Not married? Congratulations, you may have special insight into one of the largest and fastest-growing markets in the country. And it’s one that many marketers fail to address effectively.
The singles market is vast. According to the Census Bureau, more than 100 million Americans age 18 and older are unmarried. The bureau also found that 33 million people live alone, accounting for more than a quarter of all U.S. households.
The market’s also growing. A 2013 Census Bureau study said the proportion of one-person households in the country expanded by 10 percentage points between 1970 and 2012, growing from 17 to 27 percent. In fact, single-person households were the fastest-growing household type in the last count.
Singles also have lots of purchasing power. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2012, single households in the U.S. spent more than $2 trillion on all goods and services. “They have money and disposable income and are prepared to invest in products and services that facilitate their lifestyles,” says Pearse McCabe, CEO of marketing firm Dragon Rouge US.
And their purchasing choices aren't just isolated: Singles are also important influencers of buying decisions by others. Although they may physically live alone, they tend to be more connected through social media and other means, and, according to McCabe, they're more likely to pass on brand and marketing messages and recommendations. As McCabe says, “Those people are very important nodes in the communication and marketing networks.”
Shopping for One
Businesses looking to get a piece of the singles' market would be smart to do their homework before jumping in. That's because while singles may not be purchasing the same quantities as traditional family units, they're better defined by what they do buy. For instance, foods packaged in smaller portions for a single diner represent one opportunity. And size isn’t the only concern. Because singles are more prone to dining out, packaged foods also need to be tastier and more appealing.
Housing and housing-related product manufacturers and service providers are also waking up to great opportunities in the singles market. Existing housing stock is designed primarily for larger family groups, so it doesn’t serve singles well. That’s why more real estate developments are featuring single-person units and features such as easy walking access to shopping, which cater to older singles.
Whatever you want to sell to singles, understand that this is a special market. Unlike most markets, it’s not a demographic defined by age or income. Singles can be any age but are clustered among younger, 18- to 24-year-old never-marrieds, and older, 55-plus people single as a result of divorce or widowhood. And these groups have very different needs.
Scott Morrison is marketing director for Incredible Technologies, a Vernon Hills, Illinois, maker of the Golden Tee video golf game and Silver Strike, a bowling video game, both of which are played in bars. The primary players are young, single males. “At night, instead of going home to an empty apartment, they’ll go to the bar and hang out and meet some friends,” Morrison says of the company's target market. “Golden Tee and Silver Strike are perfect for eating up some of that time. You and a friend can play for an hour for $10. And you can play with a drink in your hand.”
Clearly, marketing to a senior widower or divorcee means taking a different approach. “Single people span all ages, all cultures and all backgrounds,” says McCabe. Businesses would be wise to determine just what part of the market they want to attract before making any missteps.
Understand that the risks of marketing poorly to singles are real. For one thing, it’s important that marketers not portray singlehood in a negative light. “It’s very much a positive choice," McCabe says, "rather than about having trouble finding a husband or wife.”
A large part of marketing to singles involves simply including them—or not excluding them—when marketing to families. This can be as simple as not having every adult portrayed in an ad or commercial wearing a wedding band.
Getting Your Message Heard
Perhaps the main thing to know about singles, other than that there are lot of them and they come in all shapes, colors and ages, is that they have the time and inclination to want it all and to look everywhere for it. They are, in short, a demanding target for marketers.
Jason Sherman, CEO of Philadelphia-based smartphone dating app maker Instamour, says he's learned that the best way to reach singles is every way. His company hosts face-to-face events, blogs, tweets, uploads dating how-to videos to YouTube and more in an effort to reach its target audience.
In addition to trying multiple channels of communication, Sherman says, singles are also finicky when it comes to fulfilling their needs with products and services. They have the time, they have the money, and they aren’t willing to settle.
“How do you connect to singles? Give them what they want—which is everything,” Sherman says. “That’s how you market to singles.”
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