It’s Time for Providers, Aggregators to Come Together

by Jeff Shaw

By Stephen Anderson

Let’s say the quiet part out loud: providers and aggregators just aren’t friends. 

In theory, the relationship between aggregator and provider is mutually beneficial, funneling prospective families right to the doorstep of communities that have spaces to fill. It’s a common and attractive route to growth that’s been proven to work in countless industries. From travel to real estate to insurance, marketplaces for high-value, experiential products exist for a very simple reason: They make the discovery process easier for consumers.

A recent Seniorly study revealed that almost 60 percent of families were planning to manage the search for senior living independently. Their No. 1 request? The ability to compare and contrast communities easily, so they could move on to the next step. 

Now imagine the countless hours these families will spend navigating search results and sorting through different community websites, trying to find information that is readily available but highly gated. And that’s just a single pain point.

If two decades of digital advancement have taught us anything, it’s that companies win when they put consumers first. Yet, despite the potential gains for providers and aggregators alike, years of low-quality leads and aggressive sales tactics left all parties in a state of stasis. Neither collaborative nor outright competitive, each moves forward independently while the consumer arguably suffers the consequence.

It’s a less-than-desirable experience that is predicated on an outdated model of marketing and sales — one in which we have the ultimate ability to control the consumer path to decision-making. 

We live in an omnichannel world, and the journeys to decision will become even more complex and individuated in the years to come. The ecosystem of search needs to embrace these changes in the discovery and decision matrix, but it will require trust and collaboration.

Why now is the time to collaborate

We need to work together to meet senior living decision makers where they are today — and where they will be tomorrow. 

A 2019 Pew Research Study highlighted the technology adoption and use rates across generations. While baby boomers certainly represent a new generation of tech enthusiasts, their Gen X children — many of whom will steer the search for their parents’ senior living — represent the first generation of digital adopters. The gap between baby boomer and Gen X tech habits represents a much larger generation gap than the one between Gen X and millennials, signaling that the ways in which technology will shape senior living have only just begun. 

Technology-driven platforms are uniquely equipped to support the entire decision process, which encompasses so much more than the choice of senior living environment. The decision to move into senior living also often requires ancillary services, such as a home sale, downsizing, financial planning or legal support. Managing the process from a centralized location simplifies the search process for seniors, eliminating the need to individually seek out multiple service providers.

The Information Age doesn’t just refer to technology. It also refers to the way in which consumers want easy access to information that educates, enables and empowers them. In the coming years, the search for senior living will be driven by the democratization of data, an increase in asynchronous communication, and more independent decision-making.

How to build a better future

In large part, providers hold the key to improving the senior living landscape for families. And they will have to work to find best-in-class platforms that have a vision for the future that is both technology-forward and human-centric. And in our endless research of the state of search, we’ve learned a few things about what’s missing from the consumer experience:

• Information hub: Families want to centrally manage the search process in one location or platform. As 70 percent of them are communicating with others primarily by phone today, they want a more seamless and asynchronous way to share information with providers and other family members.

Shortlist development: Users want an easier way to compare and contrast senior living communities based on their own priorities, not the ones dictated by the industry. And as baby boomers — who ushered in a new era of individualism and independence — age into the market, there’s no doubt new solutions will emerge.

Pricing: Families want better tools for understanding how to develop their budget for senior living, and they need better tools for filtering out communities that may not be suitable for them. This involves more transparent pricing, but also better information about communities that accept Medicaid for lower-income families.

Photos: Photos are usually the first point of interaction, and no doubt that holds true across other sites. Yet providers consistently undervalue the importance of strong photography and lose potential interest because of it. While quality of care is the decision point, photography is often the entry point in the search for senior living.

Affinity data: In today’s world of identity and personalization, affinity data is even more important than ever. Easy access to pet-friendly, LGTBQ+, Christian, Jewish, University or other differentiated attributes will help providers attract more of the consumers for whom their community was designed.

When providers share data with trusted platforms, it enables better, more targeted recommendations and matching. The more comprehensive the data shared, the more accurately families can find communities that meet their specific requirements, preferences and lifestyle elements. 

In fact, data shows that when providers share something as simple as real pricing, conversion to lead rate increases by 75 percent. As a result, providers are not only recommended and shown more often, but the prospects delivered are of higher quality — individuals who have a substantial match with their community’s offerings. The result is less friction for families and better outcomes for providers.

The reality is that change in the ecosystem of search is already coming whether we are ready to acknowledge it or not. Providers who embrace partner platforms as part of a controllable marketing channel mix will realize more qualified prospects, reduced marketing and sales costs, and, above all, better experiences for families. 

We have an incredible opportunity to make a difference, but it will require patience, trust and effort from all of us. It’s time to come together.

Stephen Anderson is a digital marketing, sales and operations leader. He has built solutions for brands large and small across challenging industries such as insurance, travel, and personal finance. As Seniorly’s chief strategy officer, he draws on this experience to help families and senior living communities connect with the best possible outcomes.

You may also like