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'Silver Surfers' web shopping growth surges due to lockdown - report

Published
May 21, 2020
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With retail going through a major transformation due to the coronavirus pandemic, a new report says that one key difference we’ll see going forward is the larger number of older people shopping online.


The young aren't the only people to target with apps as older shoppers have grown to love them too



E-commerce specialist ParcelHero said the crisis “has forced many older shoppers to buy online regularly for the first time. As lockdown loosens, internet retailers must do their best to retain baby boomers’ custom and permanent changes should be made to sites seeking the grey pound”.

Online shopping has been growing steadily in the UK for many years and while the fastest adoption is among younger groups, older shoppers haven't exactly been averse to buying via the web in the past. However, many of them have still never bought online, many do so infrequently and even those who are regular internet shoppers are smaller in number than those further down the age scale.

ParcelHero said the over-65s spent 94% more on home supermarket deliveries this April than they did last year. That's almost double what they spent a year ago and is particularly interesting given that grocery is one area that many people had shown the most resistance to when it came to shopping online. And while many will return to physical shops once the lockdown is over, plenty of them will continue to buy online. “E-commerce retailers need to lock-in lockdown changes now, to ensure they retain this huge new customer base,” the company said.

And of course, older shoppers who have become used to buying groceries online could transfer that experience to other product categories even if they go back to visiting supermarkets in person. This could benefit a range of categories from fashion to beauty and homewares.

ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research David Jinks said that many in the baby boomer generation have now retired but retain considerable spending power, and e-tailers need to learn the lessons of lockdown to retain their custom. “There’s a wealth of data building up showing just how dramatic the growth of online shopping has been among senior citizens, as the lockdown took effect. A startling 54% of over 65s shopped online this April, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) as opposed to just 22% a decade ago, and that number is still rising rapidly as older shoppers get to grips with the technology and discover the convenience of shopping from home”.

He also cited AgeUK that reported older shoppers having responded to reserved delivery slots for OAPs and the increased uptake of home deliveries from pharmacists. And he quoted Mintel that found 37% of over-65s have increased the amount of online shopping they do since the outbreak started.

Importantly, he said these numbers add up to one thing — “a significant new consumer base for online stores has been created almost overnight. The question now facing online retailers is: how do they keep this initially reluctant customer base hooked on home shopping once lockdown is loosened?”

WHAT OLDER SHOPPERS WANT

The company has conducted research and said that the things older shoppers want include focused offers, user-friendly apps and simpler, cleaner web design”.

In fact, while apps are often targeted towards the young who live their lives through their smartphones, the company believes that more mature shoppers should be a key target for app development. 

Companies such as Waitrose have concentrated on developing an easy-to-use app for tablets, [which are] many older shoppers’ most favoured device,” it said. “Elderly customers have left feedback saying, ‘Shopping with the app is much easier than from the website’.” 

ParcelHero also thinks a focused multichannel approach will help for those targeting older consumers. “If your company has an omnichannel approach to retail, with both high street stores and a website, ensure you offer easy click & collect options once the lockdown has ended,” Jinks said. “Older shoppers often enjoy physically shopping as a leisure activity, to socialise with people and get out of the house. But they like knowing in advance that their chosen product will be in stock; click & collect is ideal for this”.

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