Grey expectations: Over-55s switch to online shopping

oldiesMore than a third of over-55s say they will permanently shun the high street and switch to online shopping for clothes, food, fitness and gardening equipment as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to in-depth research from Rare: Group, Covid-19 will trigger a new boom in the online purchasing habits of so-called Silver Surfers, some 37% of over-55s who previously shopped in-store for groceries stated their new preference is to buy online, even when it is declared fully safe to enter stores.

The study, which has been charting consumers’ changing behaviours and attitudes each week since the start of lockdown, also shows that nearly two-fifths (38%) of this age group admit they would prefer to buy clothes online from now on; for exercise equipment it is 43%, and a third even want to purchase gardening products via digital channels.

Although the increase in online shopping during lockdown was no surprise, it is claimed that this is the first time the switch in various categories has been quantified by age group, heralding a new retail landscape for brands.

Even a sizeable proportion of younger consumers, whose health is not as likely to be affected by the coronavirus, are unwilling to “get out and shop” as recently prompted by the Government. Among 25- to 32-years olds, 19% will shop online for clothes, 14% for food, 16% for garden supplies and 8% for exercise kit.

Across sectors where people spend time evaluating options before they buy, there is a potential market swing of up to 20% to online. In building supplies and gardening, for instance, 1 in 5 people who would normally shop in-store are now claiming they would go online instead.

Although the focus was on the four categories above, others such as furniture and white goods were also scrutinised, with a predicted switch from in-store to online shopping apparent across the board.

Rare: Group managing director Ben Pask said: “Of those switching from in-store to online shopping, the biggest shift is among those aged 55-plus. The pandemic has prompted the rise of Silver Surfers 2.0.

“This is important. Many brands have been looking to their younger audiences for longer-term growth, building digital products for those who spend more time online. To now tap into the widely recognised purchasing power of older consumers, they need to build digital experiences that reflect the very different way this audience shops on the Internet.

“A key challenge is building customer journeys for an older market who are online less, but when they do log on have tended to spend less time browsing as they ‘know what they like’. Devising the right ways to engage these people and turn them into long-term customers will be crucial.”

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