Hampton: Age No Longer Predicts Lifestage

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Age has ceased to be a reliable predictor of lifestages, Marketing Forum attendees on board the Norwegian Dawn were told yesterday in a session called "Forget Insight -- You Need Foresight."

It was easy two decades ago to predict where a consumer was at age 25, said Tracy Hampton, senior vice president of research services at Visa USA, at the annual shipboard conference that departed from New York City on May 9. This is no longer the case for many reasons, including a changed mindset.

"The aging boomer doesn't really feel old," she said. "In fact, they feel much younger than they are."

Information overload, lack of time, a do-it-yourself attitude, later marriages and a delayed college education all are spurring people to do things differently at later stages of their lives, she said.

Visa USA even sees major demographic shifts in the payments landscape. In 1970, only 3 percent of households earned $100,000 yearly. Today it is 13 percent. Other changes are equally important. Generation X is maturing. Ethnic growth is on the upswing. Youth consumerism is growing.

As for baby boomers, their self-image has led to a drastically increased consumption lifespan. Research shows that 70-year-old boomers feel like 56. Hampton said there was a surge in cosmetic surgery among boomers. And health club memberships for those ages 55-64 have jumped in recent years.

Such activity and changes have taken a toll on U.S. consumers.

"Time is the new currency," she said.

Americans are working more: Only South Koreans work longer hours. And Americans have less vacation time compared with the rest of the developed world. So it is unsurprising that Americans need more convenience as the attitudes reflect desire for more time in all classes including the middle.

Visa USA has designed products with this in mind. Its debit card use, for example, has risen to where the brand has an 80 percent market share. The Visa Signature Card credit product has captured sizable share of the affluent segment.

Visa has identified three segments for lifestage marketing: successful controllers who can manage by themselves, time-pressured controllers and luxury, prestige-driven offloaders who will pay to have life made easier for them.

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