Technology decision makers are missing out on huge opportunities by focusing on the younger digital generations at the expense of older, more affluent, markets.
While younger generations have grown up in a digital environment and thus are more adept at using computing technology, the older generations have become just as savvy, and actually provide a more affluent target market for the industry to focus on, says Gartner.
Vice-president and Gartner Fellow, David Furlonger, told the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo on the Gold Coast that technology companies need to refocus their efforts.
“This emphasis on the young is unsurprising, since many technologists are themselves part of these younger age groups," he said.
"However, it is a very serious mistake, because it neglects the most promising technology market demographic of all: the affluent, increasingly technologically sophisticated older generation."
Silver Surfers are defined as those middle aged or later, often condescendingly stereotyped as computer illiterate.
On the contrary, recent research by Optus proved that 76 per cent of Silver Surfers in Australia are already using social media such as Facebook to keep in touch with family members, here and abroad.
Furlonger said that the rise of consumerisation, that is, tablets and smartphones, has made computing even simpler for mainstream audiences.
“The consumerisation of technology has made it far more accessible, especially in terms of usability, to people who may find PCs more difficult to manage,” said Furlonger.
“However, technology designers and manufacturers have largely ignored this huge and growing market, and by doing so, have neglected one of their most important sources of future growth and revenue.
"The younger market has only linear growth potential and decreasing purchasing power, while the silver surfers offer exponential growth opportunities and growing purchasing potential."
What makes this negligence more remarkable is that in Gartner's APAC markets, the segment of the population over 50 is 37 per cent.
'Silver Surfers' have more disposable time and income than the younger generations.
These modern technologies have the ability to increase the quality of life for the elderly, such as video conferencing with family (especially important if they live far away), connect socially through social media, and access all these technologies from readily available, simple to use technologies, such as Wi-Fi and smartphones.
“Where barriers exists to the adoption of new technologies by silver surfers, be they psychological – such as fear of adoption - or physiological - for example, poor eyesight and awkwardness in handling small devices - it is the responsibility of technologists to overcome these barriers by designing products and services that silver surfers will want and be able to use," Furlonger said.
According to Gartner, technology designers and manufacturers need to focus on delivering clean, simple, uncluttered user interfaces, without confusing fonts, colours or special effects.
Straightforward navigation and simple check-out processes are crucial for older customers.
This comes back to the marketing also - discussing clock speeds, megapixels and RAM won't help. Marketers need to sell these products in more demonstrable forms, without hype.
"To date, most technologists and technology manufacturers have failed to deliver products and services that meet the needs of this market and its various sub or microsegments, and marketers have largely failed to target it effectively.
To do so will require fundamental changes in their approach to product and service design, marketing and sales," Furlonger said.