Seniors Adopt Digital and Drive Less
Seniors, the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers alike, have adopted new retail habits. Large gains in digital spending have largely been a result of the pandemic, although many who have embraced these changes will likely stick with them post-pandemic.
Digital spending has been growing for awhile, but e-commerce penetration by boomers and the Silent Generation have expanded the consumer base. According to eMarketer, 47 percent of internet-using baby boomers increased their digital spend as of May. The pandemic forced older consumers who were slower to adapt and give up their normal shopping routines to forego driving to the supermarket and elsewhere.
Increases in digital spending habits also occurred in conjunction with other digital adoptions. Since the beginning of the pandemic, research has found substantial growth in social media use and streaming among these older consumers, a strong sign that seniors are welcoming these changes. COVID-19 forced many older consumers to consider new practices, such as online grocery shopping and using Amazon. In a National Retail Federation survey of the two-thirds of Baby Boomers who have tried online-ordering and in-store pick-up, 63 percent claimed this hybrid buying method improved their overall shopping experience. When asked why they tried it, 62 percent said they did it to avoid shipping fees, versus 35 percent who tried it due to social distancing.
Social commerce will play a bigger role in brand and product discovery for discretionary goods. Growing familiarity with grocery e-commerce will push this habit forward, according to eMarketer.
Increased digital adoption isn’t the only factor to be considered. Seniors will weather the recession far better than younger generations. In a survey done by Edward Jones and Age Wave, 24 percent of Gen-Xers and nearly a third of millennials and Gen-Zers said they considered COVID-19 to have an extremely or very negative impact on their personal finances, compared to only 16 percent of Baby Boomers and 6 percent of the Silent Generation. Financial factors such as less debt, low or no mortgage payments, fewer dependents, and less income volatility were among the largest contributors.
Seniors also hold a disproportionate amount of total U.S. household wealth, which is why if brands want to survive the current economic downturn, now would be the opportune time to reconnect with an older consumer base.