaningful value and engage seniors earlier in the process authentically and in a credible manner.
Advancements in technology and data-driven behavioral marketing approaches, like those pioneered by TrueVoice, provide new opportunities to integrate strategy-driven segmentation with live data management to precisely target the right consumers at scale. For TrueVoice’s clients, the performance and efficiency gains have been game changing.