When was the last time you looked for an online review, or a testimonial to buy something as simple as a shower caddy? Last week? This morning? 

Senior living is clearly an emotionally weighty decision, but if consumers, like you and I, are reading reviews for toothpaste, shower caddies, and just about everything else that enters our online cart…you can bet seniors and their loved ones are doing their due diligence researching your community online. By the time they talk to your sales and marketing team, they’re likely qualified and decision-ready. 

Steve Wright, G5 Senior Living Regional Sales Director, recently spoke at LeadingAge, where he demystified digital marketing and unpacked the four changes you need to know about the senior living research journey. Today we’ll cover those four: tech, timing, depth, and digital advertising. 

Seniors’ Customer Journey

Before we get ahead of ourselves and tell you how the senior living customer journey is different, let’s go over the basics of the senior living customer journey. When a senior or their loved one clicks on a search ad, or visits your website, or places a call from your Google My Business listing, a data point is created. Every. Single. Time. 

These data points track seniors’ digital research footprints. From these, a data-driven MarTech provider, like G5, can discover which sites seniors and their loved ones visited before reaching out to your sales and marketing team. 

According to G5 data, on average, seniors and their loved ones take 33 days from the time they first click on a search ad to when they fill out a website form or place a phone call to one of your communities. During that time, seniors and their loved ones visit your website, or interact with your communities digitally 17 times. When was the last time you went to any website except your email inbox 17 times?! AND, from G5 data, we know that 28% of seniors and their loved ones are engaging with communities via their digital advertising.

Check out this graphic showing the stages of a customer journey to understand how complex — and sometimes meandering — a customer journey can look digitally. 

With all of this in mind, let’s now look at how this customer journey has changed since pre-pandemic 2019. 

Seniors Are: Adopting More Technology, especially Post-COVID

First, and foremost, research is digital-first. We aren’t the first to say it and we won’t be the last, COVID radically changed how we learn about, well, everything. It heightened our digital expectations for companies, and showed us that you don’t necessarily need to be in-person to add a personal touch. According to Forrester, in April 2020, 63% of U.S. online adults said they had done a new online activity, for example attending a religious service or exercise class virtually. That was just. one. month. in. 

And, since then our all-the-things-online-energy didn’t slow down, it accelerated. Plus, it’s not going back to the way it was before. Throughout the beginning of all of this, article after article kept declaring the “new normal.” Here’s the deal, the “new normal” will be oh-so-new, but not-so-normal when compared to its 2019 predecessor. 

Seniors Are: Researching Longer Before They Convert

One thing the pandemic didn’t change? The need for senior living. Seniors need care, and their loved ones need helping hands, like a senior living community. What did the pandemic change? Seniors and their families took longer to make a decision on which community was the right one.

In the tumult of the pandemic, taking a moment to pause is logical. According to G5 data, we saw that the time seniors spent researching online (before they reached out via phone call or form fill) increased by 13% from 2019 to 2021. See the graph below to view this steady stair-step pattern as decision-makers thoughtfully considered different senior living communities before reaching out. 

Seniors Are: Researching Deeper Before They Convert

So, we’ve already said that seniors and their loved ones are researching online, and that they’re taking more time before interacting with your sales and marketing teams via an initial inquiry. Want to know what else they’re doing? Well, like any good Googler, or digital detective, they’re also researching at a deeper level. They’re diving further into the digital abyss of a website experience, scrutinizing at a level that they didn’t previously. In part, this could be because at times they weren’t able to simply walk in the door and go on a tour. In part, it could be that the pandemic added to the weight of this choice to seniors and their families. In part, it could be that as seniors and their families became more comfortable navigating all things online, they came to expect longer research deep-dives. As evidenced by G5 data, all these parts contributed to an increase in the number of digital touchpoints or interactions (like clicking on a search ad, visiting your website, or your GMB listing) of 23% from 2019 to 2021.

Seniors Are: Engaging More With Digital Advertising

We shared this before, and we’ll share it again: According to our data, 28% of the senior living journeys engage with digital advertising. That’s a huge number of prospective residents who are engaged with your paid promotions. 

We know that when digital advertising started, there was some skepticism about digital ads and some industries. But, we also know this: they’re working. Digital advertising engagement skyrocketed in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. While digital advertising engagement has slowed a bit, it still remains 18% higher than 2019 levels. Learn more about the G5 approach to digital advertising by reading this blog, or checking out our recent case study with MBK Senior Living. 

Finding Clarity in the Chaos

Complex customer journeys, like those in senior living, require a data-backed MarTech solution to nimbly navigate unknown newness. Watch this webinar to learn more about the G5 approach to marketing, and how we look toward data to connect the right message, with the right researching resident, at the right time.