June 30, 2020

Boomers’ Online Shopping Habits Spike in Pandemic

By Jay Bemis | Advertising Systems Inc.

The generation perhaps most resistant to technological and digital change at the start of this millennium is now embracing it in our pandemic environment — at least when it comes to shopping.

In a recent study by the National Retail Federation (NRF), nearly half of the baby boom generation (45%) reported that they’re shopping more online as a result of stay-at-home mandates and social-distancing requirements. The baby boomers, roughly ages 56 to 74, were polled along with other generations as part of the NRF’s annual Spring Consumer View.

The NRF in its June 9 report calls the baby-boomer shift in shopping “significant,” because “the vast majority (82%) typically make less than half of their purchases online.”

“Certain categories have seen more of a shift to online, especially items that can help relieve boredom during a lockdown,” the NRF found.

“Even Fido and Felix are getting spoiled — pet supplies, toys and books and other media are the products where more boomers have shifted their purchasing habits the most, with more buying mostly or entirely online as a direct result of COVID-19.”

Buying online and picking up items in store has become increasingly popular during the pandemic, “and boomers haven’t shied away from it,” the NRF says, with six in 10 aware of that delivery option, “more than any of their younger counterparts.”

Boomers also are the most interested generation in trying curbside pickup. Their top reasons, they told the NRF, are to avoid paying for shipping, as well as social-distancing or self-quarantine restrictions.

Another hit with the generation that grew up with the Beatles and “Leave It to Beaver”? That would be delivery services.

“With the onset of stay-at-home orders, over one-quarter of boomers have used a delivery service such as Shipt or Amazon Prime at least once in the past three months, and two in 10 have done so multiple times,” the NRF study found.

Other recent reports on older consumers, from eMarketer and Salesforce, lend plenty of optimism for digital marketing professionals.

By the end of this year, more than 204 million people ages 14 and older will make an online purchase, two-thirds of them 45 and older, according to eMarketer. It foresees a 5.8% hike in the number of digital buyers 45 and older, which would equal nearly 5 million new users that digital marketers could target in all.

“Because older adults are more likely to develop serious complications from the coronavirus, it’s unsurprising that they are taking extra precautions and utilizing more online and contactless shopping options,” eMarketer says.

Salesforce researchers, meanwhile, studied what both older and younger shoppers would want to make them return to a store’s brick-and-mortar presence in this pandemic climate.

Sixty-two percent of the respondents in that May poll said they would prefer social-distancing measures when returning to a store, followed by 50% wanting required personal equipment for customers and 57% wanting required PPE for employees.

Among baby boomers polled, however, the numbers in those categories were higher — with 71% of the older shoppers saying they would want social distancing in stores, 56% favoring PPE for customers and 65% favoring PPE for employees.

“Our survey found that most U.S. Baby Boomers aren’t waiting for government assurance, vaccines, or even testing to head back to shops,” Salesforce concluded in its report.

“Making them comfortable enough to return, as it turns out, is largely within retailers’ hands.”

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