[2010 The Year Ahead] Cover Story

Features - Cover Story

Tomorrow's Customer: An Older adn More Diverse Nation

January 21, 2010
Christine Brazell

As pest management professionals position their businesses for the future, a look into the shifting United States population lends some insight as to who will make up their sales prospects, customers and workforce.

According to projections by the Population Division of the U.S. Census Bureau, the United States will be more racially and ethnically diverse, as well as older, by 2020. In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau projects the total population of the country to grow by 11 percent to more than 341 million, up from 304 million in 2008.

Shifting age distribution. Projections by age group show the most dramatic population increase will be older than 65, jumping from 13 to 16 percent, nearly 15 million, between 2010 and 2020. The percentage of the total population in the "working ages" of 18 to 64 is projected to decline by 3 percent during that same time.

As Baby Boomers move into a new life stage, the marketplace will begin to shift and need to focus on and address the growing population of older people. Marketers that target prospects heading into later life may see an increase in business simply due to population growth. At the same time, companies that prepare themselves to communicate in a way that’s meaningful to this older audience and can successfully meet their needs will have a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

More diversity. By 2020, the percent of the Hispanic population is expected to increase from 15 percent to 19 percent, with its share of the nation’s total population projected to double, from 15 percent to 30 percent, by 2050.

The Asian population is projected to climb from four percent to five percent by 2020; the black population is projected to increase less than one percentage point by that year.

The percent of non-Hispanic, single-race white population is projected to decrease from nearly 66 percent to 60 percent.

What does that mean for marketers? According to the Yankelovich Multicultural Marketing Study 2009, four emerging trends from the study most notably reflect the needs of ethnic consumers today and serves as a good resource to help understand a more complex marketplace of the future:

  1. U.S. Hispanics and African Americans are "sustaining a resilient optimism" in their attitudes toward economic uncertainty, partly because they have enhanced access to opportunities and information, as well as a strong sense of spirituality. Today, among all high-anxiety consumers, 70 percent of Hispanics say they are optimistic, compared to 48 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
  2. U.S. Hispanics and African Americans have a "being the first" mindset that fuels a need-to-know-before-others attitude, which is often overlooked or underestimated by marketers. Seventy-five percent of both African Americans and Hispanics, compared to 56 percent of non-Hispanic whites, believe that it’s a sign of success to be "among the first to know about new ideas, trends or things that are happening in today’s world."
  3. U.S. Hispanics and African Americans are "experiencing cultural conflict." Greater empowerment allows ethnic consumers to express themselves more fully but also causes internal and external tensions. Today, 72 percent of African Americans and 63 percent of bi-cultural Hispanics "think a lot about how being African American or Hispanic affects them."
  4. Because of their increased empowerment, ethnic consumers are "raising the bar in the marketplace," so they have higher expectations and judge marketers on more criteria than non-Hispanic white consumers do. For example, Hispanics and African Americans are demanding more organic multiculturalism — they want companies to move away from a self-serving multicultural approach to something that is inherently more real and sincere.

The study points to a huge opportunity for marketers, according to Sonya Suarez-Hammond, director of the study and vice president of multicultural marketing insights for The Futures Company.

"The challenges posed by the new realities of empowerment, in the midst of today’s economic climate, provide an opportunity for companies to gain loyal African-American and Hispanic customers," Suarez-Hammond says. "About ninety percent of African Americans and Hispanics say that companies that make sincere efforts to be part of the Hispanic or African-American community deserve their loyalty. So it’s definitely worth the effort to try to connect with these ethnic consumers."


Mobile Marketing

Due to reliance on the Internet for information and increased use of social marketing, people want Internet access on the go and the ability to keep in touch 24/7. At the same time, while the cost of personal computers has declined over the years, mobile devices with all the bells and whistles are even more affordable. Plus, with wireless routers, WiFi or an Internet connection provided by a cell phone carrier, today people can go online via handhelds from just about anywhere.

Americans’ use of the Internet on mobile devices is rapidly growing. And according to a research survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 85 percent of adult Americans have some kind of handheld. More than 30 percent of Americans have gone online using a mobile device, using a cell phone or other hand-held device to check e-mail, access the Internet or send instant messages. African Americans are the most active users of the mobile Internet, according to the study.

• 48 percent of African Americans have at one time used their mobile device to access the Internet, e-mail or instant message, more than the national average (32 percent).

• 29 percent of African Americans use the Internet on their handheld on a daily basis. Compared with 2007 when just 12 percent of African Americans average daily Internet use on handhelds, today their use of the mobile internet is up by 141 percent (29 percent).


E-mail the author at cbrazell@giemedia.com.