Untapped Potential in Generation Silver Shopper

24th Aug 2016

It’s official. The number of older people buying online is up and looks to be increasing with every passing day. New figures from the Office of National Statistics reveal that the number of 55 to 64 year olds shopping online has risen by 33% to 77% since 2008. Astonishingly, this represents the largest increase in any age group. While the cash-strapped Generation Y struggles under the current economic squeeze, the Baby Boomers, with more disposable money and time, have quickly adapted to online shopping and are now a  lucrative demographic

This trend shows no sign of slowing down either, with more research showing that over 50s spend approximately 27 hours per week online - their average internet browsing session lasting a phenomenal 3.5 hours. And in all that screen time, silver surfers love to shop, with the ONS data indicating that 24% of 55-64 year olds and 19% of over 65s reportedly buying 11 or more items online over the last 3 months. Clothes and sports goods are the most popular products being bought online by the over 55s, followed closely by household goods.

The rise of m-commerce

The figures also detail how internet access ‘on the go’ continues to grow at a rapid pace, with 70% of adults now accessing the internet via mobile phone or smartphone. This is up from 66% in 2015 and nearly double the 2011 estimate of 36%. This correlates with a recent study from Bronto Software, which found that, in comparison to their American and Australian peers, British consumers aged 55 and over use tablets for online purchasing twice as much, at 22%.

Despite all this evidence, it’s been estimated that only around 10 per cent of the UK’s marketing budget currently focuses on this lucrative age group. Webloyalty’s own research among over 55s in the Netherlands revealed there is real opportunity for marketers to engage with this key older demographic. Having said this, the over 50s category is incredibly diverse; it’s a complex group with different interests, opinions and abilities. There are three whole decades and a huge amount of difference between a “young at heart”, working 55 year old; a retired but active 70 year old and an elderly 85 year old, yet all have the potential to shop online.

So, how can businesses adapt their strategies to maximise this potential?

  1. Rave reviews:  Webloyalty’s research found that 91% of silver shoppers will make use of reviews in their decision making. Marketers must be aware of how influential reviews are and make sure they provide great customer service which mitigates the risk of bad reviews
  2. The easy way to pay: Payment convenience is important to the older generation; Webloyalty’s research found that three quarters of respondents will avoid websites that do not offer simple payment processes. The payment process should be easy.  E-tailers must make it straightforward so that the older, more cautious shopper is reassured.
  3. Cross-platform planning: According to Webloyalty’s research, most silver surfers browse and purchase through a laptop and only a quarter use their mobile phones. Digital marketers need to make sure their websites enable ease of use across all platforms; whether mobile, tablet or laptop.
  4. The high street helps: Whilst millennials are accustomed to pureplays like ASOS and Amazon, Webloyalty’s research found that older consumers are more comfortable with online stores that are founded in bricks and mortar. This presents great potential for omni-channel offerings to target this segment of the market and leverage the heritage of the shops which started on the high street.
  5. Don’t forget the face to face: 34% of those surveyed see the lack of personal contact as a barrier to online shopping. This clearly shows how important it is to make the contact points with the business clear and provide a personalised customer experience.

It’s a well-known fact that populations around the world are ageing. By 2050, it is estimated there will be more people aged over 65 in the world than children under the age of 14. Failing to consider the needs of the silver shopper and ignoring their importance when setting marketing strategies is not only a missed opportunity to get ahead of the competition, but, ultimately, it could have a detrimental impact on a business’ bottom line.

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