“They want to be marketed to with honesty and respect for who they are with pictures they can relate to,” Rebecca Wilson, the founder and CEO of Starts at 60, told Inside Retail.
“Many marketers think they need to use ‘aspirational images’ but this generation actually wants to see relatable, not aspirational marketing,” she said.
“Let’s face it – this generation has run a household for decades, so some of the marketing stunts used on younger generations really fall flat here.”
Older online shopping ‘boom’
Starts at 60’s move into e-commerce comes as health concerns and store closures due to the global pandemic continue to drive more seniors to shop online.
Consumers over 65 were the fastest growing group of online shoppers in the US in 2020, according to NPD Group’s Checkout Tracking, and they accounted for 30 per cent of goods purchased online in the UK last year compared to 20 per cent the year before, The Economist reported. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed that one in six consumers over the age of 65 plan to shop online more as a result of Covid.
“Older online shoppers have long been viewed as the last barrier to full scale generational e-commerce adoption. Covid only fast tracked the inevitable,” Laura Doonin, commercial director of the digital agency Moustache Republic, told Inside Retail.
“Covid had a double whammy effect,” she explained. “Businesses had to step up their digital presence or, for many, create one and on the other side shoppers often had little choice but to embrace shopping online.”
The category that has benefited the most from the rise of the older online shopper is grocery, according to Doonin.
“Online grocery shopping has been the key vertical that helped the over-60 demographic gain more confidence with browsing and buying online – safety, necessity and convenience being the key drivers for this change in buying behaviour.”
A race to reach baby boomers
Retailers that cater to the over-60 set are now racing to update their websites and shift their marketing mix to keep up with the shift in consumer behaviour.
For instance, women’s apparel brand Fella Hamilton is developing a new website that will provide a better user experience and partnering with a media agency to grow its online sales. It has also created a dedicated space in its warehouse for online orders, which is helping speed up delivery.
Until recently, the 52-year-old Melbourne brand catered primarily to older consumers through its bricks-and-mortar stores and print catalogues (it still receives orders over the phone). But that changed last year.
“Covid has forced many of our customers who never used our website to start shopping online for the first time,” Sharon Hamilton, Fella Hamilton’s CEO, told Inside Retail.
“This change in customer purchase habits has created a different balance in bricks versus online users, creating a change to our business model with many customers now being a blended type of customer using both online and bricks-and-mortar.”
A digital transformation is also underway at Mosaic Brands, an ASX-listed company that operates several brands catering to senior female consumers, including Millers, Noni B and Katies.
“We had already started the process of pivoting our traditional clothing brand websites towards true online department stores before Covid 19 hit, but we accelerated along with our customers,” Scott Evans, the CEO of Mosaic Brands, told Inside Retail.
Since shifting to a department store model, the company’s online offering has skyrocketed from around 30-50,000 SKUs to 700,000 SKUs at the end of May 2021.
“We are continuing to expand this, and as a result we are seeing our customers spending more time on sites, browsing more products, categories and brands, and buying more from us. Our site visits have increased 25 per cent,” Evans said.
Font size and payment options
When it comes to tailoring the online shopping experience to older consumers, there is still some disagreement about whether or not their needs are truly different from younger shoppers.
Wilson is adamant that baby boomers are looking for products designed for their particular stage of life.
“The average over-60 has a different shaped body and feet than the younger generations, requiring different products, curated more specifically to them. They also have different health objectives – based on how healthy they are and the health issues they want to solve,” she said.
“They have more time on their hands to be ‘entertained’, and a bigger family and friends circle to buy gifts for. This generation is in a different frame of mind around their homes too, keen to live in comfort and treat themselves to some finer things after years of raising children and managing household budgets carefully to get to retirement.”
Wilson also thinks older shoppers are more digitally savvy than many people give them credit for.
“We have data from Starts at 60 members showing they are online more than current millennial generations,” she said.
Still, getting the customer experience right is critical, and it can’t hurt to consider increasing font sizes, reducing the number of forms that need to be filled out and offering more payment options.
“Many of our customers can be inexperienced with the digital world and we work to make the whole experience easy, so we become their go-to digital department store,” Evans said.
As Hamilton points out, younger shoppers might also benefit from some of these changes.
“Both audiences appreciate an uncomplicated website which has easy functionality,” she said.
Omnichannel opportunity is key
But as retailers welcome more over-60s online, they shouldn’t neglect their stores.
“The shift to more online shopping is actually creating more need for omnichannel integration. Streamlining and making it seamless regardless of where the shopper is becomes critical,” Doonin said.
Contactless payments, in-store shopping appointments and alternative pickup and delivery options are a must.
“This is not the time to focus less on omnichannel – this is just a fast tracked evolution of brand and purchasing behaviour,” said.
With a network of 1200 bricks-and-mortar stores across its brands, Mosaic is well positioned to become a leading omnichannel player in this space.
“Our biggest opportunity is continuing to convert more of our loyal in-store shoppers to omnichannel shoppers,” Evans said. “This represents one of the biggest opportunities for any retailer in Australia and we are very happy to have it.”