What is Needed to Expand Business in Japan’s Senior Market? Part 1: Gaining a Detailed Understanding of and Appealing to Seniors’ Needs
Apr. 22, 2020
In Japan, the senior market is expanding along with the aging of society. Meanwhile, many companies seem unable to narrow down their targets and those targets’ needs. In Volume 42 of the “NRI Management Review”, Marie Takahashi, Miki Shitamatsu, Maiko Takiguchi, and Satomi Tsunoo of NRI wrote about expanding business in the senior market using their individual expertise and experience. We brought them together to discuss why companies are struggling and what perspectives are needed.
Why is it difficult to capture the senior market?
Takiguchi: I feel that in many cases companies that haven’t viewed seniors as a market tend to lump all seniors into the same category. But even just looking at the aspect of health state, seniors are very diverse. The reality can’t be grasped without taking a closer look. For instance, even just dividing seniors into age groups by decade, the characteristics of the image of seniors in each group are very different.
What methods are effective in appealing to seniors?
Takahashi: I sense that many companies are struggling with promotion strategies. That’s because seniors won’t buy products that are branded as “products for seniors”.
Tsunoo: For seniors who are still healthy and active, a message like “How about giving senior yoga a try?” would make the product seem much more enjoyable than one like, “You will find it challenging to move your body soon, so you should do nursing care exercises for prevention.” The former preserves their dignity and will surely be better received.
Takiguchi: It’s important to avoid messages of “overcoming the negative aspects of daily life” with respect to seniors and instead appeal to them by describing the benefits they will get in scenarios in their ordinary life. That being said, it’s not easy for companies that have little experience with the senior market to grasp seniors’ needs. In my essay on this topic, I introduce the method of creating a needs map; I recommend coming up with an image of seniors while considering “what daily life scenarios would suit a person in this kind of state?”
Shitamatsu: In the field of nursing care prevention, which I discussed, public and private business chances rapidly expand when laws are revised or when new policies are launched. It’s important to have a good understanding of information relating to such systems and policies and use them skillfully when entering the senior market.
The potential of marketing using “keywords”
Shitamatsu: From the perspective of nursing care prevention, once someone requires nursing care it’s difficult to return to a state of health, but at the stage of “frail”, where a person is in a frail state but not quite yet in need of nursing care, appropriate intervention can allow the person to return to a state of health or maintain a condition that doesn’t require nursing care. Being frail is the result not just of physical deterioration, but also of a reduction in social involvement. For example, in the field of beauty, “frail” starts when one stops being concerned about one’s physical appearance. If a company focuses on that, they become able to conceive of new services from a slightly different perspective, such as makeup therapies that encourage people to get dressed up and renew their desire to go out.
Takahashi: When it comes to food products, marketing activities are facilitated by clearly demarcating segments, explaining that a product is “effective for elders in a frail state”, rather than vague appeals that a product is “good for health”. By extracting the segment “frail”, even companies that were unable to produce results in the field of nursing care might be able to produce results more easily.
Takiguchi: “Wellness” is a keyword that we want to see used as part of work style reforms, and I think it is a market that will grow over the next ten to twenty years. I think there is leeway to skillfully develop this market for seniors as well.