Women laugh over wine at an outdoor restaurant
As seniors begin to enjoy some semblance of “normal life" after vaccinations, industries are adjusting their marketing strategies to appeal to this group of vaccinated consumers. — Getty Images/wundervisuals

With nearly 2.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines being administered per day, Americans who are fully vaccinated now have the all-clear from the CDC to start resuming some of their pre-pandemic social activities.

The majority of those newly-vaccinated individuals are seniors age 65 and up. This high-risk age group accounts for 54% of Americans who have received at least one vaccine dose, and many are eager to get out of the isolation they’ve been in for the past year.

As seniors begin to enjoy some semblance of “normal life” again, industries that have been hit hard by social distancing, like restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues, are changing their marketing strategies to better appeal to this group of vaccinated consumers. Here's how small businesses can shift their focus to serve the senior population while bringing more customers in the door.

How businesses can cater to vaccinated seniors

According to the latest CDC guidance, people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated individuals (and unvaccinated individuals from one household) without wearing a mask or face covering. They also do not need to quarantine if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 but are asymptomatic.

For small businesses, this means there’s an opportunity to get customers in the door by offering them a taste of pre-COVID normalcy.

“​Businesses could increase traffic by setting certain hours or events where they only allow patrons over a certain age with proof of vaccine to enter,” said Stuart Allan, co-founder of MedBar. “Advertising these restricted hours or events may help encourage vaccinated seniors to feel more comfortable going out in the community.”

[Read: New Normal: 9 Lasting Changes Small Businesses Can Expect Post-Pandemic]

Here are a few ideas for how businesses can cater specifically to vaccinated seniors:

  • Special vaccinated senior hours. Many large stores like Walmart, Target and grocery chains began offering designated shopping hours for high-risk populations, including seniors, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stores and restaurants can continue to do this so senior consumers can feel safe and comfortable knowing their fellow shoppers/diners are also at low risk for catching or spreading the virus.
  • Offer discounts for showing proof of vaccination. Restaurants and bars across the country are beginning to offer discounts or even free items to customers who can prove their vaccination status. Combining special senior hours with a vaccination discount can encourage even more business from the senior population.
  • Hold events or classes that require proof of vaccination. Everyone likes to be “in” on something exclusive, so social events or deals that are only available to vaccinated individuals are a great way to generate interest and reservations. This type of promotion can be a big boon to the travel and hospitality industry, which is already seeing a surge in bookings from newly vaccinated seniors.

Advertising these restricted hours or events may help encourage vaccinated seniors to feel more comfortable going out in the community.

Stuart Allan, co-founder of MedBar

Keeping unvaccinated consumers safe

​While the majority of the population remains unvaccinated, businesses should continue to enforce mask and social distancing restrictions, said Allan.

“Blocking out certain events with eased restrictions for vaccinated customers should be limited to only a few hours or days per week,” he told CO—. ​

In terms of store layout and spacing, Allan advised restaurants, bars or entertainment venues to consider sectioning the seating arrangements so that patrons with proof of vaccine can enjoy their eased social restrictions while still maintaining a safe section for unvaccinated patrons.

“Businesses such as stores should continue to require masks for all customers to protect the safety of all as they move around within the facility,” he added.

[Read: 5 Things Employers Can Do Now to Prepare for a Vaccine]

Can catering to vaccinated consumers help us reach herd immunity faster?

Promotions that cater to the vaccinated population aren’t just good for business: Allan noted that creating exclusives can also play a role in encouraging hesitant consumers to get vaccinated once more demographic groups are eligible.

“As vaccination opportunities open up for non-seniors, businesses could provide promotions to incentivize more vaccinations,” he said.

Research by McKinsey & Company finds that many Americans are still wary of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine (45% are “cautious adopters” while 18% are “unlikely”) — but 60% to 100% of the eligible population needs to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity.

Encouragement from businesses and employers in the form of incentives and promotions is essential for achieving that herd immunity status, Tara Azimi, a partner in McKinsey & Company’s healthcare practice, said at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation event.

“For us … to confidently turn the corner on this virus and to restore lives and livelihoods across the country ... the vast majority [of] Americans who currently state that they're uncertain about vaccination [need] to get vaccinated,” Azimi said. “We will have to support them to get vaccinated.”

[Read: 8 Expert Predictions on How and When Business Will Return to Normal in 2021]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published March 25, 2021