Mature Adults Dialed into Smartphones

Selling smartphones in Southwest Florida? You’ve come to the right place.

While the conventional wisdom says younger people adopt new technology faster than their older counterparts, research from measurement company Nielsen Holdings shows adoption is as much a function of income as age. And that puts the Gulf Coast of Florida smack in the middle of a one of the nation’s hottest trends.

“While overall smartphone penetration stood at 48% in January, those in the 25-34 age group showed the greatest proportion of smartphone ownership, with 66% saying they had a smartphone,” according to a Nielsen survey of more than 20,000 mobile consumers. “But age isn’t the only determinant of smartphone ownership. Income also plays a significant role. When age and income are both taken into account, older subscribers with higher incomes are more likely to have a smartphone. For example, those 55-64 making over 100K a year are almost as likely to have a smartphone as those in the 35-44 age bracket making 35-75K per year.”

Here’s how that works. According to the survey, 33% of people ages 55-64 own a smartphone, half of the rate of people ages 18-24 (62%). Consider income and the numbers change. For people who make more than $100,000 a year, 48% in the 55-64 bracket own a smartphone while 77% in the 18-24 group own a device. The gap narrows with users making between $75,000 and $100,000 a year, where 42% of the 55-64 year olds own a smartphone compared to 65% of their younger cohorts.

Those figures jibe with statistics from Sarasota County’s Department of Planning Services and Enterprise Florida. Sarasota is one of the oldest counties in the United States, with a median age of 52.5 (the U.S. median age is 37.2), according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Nearly 54% of the county’s 382,000 residents are over the age of 50. Sarasota County is also a relatively wealthy area. According to Census data nearly 20% of Sarasota County households had income of more than $100,000. The Census pegged median family income at $57,229, slightly lower than the national average but about 8% higher than the Florida figure.

While we don’t have numbers on smartphone penetration in Sarasota, it’s safe to say that despite conventional assumptions, mature adults on the Gulf Coast are dialed into the latest technology.

As Technology Booms so Does Need for Simplicity

What’s cool to one person can leave others cold. Technology is like that. Some get excited by it. Others get tangled in it.

As homes incorporate more sophisticated technology, builders and designers have to question whether customers will be wowed by all of the gadgets or struggle to operate them. The question goes well beyond the old cliché of whether older eyes can read the buttons on a remote.

Some thought-leaders are addressing the issue.

“Boomers are a very diverse group,” said Anne Postle, AIA, owner of osmosis art and architecture in Colorado. “Many are quite tech savvy, but others don’t want technology that complicates their lives. Examples of this are controls that require that you get out the instruction manual whenever you want to adjust a light, AV controls that require that you adopt a teenager (who understands the remote) if you want to watch a movie, or any system that loses all of its pre-programmed settings when the power fails.

“Too often, the technology that is ‘old hat’ to the Millennials can be very frustrating to the boomer. Consider things like night path lights through the house on a motion sensor, charging stations for phones and tablets and outlets that include a USB port for electronics. Smart builders will take a cue from Steve Jobs and offer technology that is intuitive, solves problems and truly simplifies the Boomers’ life.”

Home smart home

The home of the future will look like the home of today, only with a few more gadgets.

By 2020 experts believe our homes and appliances will contain more advanced technology but that many of us will prefer working with non-digital systems. That’s according to a survey of 1,021 Internet experts, researchers and observers conducted recently by the Pew Research Center.

In other words, predictions of the demise of the analog home run counter to behavior, much like those predictions of the paperless office.

“Hundreds of tech analysts foresee a future with ‘smart’ devices and environments that make people’s lives more efficient,” the Pew Center reported. “But they also note that current evidence about the uptake of smart systems is that the costs and necessary infrastructure changes to make it all work are daunting. And they add that people find comfort in the familiar, simple, ‘dumb’ systems to which they are accustomed.”

Smart technology can manage systems that control heating and air conditioning, power, appliances, security, entertainment and communications. Some systems allow remote monitoring and access by way of mobile devices.

Slow digital adoption could reflect the age of homeowners. Younger people who quickly adopt technology haven’t had the years to save for a down payment. The “typical” age of a homebuyer has remained at 39 years since 2007, according to the National Association of Realtors. Census figures show that while 43% of households with a householder under the age of 35 own a home, 81.6% of those with a householder between the ages of 55 and 64 do.

In the survey some experts believe homeowners will adopt technology that saves energy and money. Others think that for the moment the issue is a “marketing mirage.” Aside from programmable thermostats and Internet-enabled security cameras, which technology will nudge homeowners toward the digital domicile?

Marketers still searching for digital roadmap

Ninety percent of companies do not have an integrated digital marketing strategy, despite studies that show an increasing number of customers migrating to the digital platform.

Only 9% of chief marketing officers say their companies have a “highly evolved digital marketing model with a proven and clear path of evolution,” according to a CMO Council study of more than 200 marketing executives. Twenty-three percent report top executives at their firms are “still trying to understand where digital marketing fits within their overall business.” And 36% say their strategy amounts to a collection of tactics.

There is some good news from marketing leaders:

  • 20% report having approval from the C-Suite to implement a digital strategy
  • 42% say they have the interest and support of their teams
  • 23% are trying to determine where digital fits within their existing strategy
  • 20% say they need to make digital marketing a strategic priority with management.

Marketers need to go where their customers go, writes Michael Brenner in a post called “Are Marketers Becoming Digital Dinosaurs?” “The point is to create content that your audience wants, in all the places where they may look for it. The point is to have your customers share your content with their connections. The point is to lower the cost of sales and to increase the effectiveness of marketing.”

And they need a roadmap to get there.

— Jeff Widmer

Older adults embrace technology

They may not spend most of their time sending text messages but older Americans are embracing digital technology. They use the internet, join social networks and own mobile phones, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.

The center reports that as of April 2012, 53% of American adults age 65 and older use the internet or email. This is the first time that half of seniors are going online.

A third (34%) of internet users age 65 and older use social networking sites such as Facebook, and 18% report that they do so on a typical day. Most adults in this age group still rely on email to communicate, with 86% of internet users age 65 and older preferring that medium.

As for devices, the center found a growing share of seniors–69% of adults ages 65 and older–own a mobile phone. That’s up from 57% in May 2010.

— Jeff Widmer

The high cost of high tech

Want to know where all of your money is going? Talk to your hand.

More than half of American adults believe technology like smartphones has made it easier to spend money. Only 3 percent say it has made it easier to save, according to a survey conducted for the American Institute of CPAs by Harris Interactive.

Adults who subscribe to digital services spend an average of $166 each month for cable TV, home Internet access, mobile phone service and digital subscriptions, like satellite radio and streaming video, a national phone poll of 1,005 of those adults found. That’s the equivalent of 17 percent of their monthly rent or mortgage payment. Those who download songs, apps and other products spend an additional $38 per month, on average.

“Given those expenses, it’s no wonder that 56 percent of Americans believe that technology has made it easier to spend money and only three out of 100 say it has made it easier to save,” said a spokesperson for AISPA. “Thirty-seven percent are split on the issue, saying technology has made it easier to both spend and save.”

Can you afford the high cost of high tech? Can any of us afford the alternative?

— Jeff Widmer