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GUEST COMMENT Poor eyesight and stiff fingers? Take a closer look at the more mature shopper & m-commerce

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by Sharon Hodgson

The rise in smartphone ownership has been staggering and this of course means that these clever devices are no longer the preserve of the young or most technically savvy. So we decided that this warranted further investigation, as part of our latest shopper trends report. The findings were revealing, showing that some shoppers can feel that their smartphones are in fact smarter than they are – and that this can limit their ability to make full use of the potential these devices promise. Older shoppers in particular, appear more constrained in their use of mobile technology to aid their browsing and buying. Among the 55+ age group that we interviewed (all mobile device owners), 81% own a smartphone yet only 19% use it for purchasing: a significantly lower proportion than their younger counterparts.

It is tempting then to jump to the conclusion that screen size and functionality form the greatest barriers for this older generation. However, while these are undoubtedly major obstacles to smartphone shopping for many, they are issues shared by all age groups. And in fact, it is on a far more fundamental level that older shoppers appear distinct: They are much less likely to recognise a need to shop on the move in this way and one in four just ‘don’t see the point’. These older shoppers simply don’t view smartphone shopping as a readily accessible solution to ease the burden of a busy life – rather for many it seems to be a complication they can happily live without. For older shoppers to become a sizeable and lucrative m-commerce target, a clear benefit will need to be conveyed to provide a sense of purpose for smartphone shopping.

So how about the lure of discounts: we all love a deal don’t we? And in fact older shoppers are most likely to use their smartphones to take photos of particularly good offers in shops, as a reminder for later. Maybe surprising then that shoppers aged 55+ are much less likely than their younger counterparts to price compare on their phone – and relatively few share in the delights of voucher / coupon hunting online to secure savings on a variety of goods and services. Surely the chance to save could be capitalised upon to provide an attractive hook for these instinctive bargain-hunters to join the m-commerce fold?

Smartphones aside, what is certainly clear from our research is that tablets seem to really appeal to this older generation of shopper. Within our sample of mobile device owners it is shoppers aged 55+ who are the most likely to own a tablet (at 59%, ten percentage points more than any other age group): 60% have used them as part of the shopping process and 34% to buy. And this seems to be a trend that is set to grow as 10% have only started shopping in this way in the last month.

With their larger screens and ease of touch functionality, tablets appear the most likely gateway for older shoppers to discover the possibilities of wireless shopping – even if this may be most likely in the comfort of their own home next to a cup of tea! So brand owners would do well to consider this lucrative target in their tablet-based strategies. Communication and functionality must hit the right buttons with this age group, to build their confidence, capture their imagination and encourage them to take full advantage of the ease and convenience afforded by shopping this way.

Sharon Hodgson is director at Shoppercentric

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