As the baby boomer generation ages, they are remaking the retail landscape. In response, retailers have changed how they sell their wares to this 78-million-strong cohort of consumers, and advisors should take note, especially if they have a website.
Kate Forgach, a baby boomer consumer specialist with Kinoli, Inc., a suite of websites that provides coupons and discounts to shoppers, details several ways retailers now cater to the baby boomer and older generations.
Contrary to popular belief that boomers are tech dinosaurs, Forgach cites a 2010 study by Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project that found a majority of seniors shop online. Specifically, 69 percent of older baby boomers (ages 56 to 64) say they buy online, which is more than Millennials (ages 18 to 33) and Generation Xers (ages 34 to 45), who clocked at 68 percent and 66 percent, respectively.
To break it down even further, 64 percent of younger boomers (ages 45 to 55); 59 percent of the Silent Generation (ages 65 to 73) and 57 percent of the G.I. Generation (ages 74 and older) shop over the Internet.
Seniors are more likely to turn to the Internet when they want to research products and services before purchasing, with 40 percent of older boomers saying they rate services, products and people online, followed by the 38 percent of the Silent Generation. By comparison, 32 percent of Millennials do the same.
As a result of more seniors eyeing their websites, merchants are increasing website fonts so online shoppers with poor vision can more easily peruse their merchandise, Forgach says. For those with more serious vision problems, text-to-speech technology can read web pages aloud.
Even though they may use the Internet to shop, seniors dig a bit deeper before buying. Forgach cites comments by Newegg.com’s vice president of marketing Bernard Luthi in an interview with Internet Retailer magazine. “Older consumers called [customer support] more often than other age groups in advance of a purchase. They’d say: ‘I want to understand more about the organization. Let me know who you are and what your return policy is.’ They’re still not as comfortable as a person in his mid-20s about shopping on the Web, but they are a smarter shopper. They ask for a lot more information upfront.”
And since older folks are more of a word-of-mouth generation, e-retailers are incorporating user reviews on their websites, Forgach says.
Further, Forgach points out that building owners are replacing heavy, hard-to-open doors with automatic ones to make it easier for seniors to enter. She also notes that active baby boomers are turned off by advertising that “markets to age and decrepitude.”
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