Marketing To Unmarried Consumers --
What You Need to Know
Today, the single lifestyle remains the permanent backdrop of the entertainment scene. TV shows have some of their biggest performance with shows featuring the single life; Nearly 40 Million viewers watched Joe Millionaire and 26 million viewers tuned in to see ABC’s bachelor pick a date. Three of the most successful shows on Television; Seinfeld, Sex in the City and Friends all had single-about-town themes – a far cry from family-centric shows of the past.
This cultural shift is reflective of the fact that singles are shaping new and emerging markets; requiring that businesses rethink their processes and approach. The social influence, distinctive characteristics and gigantic wallet full of discretionary income, make it necessary that marketers gain an intimate understanding of their specific behaviors, needs and motivations. While some aspects are easy to codify, there are many intangibles that are difficult to grasp and even more difficult to quantify.
This report combines a series of surveys, logical projections, intuitive observations, and comparative analysis to translate and communicate the underlying beliefs, attributes and core values of unmarried Americans that marketers need to deepen their connection to this key demographic of sole decision makers and influencers thereby stretch their marketing dollar to its outer limits.
who are they -- a
marketer’s sweet spot !
Source: US Census Bureau
Unmarried Americans are the majority of households in 300 US Cities. According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure survey, Single adults make up 49.8% or HALF of all US consumer units; their annual expenditure is a whopping $1.6 TRILLION -- that’s 35.1% of the total annual US expenditure.
Of the 112,108 US consumer units, 55,842 are unmarried households. Of the total single households 58.9% live alone, making singles an attractive market of sole decision makers and influencers who spend generously on what they want, without having to confer with anyone.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Report
Delaying of marriage to changing societal norms has resulted in a tripling of the number of unmarried men and women in their early thirties, from 9% to 30% for men and from 6% to 22% for women within the past three decades.
Source: US Census Bureau
Source: US Census Bureau
Nearly 59% of all singles have never married, 24% are divorced and 17% are widowed. Unmarried adults are cohabitating 3 times more than they did 20 years ago. They still believe; however that finding “the one” will increase their enjoyment of life, ultimately 85% of all singles will marry at least once in their lifetime – this is a 10% decrease from the 95% of all Americans, who married at least once in the 1950s.
a) Young Singles; comprising of singles under the age of 35
Attributes and core attitudes within these three groups follow generational perspectives with Gen-Xers for example demonstrating distinctive Gen-X behavior.
Young singles do what they love, and love what they do—they see their careers as an extension of their personality, thus seek out jobs that resonate with their core values and culture; changing jobs as often as they do mates on the journey to find the perfect fit.
Source: Bureau Labor Statistics
Male to Female Ratio by Age Group
and core attitudes::
Singles place a higher emphasis on community rather than family, they define family differently; their hangout spots, fitness facilities, favorite websites etc are all included in the definition of their community. Some businesses have taken notice and are offering extended services, some fitness facilities for example have bands and choirs that allow their members to further connect on a more intimate level.
The dating game is a major part of the single life, and this comes as no surprise; after all, many singles came of age in a time of sky-rocketing divorce rates and a mainstream acceptance of alternative lifestyles. It is no wonder that today’s young men and women do not measure their success or define themselves by their marital status; many have given up on the institution of marriage, opting instead to “play house” before making long-term commitments.
Source: Bureau of Labor and Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey **Consumer Units by Marital Status
Singles have higher discretionary income compared to their married counterparts, who usually have children to support. Most singles are sole decision makers in their households, they spend freely even during difficult times, when most families limit their spending. Resources that address the singles market, however; are far and in-between, thus singles become loyal clientele of businesses that directly address them.
Staying healthy is of paramount importance to singles. 70% of the members of fitness facilities like Bally’s are single. Since the mating game requires putting one’s best foot forward singles spend more on health and fitness products, apparel and beauty products.
Recent AC Nielson Homescan reflects a higher purchase index of products that ensure long term health, including health bars, water purifiers, vitamins, weight loss products, sun tan lotion, juice makers etc among young singles. They cook at home and spend more on reading materials and self improvement than any of the other groups; they have a preference for exotic foods with single-serve potions.
Young singles are fun, educated and introspective thrill-seekers who embrace uniqueness, and enjoy belonging to communities of like-minded individuals. They are willing to pay higher premiums for brands that speak in a tone that they understand.
Despite media representation of young singles as hedonistic and impulsive a closer look at their purchases indicates that they are introspective and plan for the future. They are brand-conscious and remain loyal to brands that respect their values, social status and core attitudes. Overall young singles are seeking resources which ensure a healthy long-term successful life. Young singles enjoy traveling as much as middle-age singles. According to the Travel Industry Association, singles account for 32% of all US travel. Last year, young singles generated 47.1 million trips, with Gen Xers between the ages of 25 and 34 accounting for 84% of those trips.
They buy the latest and trendiest gizmos and gadgets; cell phones, palm pilots, mp3 players are all necessary appendages, which help them connect with their tribes or “families”. They seek community, not in the traditional sense, but rather with friends – both real and virtual; Cyber Communities and trendy cafes are where they meet to philosophize and connect. Starbucks, internet dating and blogging are a few staples born out of the young single life. Young singles say that they do not feel lonely, but rather they feel isolated.
Middle-Age singles have a higher purchase index of contraceptives, hair coloring, alcoholic beverages, motion sickness pills, lighter fluid, pet foods and products that help maintain youth and the enjoyment of life. They have higher disposable income and spend freely on the best products that life has to offer. Middle-Age singles are especially looking for alternatives to the club scene in finding mates. They are grasping for an escape from the pressures and stresses of work, thus searching for travel, activities and lifestyle products that offer that escape.
Senior singles most closely exhibit the same characteristics of empty nesters. Their attributes and lifestyle choices do not differ from their married counterparts of the same age group.
A further look at what singles spent $1.6 TRILLION in comparison to families, indicates the following products as having a higher index.
While a majority of renters are single, the unmarried are also buying homes in record numbers. The National Association of Realtors estimates that single buyers accounted for almost 30% of all home purchases in the United States in 2001.
implications for marketers::
Singles long for a connection with other singles.
Brands with messages that
promote self-acceptance, convenience and value attract and maintain the
loyalty of today’s single consumer.
Car companies often tout large trunks to hold groceries, and rear seats primed for baby seats. While these features are great for families, singles are not looking to convey the message that they are ready to settle down. Both men and women are image conscious, and take pain-staking efforts to avoid coming across as desperately seeking to start a family. They opt instead for automobiles that offer performance, reflect their stylish individual nature, and satisfaction with their current life stage.
feel more isolated than lonely.
seek product offerings that specifically target their lifestyle.
Singles events create great “buzz” and set the standard for status symbols. Alcoholic beverages that are omnipresent at singles events are considered ‘hot’ i.e. the ‘must-do’ beverage de jour. Just about any product can be creatively incorporated into an event. When you give consumers the chance to fondle your products before making a purchase, they become endeared.
special emphasis your brands relevant attributes and benefits.
Special thanks to Thomas Coleman from Unmarried America and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.