Consumers over age 65 are now the fastest-growing category of e-commerce shoppers. Last week we told you retail sales did better than anyone expected in 2020 and are poised for even bigger growth this year. Fueled by skyrocketing online sales, online revenues are expected to grow between 18%-23%, reaching at least $1.14 trillion (topping a trillion dollars for the first time), according to the NRF (National Retail Federation).
Over the past several years, online shopping (both for groceries and merchandise) was driven by America’s youngest generations—millennials and Gen Z. As a frequent online shopping baby boomer, I’ve never understood why more boomers weren’t shopping online.
But now, due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Washington Post reports those over 65 are now the fastest-growing category of e-commerce shoppers. And, The Post adds, businesses are “scrambling to meet them [online offering] round-the-clock customer service…and interactive videos aimed at simplifying e-commerce for the uninitiated. Instacart created a service helping older consumers set up accounts, fill their carts, and place their first orders. The program has been popular, helping onboard hundreds of thousands of new shoppers.”
And once the pandemic ends, this trend is expected to continue, according to the experts interviewed by The Post. This is a gift for many businesses because boomers are loyal customers with more disposable income than younger generations. The Post says in 2018, consumers age 50 and older accounted for 56% of all U.S. spending, totaling $7.6 trillion per AARP.
Stats from NPD Group’s Checkout Tracking show a 49% increase in online spending for those 65 and older in the first 10 months of 2020 and more than a 40% increase in frequency of purchases.
Small businesses should jump on this trend and start marketing to boomers. Chris Allieri, founder of marketing company Mulberry & Astor, told The Post, “It took the pandemic to make [retailers] wake up and realize, ‘Hey, wait a minute, we can reach so many more people if we do things a little differently,’” instead of just targeting young consumers.
Local businesses need to offer BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store) and curbside pickup options. And don’t make assumptions about what types of products boomers will buy online. A spokesperson for Lowes told The Post, the number of boomer shoppers on “Lowes.com soared more than 70% in the first two months of the pandemic. The past year has demonstrated just how quickly shopping behaviors can change.”