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GUEST COMMENT Are we ignoring the profit potential of the over 50s?

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Silver surfers: Over 50s hold the key to growing online profits
Silver surfers: Over 50s hold the key to growing online profits
Georgia Leybourne, Senior Director International Marketing, Manhattan Associates
Georgia Leybourne, Senior Director International Marketing, Manhattan Associates

Are retailers overlooking a prime market? The over 50s age group contributes to 76% of the UK’s financial wealthand just under half of it is consumer spending. Rather than focusing exclusively on technology innovations designed to attract Millennials and Generation Z, as Georgia Leybourne, Senior Director International Marketing, Manhattan Associates explains, an intelligent mix of a personalised and timely in-store and online interaction will enable retailers to explore this untapped market.

 

Spending the Inheritance

Millennials and Generation Z may be the customers of the future, but retailers right now need to concentrate on the customers of today – and that means embracing the over 50s. This generation has money to burn – and is increasingly spending it. In 2016, the over 50s spent more than the younger generation for the first time, according to AOL, and 62% of the over 50s aim to spend their savings, according to a survey by Sunlife.

 

In addition to having more to spend than younger generations, the over 50s are also potentially far more discerning and demanding in their retail habits. Less likely to opt for fast fashion and far more likely to invest in the big ticket items, the over 50s have also experienced the change in retail experience over the last few decades, transforming from the traditional cash registers to the POS systems now present in stores across the globe, which means their shopping habits and expectations are more of a complex mix than those of the digital native generations.

 

Quality of Experience

Of course, the over 50s may not be digital natives, but technology has dominated the workplace for decades. They may not use technology in the same way as Millennials and Gen Zs; they may not be as susceptible to the online influencers, or post their latest purchases on Snapchat, but social media and the quality of online experience are both still relevant.

 

 

From customer acquisition strategies to the actual in-store experience, capturing and retaining this affluent generation will require more finesse and greater understanding, as well as excellent timing; the technology is there for the taking, but it’s about how and when it’s used for this generation. The over 50s do not have the same filters as the younger generations when it comes to the online and social media deluge – to avoid rapid disengagement, a more subtle and nuanced approach is key.

 

This issue is particularly key in-store where the quality of the customer/Store Associate interaction is a fundamental part of the experience for a generation that is less willing to embrace self-service. But – and to be frank – this is not easy. Tech savvy over 50s will have typically started the buying journey online, especially for those big ticket items. They will have a pretty good idea of what they want to buy but will also value the chance to look and feel in-store to determine product quality – something that is still tough to achieve online.

 

Furthermore, this generation also wants to enjoy the buying experience, to add the quality of a great in-store interaction to the pleasure of making an acquisition. This is where technology is here to help; the cash registers, long queues and lack of personalisation commonplace in retail of the past would not have added up to a great in-store interaction, whereas now, the more targeted, knowledgeable and streamlined approach could be exactly what this generation is after.

 

Capture the Moment

For the Store Associate two issues are therefore key: timing the interaction with the customer and having a depth of information and knowledge that can add value to the online research. Barge in too soon, and the customer will be affronted. Be unable to offer any more insight and knowledge to the discussion and that customer could well walk.

For retailers, however, this is the moment. It is a perfect time to upsell; a brilliant opportunity to create a strong relationship and create a brand advocate, straight from their Point of Sale (POS) devices.

 

The customer has researched enough to be confident to make a purchase and has the money in hand, but just needs a push towards one product or the other. Developments in technology means that Store Associates can be armed with both up to date stock information, as well as offers and promotions, plus an inherent interest in the product area is invaluable. Add in access to customer history, including recent purchases, and the foundation is laid for an excellent, personalised interaction – the Store Associate can upsell, and the customer has a great experience.

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