More and more older adults in the UK are using online shopping as increasing numbers connect to the internet, ONS figures have revealed.
Forty-eight percent of adults over the age of 65 now use online shopping, up threefold since 2008, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics. The proportion for this age group is still considerably behind the 78 percent figure for all adults and considerably below the 96 percent for those between the ages of 16 to 34. Between adults aged 35 to 44 the figure was 89 percent.
The increase in use of online shopping channels came as the proportion of households with an adult aged 65 years or over with an internet connection rose to 59 percent, up from 36 percent in 2012.
The most popular type of product amongst this group was household items such as furniture, with 25 percent having purchased something from this category in the last 12 months. 24 percent had bought from the clothing or sports goods and holiday accommodation categories in the same period.
So how can retailers take advantage of this? Alessandra Alari, head of search at Google UK, tells InternetRetailing that advertisers need to adapt their strategies to tap this market of often wealthier consumers.
She says retailers need to see the customer “as an individual, not a ‘device’”, and ensure that they are providing assistance and relevant information across all channels.
Alari adds that the use of machine learning and business data can provide better understanding of what older customers are looking for online.
She says that retailers should look to enable “fast, frictionless purchases everywhere”.
“Regardless of age, it’s frustrating when purchases are long and complicated – and slow load times are a pain for anyone,” she says, adding that 53% of people give up on a website that takes three or more seconds.
Alari highlights the example of George@Asda, which developed a progressive web app to improve the speed of its mobile site and subsequently increased mobile conversions by 31 percent.
“It’s clear that being there for the customer, understanding their needs and delivering quickly can reap huge rewards – and retailers targeting older audiences would be wise to consider that their customers increasingly expect excellent service online as well as in store,” she says.
Jimmy New, director of marketing at VoucherCodes, says that new personalisation technologies are important for addressing the older demographic as they are not looking for the same experiences as younger shoppers.
He highlighted the “geo-fencing” functions in the VoucherCodes app as an example. This makes use of location technology in a smartphone to trigger particular responses.
“It allows our retail partners to send customers location-relevant offers via app notifications. These are based on brands the shopper has engaged with in their area so are both location-specific and personalised.”
Chris Haines, director of consulting at Amplience, says that the figures could be troubling reading for retailers with older customer bases who had believed their physical stores and traditional engagement techniques would be safe.
“As our expectations for more personalised and convenient shopping expands, retailers are facing a challenge from global online brands such as Amazon Fresh. With so many alternative retailers squeezing brands further, it’s vital for retailers to embrace all the channels at their disposal.”
“These people aren’t digital natives, yet they are quickly adopting the convenience of purchasing goods online. That makes it even more important for retailers to be present across channels to foster and sustain brand loyalty.”
New of VoucherCodes added that there were techniques that brands could use to entice older shoppers back into stores.
“With convenience guiding older shoppers’ buying habits, creating an innovative and memorable shopping experience to draw this age bracket into bricks & mortar stores is hugely important.
“Introducing events in-store such as talks by relevant guest speakers or food and beverage options like a coffee bar or café, gives older shoppers an excuse to make more out of their shopping trip and increases dwell-time.”
He added: “It’s about understanding what makes older shoppers tick and making the physical store appealing in a different way than in previous decades. This allows retailers to show the “silver surfer” generation that there are still many benefits to buying in-store.”