Why Digital Matters in Retirement Care Marketing

Article Image

Historically, older adults and their families primarily found retirement residences through recommendations from friends, family, and healthcare professionals.  Old school word-of-mouth was king.  To supplement this, care operators focused on traditional media to get the word out about their residences and services.  It was common to see newspaper/magazine advertisements, billboards, and even radio/tv commercials promoting local retirement residences and home care providers. 

Over the last 20 years, media consumption has drastically changed amongst all generations of Canadians. Streaming services are creeping into the market share previously owned by television and digital media is eating away at the captive audience that newspapers and magazines once held.  What does this mean for senior care operators who are evaluating what they need to do to ensure they are top of mind of older adults looking for support in the future? 

A sharp marketer will be mindful of where their audience is spending their time and how they want to engage with companies offering products and services they are interested in. The audience, in our case, is older adults and their families.  A recent study by AgingChoices in the US, highlighted that approximately 53% of care enquiries were from someone looking for care for themselves with the remainder shared between family members, friends, and advocates supporting an older adult.  You may be surprised to learn that their preferred next step after an initial enquiry was to be emailed more information (41%) or to attend a virtual tour (22%). The majority of individuals looking for accommodation at a retirement residence or access to care services wanted to be engaged digitally! 

What about the myth that older adults are hesitant to use technology or need help from their children or grandchildren to access it?  Well, that may have held some truth 15 years ago, but not today.  Recent statistics from Canada and the US show that 73% of seniors regularly use the internet.  Statistics from Mintel, a global research firm, show that 97% of seniors have access to a desktop or laptop computer and 76% use digital platforms for things like e-commerce. 

As for how people are using digital platforms, Benedict Evans, a technology thought leader who regularly presents to audiences of global technology leaders, in his 2021 outlook on technology, shared statistics showing fewer consumers are going on the internet to find the cheapest of something.  They are going online with the intent of research to find the best of something.  This leads to an obvious question, what can the senior living sector do to highlight their services as the best retirement residences or long term care homes in their regions? 

Below, are a selection of tactics that all Senior Care operators should consider as they plan how they intend to engage with their residents of the future. 

Be Easily Found Online

There is no point to having a great website if no one can find it.  Google has approximately 93% of internet search market share.  Investing in Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing to be easily found is a no brainer. 

It’s also worth considering what other websites older adults who are looking for care go to and what you could do to build your presence there.   Cared Upon has launched with the mission of supporting older adults find care and over 5,000 Canadians have used its digital platform with user numbers growing rapidly month over month.  Moreover, retirement residences and home care agencies can build, add to, and maintain their profiles for free so it makes a lot of sense to use Cared Upon and other similar platforms to increase your visibility and drive traffic towards your own website. 

Have a Great Looking, Current, and Informative Website

Having a website sounds incredibly elementary but it absolutely shocks me how many Independent Living Residences, Assisted Living Residences, Long Term Care Homes, and Home Care agencies do not have websites, or if they do, it’s evident that they are at least 10 years old.  Your website is likely to be one of the first impressions a prospective resident or their family has of you, and as that old Head & Shoulders commercial goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression! 

Also make sure you strategically use social media.  That is a whole other topic and we will be dedicating a full article it. 

Publish Reviews and Testimonials

Remember how we said earlier that word of mouth was king?  Well it still is.  A review is simply a digital word of mouth recommendation.  72% of Consumers trust a review just as much as a recommendation from a friend.  Think about how much more likely a prospective client is to stay with you, when they receive a recommendation.  Technology allows you to amplify your recommendations to allow more people to connect with you because of it. 

These testimonials/reviews should be on your website as that is where they will be most easily found by those who are interested in them.  However, make sure they are available on review sites like Google, Facebook, and Cared Upon.  Readers are more likely to trust a review if it is on a reputed third party website over an organization’s own website. 

But what about Traditional Marketing?

Does all of the above mean that traditional marketing is dead?  Not at all.  Traditional marketing such as advertisements in newspapers and magazines, billboards and bus stop ads, and radio/tv commercials are still very effective but it is also important to add digital media into your marketing mix.  More older adults are engaging with digital media and you need to be able to speak to them and their children over that medium.