Cross-generation eCommerce

Cross-generation eCommerce: Catering to senior citizen shoppers

commercetools speaker image Brad Soo
Brad Soo
Product Marketing Manager, commercetools
Published 13 February 2020

Over half (54 %) of the 65+ year-olds were online shoppers in 2019, while in the prior decade there were only two-and-a-half times less (20 %) senior buyers according to a recent study¹ by the British Office for National Statistics.

With that in mind, we are nowhere near saturating the older age group segment. Here’s a look at how the market for older shoppers grew to its size today, and how you can cater to this expanding market segment which typically has high financial stability and decent spending power.

Cross-generation eCommerce

Why online shopping has been steadily increasing among senior citizens

A large majority of the senior demographic (aged 65 and above) traditionally sit at the end of the technology adoption curve, classified as laggards/skeptics. This is because they typically are more conservative and lack confidence in trying something new that didn’t exist for most of their lives, such as online commerce.

Since the internet and online commerce have already been adopted by the majority, it’s only natural that it’s finally being embraced by even laggards and skeptics. Those who do are quick to realize the functional usefulness and convenience it introduces to their lives. Technology literacy of the 65+ demographic is also accelerated by the prevalence of connected devices, from smartphones to digital heart rate monitors, that subsequently increase the familiarity of modern graphical user interfaces with that group.

Today, support is available via various channels, and user interfaces are less complicated and more intuitive than ever; with credit to the broader move geared towards improving user experience as a whole by web-based entities. We also can’t discount in-house support (in the literal sense of the word) provided by the children or younger relatives of the 65+ demographic. They represent a familiar face that can help seniors with new technologies, for example by assisting them with the setup and hand holding them through processes like checking out a shopping basket. The prevalence of connected tech among the younger generation helps also to further instill confidence and wipe away concerns about using the internet for activities like online shopping.

Purchasing activity and resulting sales from that age group will keep growing, driven by factors such as:

  • Technology literacy increases among that age group and the general global population;

  • The focus on better user experience continually improves the way people shop as it becomes easier, faster and more accessible;

  • Connected technology is embedding itself deeper into daily life – beyond just devices like computers and phones – by increasing the number of avenues for commerce and by making it easier to find and buy products and services online.

Catering commerce to several generations at the same time

There are many ways online retailers can serve markets that are segmented into different age groups at once. Measures can fall under one of two efforts:

A larger transformation that introduces experience improvements across the board.

This can include general improvements that make a user interface easier to use, the reduction or removal of barriers throughout the retail process (for instance, letting users easily login via their email or social media account), and integration of retail into daily connected devices (for example, smart speakers and IoT-enabled home appliances, car interfaces, and digital signage installed in public);

Finer tuning that leverages data to adapt and personalize experiences for different market segments and individual shoppers respectively.

This can come in the form of tailored search results and recommendations, offers based on purchase history, and autofilling of preferences like clothing sizes or favorite color. The user experience can also be further enhanced for different generations; for instance, larger text and images can be helpful for the senior demographic, who may typically be hindered by age-related conditions such as presbyopia (farsightedness).

Retailers should definitely be adapting the ways they market, create user experiences and provide customer service to the 65+ demographic. And the premise applies for anything involving market segmentation: different groups have different needs. Optimization to fulfill those needs can bring positive effects in sales and revenue.

For the senior demographic, this could come in the form of larger user interfaces, guidance and tooltips to seamlessly handhold the user through the shopping experience, and simplified navigation to ensure they can find their way around.

The age 65+ group is particularly sensitive towards safety and security of conducting financial transactions online, so it is helpful when these concerns are addressed. A positive experience for such users can also bring excellent (and free) word-of-mouth marketing among their peers.

Help is also usually needed when it comes to overcoming their anxiety or skepticism of trying something for the first time.

Attracting and converting the senior demographic

Becoming very familiar with the age 65+ market is key to success. It takes plenty of user testing to understand their needs – what they’re purchasing online, what they want to purchase via the internet but can’t find or do easily, how they navigate an interface and what their expectations are during the shopping experience. But it will facilitate building an experience that’s highly intuitive or even enjoyable. So much that they will not only complete a transaction but return for more and recommend it to their peers.

Several studies, as recently as late 2018, show that customers’ purchasing decisions are strongly influenced by people they already know and trust. This is especially true for the more senior demographic who may harbor uncertainty on whom they should trust online and an usual look for reassurance from people they know. Word-of-mouth and local ties are very strong factors among that age group, and is free advertising for businesses that manage to instill such trust.

Creating awareness and understanding what attracts potential customers in that age group is also important. The methods for that can change depending on country and culture, so keep that in mind. For instance, one fourth of Americans within that age group are well-versed in mobile devices and use them as a commerce platform, while free postal returns are something Germans in general, including those aged 65+, take into consideration when shopping online.

A great way to improve how that demographic perceives and relates to your online retail is to tie the shopping experience with something tangible in the physical world. For example, click-and-collect is a useful option to offer, as it means that the buyer can collect and pay for the online purchase at a physical location. This ability to pay for goods and to receive them in-person ensures senior buyers that they weren’t scammed, which helps to instill a sense of confidence while bringing the opportunity for a face-to-face interaction with an employee (in case of any questions).

¹ Office for National Statistics (Source)

commercetools speaker image Brad Soo
Brad Soo
Product Marketing Manager, commercetools

Brad joined commercetools after 7 years of being in product-centric roles in the tech industry and was previously working for a leading headless CMS vendor.

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