Increasingly the 50+ buyer is becoming just as savvy with online searches as their younger peers, reducing the notion that digital marketing is wasted on older buyers. More home buyers over the age of 50 are using mobile devices and actively searching for communities online.

Those were some of the findings of the 2016 report Social, Silver Surfers presented by Todd Harff and Beth Mickey of Woodbridge, Va.-based Creating Results, Inc. at the International Builders' Show in Orlando.

In the study focused on home buyers, the team interviewed 1,000 people over 40 years old, both through digital and traditional surveys, ensuring a representation of prospective home buyers across the board who both do and don't use online searches. Creating Results, Inc. broke down their findings based on all those surveyed and those above 50 years old to show how this population may differ from those just slightly younger.

In all, 54% of active adult buyers used mobile devices much or all of the time, and 59% of them went to the web as their first tool to searching for a home. Search engines were the number one leader of traffic to builders' websites. As for social media, only 1% of the 55+ buyers used it as a resource to search for homes. Instead, said Harff, social media was used as a tool after to see if others were discussing communities.

When these shoppers go to builders' websites, they were primarily looking for three things: floorplans (28%), lifestyle (18%), and community features (11%). As Mickey said, these buyers are most interested in learning about the floorplans so they can see if the product itself is what they want. Their biggest pet peeve? Not being able to find or being able to read floor plans.

Other important features included the ability to print documents, such as a PDF of floorplans or listing: 62% of all those surveyed who did move printed out documents from a builders' website.

Specifically for the movers over 55+:

  • 74% wanted easy website navigation
  • 46% used a search bar (which is also helpful for marketing to learn what people are looking for on the website)
  • 54% wanted addresses linked to their mobile maps for easy directions
  • 52% relied on reviews and testimonials
  • 65% wanted the websites to be mobile friendly
  • 78% did not want to fill out an online form; mature buyers would rather be able to click a phone number and talk to someone

Using this information, Creating Results, Inc. applied new tactics to a website for Traditions of America, a developer in Pennsylvania. In the website revamp, the team added printable PDF and interactive floor plans, video tours, removal of online sign-up, and a home and community search function on the home page.

The new site resulted in over 197,000 uses of the home search function, with 87% of traffic on the home page having used the function. The printable and interactive PDFs proved to be a hit with both the users and the sales team. Most users either came to a sales office with a printed form, or created an account online to save a version of the floor plan they were interested in, which the sales team could then access before the prospective buyers came to the office.

In all, this demographic of buyers isn't much different from the rest of the internet and mobile users in the country. Websites should be easy and functional for everyone to use because if it gets tough or frustrating, then these buyers were associate that with the company.