Home Business News Lockdown and the rise of the silver surfers

Lockdown and the rise of the silver surfers

by David Jinks MILT
21st May 20 10:03 am

The coronavirus has forced many older shoppers to buy online regularly for the first time. As lockdown loosens, ParcelHero says internet retailers must do their best to retain baby boomers’ custom and permanent changes should be made to sites seeking the grey pound.

One positive result of the national lockdown has been that increasing numbers of older shoppers have jumped online for the first time. The UK e-commerce expert ParcelHero says over 65s spent 94% more on home deliveries this April than they did last year, and that e-commerce retailers need to lock-in lockdown changes now, to ensure they retain this huge new customer base.

ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT, says that many of the baby boomers generation (born 1946-1960) have now retired but retain considerable spending power, and e-tailers need to learn the lessons of lockdown to retain their custom:

Many pensioners were forced into using the internet to purchase groceries and goods when lockdown hit the UK on March 23rd. Even before the Government closed non-essential High Street stores, many friends and relatives had set up new accounts for older people with little experience of shopping online, and even practised ordering with them.

There’s a wealth of data building up showing just how dramatic the growth of online shopping has been amongst senior citizens, as the lockdown took effect.  A startling 54% of over 65s shopped online this April, according to the Office of 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.

Research from Kantar Worldpanel showed over 65s spent 94% more on supermarket deliveries in April this year, during the lockdown period, than they did in April 2019. That’s not surprising, as AgeUK reports older shoppers have responded to reserved delivery slots for OAPs and the increased uptake of home deliveries from pharmacists. Mintel, the market research agency, found that 37% of over-65s have increased the amount of online shopping they do since the outbreak started.

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?

ParcelHero’s research reveals strategies that can be adopted to encourage loyalty from older shoppers. Focussed offers, user-friendly Apps and simpler, cleaner web design can all play their part in stores retaining the grey pound.

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

For those stores not offering Apps, however, there is still plenty they can do to ensure their site does nothing to put off older users:

  • Don’t use small font sizes or elaborate fonts, as older people’s eyesight may not be perfect. Similarly, ensure good contrast between font colour and background colour. For example, use black font against a white background, rather than light blue on dark blue
  • Ensure “calls to action” such as ‘Buy Now’ boxes stand out clearly
  • Avoid complicated dropdown menus
  • A progress bar showing each stage of progress of a purchase helps keep older consumers orientated. Include obvious “Back” buttons
  • Feature reassuring badges/logos and wording to give confidence to inexperienced buyers. For example, if your business belongs to a professional association or is ‘Buy with Confidence – Trading Standards Approved’
  • Offer quick and simple ways to shop such as 1-click, or “Repeat previous order”
  • Include more explanatory and descriptive text. Elderly online shoppers read content thoroughly, while younger consumers are more likely to skip to main information
  • Ensure your site is responsive. In 2017, 48% of UK over 55s owned a tablet.

There are two more steps online stores can do to retain the custom of older shoppers. Firstly, don’t be in too much of a hurry to continually update your site once it is customised to your target customer profile. Older shoppers are more likely than other age groups to make written notes of how to navigate and purchase on a site and refer to these regularly when shopping. Changing the look and functionality of your site may lose their loyalty and they may either switch to another online store they have valid notes for, or simply return to the High Street post-lockdown.

Secondly, 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. 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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