Making eCommerce Friendly for Older Consumers
With so much attention given to younger consumers, particularly millennials — a generation born between 1982 and 2004—it can be easy to overlook another important demographic. They are older Americans, those 60-years-old and above. Many of these consumers are part of the Baby Boomer generation, or those born between 1946 and 1964. It’s in your interest to make sure your website and content is senior-friendly, for reasons that will soon become clear. But first let’s dispel some myths about older consumers that might be hampering your eCommerce sales.
Myth #1: Seniors don’t know how to use computers
Many people buy into this stereotype, and while there may be some tech-shy seniors out there, the numbers show otherwise. A writer for eCommerce Guide observed, “the idea that elderly people aren’t using the Internet is now extremely outdated. Older age groups are increasingly likely to be using social media and shopping online, and online participation is still rising for this group.”
Not only are seniors regularly visiting eCommerce sites, they’re also reading blogs and articles and watching videos to get more information about products and services. According to Forbes, about 60% of baby boomers spend their time this way.
And Small Business Trends noted, “Because seniors have the time to do lots of research before making a purchase, they are typically heavy Internet users.”
Even if some senior consumers are less tech-savvy than others, they can still ask an adult child or grandchild or a caregiver to help them complete transactions.
Myth #2: Seniors are frugal, buying just the necessities
It may be true that some older adults are on fixed incomes, and therefore have to carefully monitor their spending. But this is by no means the whole picture. On average, seniors actually have more buying power than those in other age groups. The baby boomer generation alone controls about 70% of all disposable income in the U.S.
As reported by Small Business Trends, “Worldwide, the share of income for those over 60 is increasing and will continue to rise through 2020. And seniors spend proportionately more of their income on discretionary purchases like eating out than do other age groups.”
Of course, like many of us, seniors love a bargain, but they tend to choose quality over quantity. If the quality is good, they’re willing to pay more for it. For seniors who are downsizing to condos or retirement communities, they’re less interested in making lots of small impulse buys and more inclined to buy the very best for the money.
Even those older shoppers who don’t place big orders or splurge on a big ticket item may turn out to be some of your most loyal customers. If they are home bound because of illness or mobility issues, or they simply enjoy the convenience of home delivery, they’re more likely to order (and reorder) their favorite products on a regular basis.
Myth #3: The majority of people who use Facebook are under 40
Not according to the Pew Research Center, who found that of the 79% of Americans who were Facebook users in 2016, 72% were between the age of 50 and 64.
Why it’s costing you to believe these myths about older consumers
“Baby Boomers spend the most across all product categories but are targeted by just 5-10 percent of marketing. Over the next 20 years, spending by people 50+ is expected to increase by 58 percent to $4.74 trillion, while spending by Americans aged 25-50 will grow by only 24 percent.” [Immersion Active]
The simple answer is lost revenue. By choosing to focus on your younger customers, you’re handing this other valuable demographic to your competition.
There is also the matter of taking the long view with your business. According to Small Business Trends, “By 2030, nearly one-fourth (22 percent) of Americans will be over age 60.” The young customers you’re serving right now will become your older consumers down the line. Understanding the unique needs of the older consumer and making a user-friendly experience just for them will help you hold on to today’s customers into the future.
Tips for creating a user-friendly website for seniors
There are simple changes you can implement to make your site more senior-friendly. Some of these changes are not only beneficial to your older customers—they are also helpful for those of any age with disabilities like low vision or limited mobility.
- Create a large font option that’s clearly visible so people know that they can easily adjust the size.
- Choose font colors like blue, black or green, as they are easier to see on a white background. Avoid less legible colors like yellow, red or orange.
- If you have several pages of products on your website, offer different layout configurations. Many older users prefer larger images and font size, so offer a default layout option with a small grouping of product results. Users can then increase the number of results per page as they wish.
- Make sure any call to action buttons/links are clear and easily distinguishable on the page
- Clearly mark which fields the customer is required to fill out versus which fields are optional. Don’t simply include an asterisk next to the required fields; a small asterisk can be easy to overlook. Remember that customers of any age get frustrated when their attempts to submit a customer or guest profile are rejected.
- Use ‘breadcrumb’ style navigation to help users with short-term memory impairments.
- Include a phone number with hours of operation so older users can easily contact a live person with questions or to place an order.
- Solicit regular feedback from your users about what they like about your site and how you can improve the usability. This is a best practice across age groups, but is particularly important when trying to understand the needs of a demographic that may not be represented on your web team. Offer an incentive for feedback, like an online coupon or loyalty points.
- Speaking of loyalty, online shoppers age 65+ tend to be very faithful to a brand or website they like. If you don’t already have a loyalty program, consider starting one.
- When targeting older consumers on Facebook, MediaPost suggests you “maximize your chances of making it into newsfeeds by making your content appeal to the nearly 50% who say they want to share ‘useful content.’”
A word about voice-activated devices and eCommerce
It would be remiss to talk about how to appeal to an older consumer demographic and not mention the increasing role that voice-activated devices are playing in the lives of older Americans. According to Multichannel Merchant, there are around 8.2 million U.S. shoppers who now own an Amazon Echo, Google Home, or related product. Seniors and their adult children and caregivers are viewing these digital assistant devices as ideal for older adults living on their own and who have vision, mobility or short-term memory issues but still want to live independently.
Although many people are using these devices to remember to take their medication, turn lights off, or play a favorite song, these gadgets have also exposed more people to the possibilities and convenience of voice-activated shopping. Older consumers are increasingly using Echo and Home to order products and services from their favorite websites to be delivered right to their doorstep. Google Home in particular could be a boon for eCommerce sites that regularly show up in the top Google search results for a product or service.
An eCommerce website for all ages and abilities
Remember that some of the challenges and opportunities that older shoppers bring are just another dimension of your customers’ diversity. Though it is difficult to create a product that is all things to all people, it is easier (and makes more business sense) to create a website that is usable by all. It may take more effort, but that effort will pay off with a wider customer base that is more likely to stick with you for years to come.
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