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The Buzz On Baby Boomers – Qualitative Research Among The Older Generation

The Buzz on Baby Boomers – Qualitative Research Among the Older Generation

As market researchers, we have the opportunity to work with a wide range of consumers. This keeps us on our toes, since no two days (or two projects) are the same. However, it also poses a challenge, since we need to adapt our approach to best learn from each constituency. It seems a growing trend in Market Research is to conduct studies among Millennials and GenXers, leaving Baby Boomers as an under-appreciated generation.

Here at Elevated Insights, we’ve had a few consecutive projects where our target consumer has been Baby Boomers (people born between 1944 and 1964). During these research efforts, we pulled from our toolbox of previous methods and developed best-in-class approaches on how to most effectively work with this older generation.

In-Person Screening

Many Recruiting companies, including Elevated Insights, conduct a pre-screener survey online, to begin the recruiting process. Sometimes finding Baby Boomers online can be challenging because this generation may be less likely to use technology on a regular basis, therefore:

Recruiting can take longer – Within your panel, Baby Boomers may not see the email invitation to take a screener for several days, causing a bottleneck in recruitment.

Online ads may be less effective – If you don’t have older participants in your panel, it may be more difficult to find them through advertisements. While some Boomers spend lots of time online, others are less engaged in the online environment – and specifically less likely to be on social media.

Because of these recruitment constraints, in addition to employing our usual pre-screener, we turn to a grassroots approach. In particular, we visit senior centers and attend local events geared to older residents (like bingo halls or pickleball practice!) with paper questionnaires. This helps us find the participants we are looking to hear from and lets us connect with them on a personal level – already beginning to build rapport.

Playing “Traffic Cop”

With any demographic (in a group or even a one-on-one setting), there is a risk of participants getting off-topic or for side-conversations to distract from the main discussion. We have observed that this is especially true among older boomers.

With this in mind, when moderating a group or interview with Baby Boomers, we start the conversation with a disclaimer, such as, “I have a long list of questions we are hoping to cover. Since we only have one hour to spend together, I apologize in advance if I play ‘traffic cop’ – meaning, I may cut you off or move quickly from one question to another.” This helps set the stage in case you do have a participant who tends to stray off topic.

Consider Group Size and Composition

Some older participants may speak more slowly (and/or want to cover topics more thoroughly) than Millennial or Gen X participants, so we often schedule mini-groups (of 4-6 rather than 6-8 participants) to ensure there is time for everyone to share. To account for this dynamic, we build an extra 10-15 minutes into the discussion guide.

Additionally, due to more conventional gender roles observed by some older Boomers, we believe topics traditionally handled by men are better discussed in single-gender groups. For example. when talking about finances, home repairs, or car buying, recruiting males for one group and females for another will ensure no one’s opinions are stifled.

Be Prepared & Prompt

For in-person interviews, Baby Boomers tend to arrive early – some because they are more cautious about traffic or weather conditions, some because they are retired and have extra time, and other simply because they’re prompt. With this in mind, it is important to ensure your facility is prepared to greet these participants at least 15 minutes before their session (if not more!).

For online interviews, be prepared to call an older participant 15 minutes before their session to walk them through any technology step-by-step. If you are working with a new research platform, it’s helpful if you conduct a practice interview ahead of time, playing the role of ‘participant’ yourself. This allows you to see the platform from the participant’s perspective, as it often looks different on their end.

We have truly enjoyed working with Baby Boomer participants in our recent studies, and think that they add so much value to our research. We look forward to the opportunity to apply our best practices to your next project with Baby Boomers – give us a call, we’d love to partner with you!


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