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Theresa Loo
Chief Knowledge Officer
Ogilvy & Mather China Theresa.Loo@ogilvy.com
Zod Fang
GroupM Knowledge China Zod.Fang@groupm.com
Lily Xiong
Associate Research Director
Ogilvy & Mather China Lily.Xiong@ogilvy.com
Liu Yu
Vice President
GeTui Liuyu@getui.com


China is aging at an unprecedented pace. By the end of 2014, the number of those over the age of 60 had reached 212 million, representing 15 percent of the total population. Of this number, about one-third were in the relatively younger age bracket of 60 to 65 years old. This “silver hair” consumer segment is important not just because of its immense size, but because a significant proportion of the younger members of this cohort are willing to spend – and spend more.

48 percent of the 55 to 64 years old respondents in Shanhaijin, a GroupM survey on the consumption and media habits of Chinese consumers, expressed an intention to spend more in the next three years. And perhaps contrary to expectations, these people are adventurous in their shopping habits too; 33 percent admitted to having a tendency to spend without thinking, while 37 percent said that when a new product was released, they were amongst the first to try it.

Many of them are also more digital- literate than most marketers would expect. For silver hair consumers, Internet penetration is at 24 percent. Their access to the Internet via mobile phones has risen from 4 percent in 2013 to 22 percent in 2015, reaching a high of 44 percent in Tier 1 cities. 34 percent of silver hair consumers automatically think of using the Internet when they need to search for information. 30 percent update their Weibo or circle of friends frequently.

Compared with other aging nations, China has less time to put in place all the strategies and plans needed to respond to the challenges posed by its aging society. The 1:2:4 (one adult to two parents to four grandparents) ratio and the fact that many children work and live away from their parents, mean there are not enough people and resources to care for China’s aging population. Hence, there is plenty of scope for marketers to move in to fill the gaps that governments and society cannot fill. Now is the time for marketers to turn silver into gold, and here are some ways to do so:


Digital connectivity and O2O solutions can play a big role in addressing the needs of silver hair consumers. Given that the younger segment of this group have a basic level of digital-literacy, marketers can come up with innovative solutions that take advantage of Internet Plus. For example, development by online retailers can improve the quality of life of silver hair consumers, as the former brings greater value for money by o ering better prices and delivery services.

Internet+ solutions that connect the elderly with families, relatives, communities and healthcare services o er lots of potential. They can use big data collected via wearable devices to track the daily activities and health of silver hair consumers, enabling doctors to make diagnosis remotely and helping children tend to the wellbeing of their parents from afar. O2O services can also be deployed to align community and neighborhood resources to care for silver hair consumers, so that the latter will not feel lonely or isolated. Robots that perform the functions of maids, home healthcare aides and companions will help silver hair consumers to live independently in their own homes and communities for longer as they age.


While all the above-mentioned Internet Plus solutions are useful, silver hair consumers might have di culties mastering them. Marketers need to invest in educating these consumers on how to use new products and provide comprehensive aftersales services so as to ensure product usage.


On the one hand, silver hair consumers do not want to be patronized because of their old age. On the other, they want their special needs to be addressed. Communication that brings out a perceptible product advantage best suited to their needs and budget will resonate with them. Using an appropriate spokesperson, especially age-wise, is a way of avoiding the “but this is not for me” syndrome. Themes used in communication should also be things they can relate to, such as family, wisdom and care.


Most of the marketing professionals who target products and services to silver hair consumers have never been old themselves. They do not really understand what growing old means. There is lots of diversity in the personal circumstances, attitudes and behaviors of the silver hair consumers. A wealthy, healthy and successful 68-year-old businesswoman has very different needs and motivations from a poor, unemployed female with failing health of the same age. It is important to not rely on superficial insights or resort to stereotypes when tackling silver hair consumers. Currently, most research is on 15 – 64 years old. Research extending to 65 years old and above is much needed for marketers to understand silver hair consumers.