One of Mintel’s 2019 Telecom Marketing Trends, “Tech-savvy Seniors,” acknowledges the growing importance of marketing internet, cellular services and technology devices to those aged 65 and older. By focusing only on younger consumers, telecom providers are realizing they have missed out on an important consumer segment. “Tech-savvy Seniors” grows from important shifts in the cellular marketplace this year, including the proliferation of “55+” cellular plans and heightened competition provided by cable cellular options.
When the cellular industry made the shift back to unlimited data offerings in 2017, it was catering to a young, data-hungry crowd. Unfortunately, by placing the emphasis on unlimited offerings, cellular providers were alienating consumers that don’t use a large amount of data, such as seniors. Mintel research on mobile network providers finds that only four in 10 consumers aged 65 and older already have or are interested in adding unlimited data to their phone plan—lower than any other age group. T-Mobile was the first provider to launch an unlimited offering aimed at an older age group. ‘Unlimited 55+’ is a significantly discounted unlimited plan for consumers aged 55 and older.
T-Mobile’s 55+ plan created a domino effect. In 2018, Sprintlaunched a discounted 55+ plan and Verizon began testing one in Florida. In 2018, Verizon’s 55+ plan has expanded into Missouri and Illinois. (AT&T also offers a 10% discount on service for AARP customers, as well as a basic, discounted seniors plan that works with flip phones.)
Additionally, Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile has continued to gain traction with unlimited data options or “By the Gig” plans. The latter option may be resonating with older consumers who don’t want unlimited data. A survey by Cowen and Company found that Xfinity Mobile’s customers skew older than those of the largest carriers. If Xfinity Mobile’s “By the Gig” appeals to seniors, Charter’s service, Spectrum Mobile, is likely to drive interest with their similar approach to selling data.
Consumer Cellular had cornered the seniors segment of the cellular market for years, maintaining a strong foothold thanks to its partnership with AARP. However, Mintel Comperemedia observed Consumer Cellular had begun sending win back mail in 2018, a notable shift in their direct mail strategy. Consumer Cellular, which had previously sent very little win back mail, ramped up efforts beginning in 2018 Q2, and has increased its win back mailings more than 12-fold year over year.