Marketing is becoming more and more digital. And digital marketing is becoming more and more mobile as companies note the prominence of smartphones in consumers’ lives. Trouble is, the US baby boomer generation—still a large cohort, and with an outsized portion of total purchasing power—has a far-below-average rate of smartphone adoption. A new eMarketer report, “Running the Risk of Leaving US Boomers Behind: Marketers’ Emphasis on Mobile Could Isolate This Not-So-Mobile Generation,” looks at what marketers might be missing.

US Baby Boomer Smartphone Users and Penetration, 2014-2019 (millions and % of baby boomer mobile phone users)


Many boomers have smartphones. But this “many” does not rise to the level of “most.” eMarketer estimates that 87.4% of boomers will have a mobile phone this year—close to the figures for millennials (95.1%) and Gen Xers (94.4%). The big difference comes in the percentage of mobile phone owners who have smartphones: 64.4% among boomers, vs. 88.6% among millennials and 83.2% among Gen Xers.

Multiplying out these disparities, one sees that a modest majority of all boomers have smartphones: 56.3%, compared with 84.3% of all millennials and 78.5% of all Gen Xers. Even by the end of the decade, eMarketer expects just two-thirds of all boomers (including three-fourths of boomers with mobile phones) will have smartphones, vs. more than nine in 10 millennials and Gen Xers.

Ownership of phones is just part of the story. One must also look at how smartphone boomers use the devices. At the most basic level, boomers simply do not use smartphones as often as younger people do.

Average Number of Times per Day that US iPhone Users Check Their iPhones, by Demographic, June 1-Sep 21, 2015

Looking specifically at iPhone users, Kantar Media found this year that older users check the device much less often than younger users. For many millennials, a day without their smartphone would be an ordeal. Fewer boomers feel that way.

eMarketer corporate subscription clients can view the full report here.


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