Silver Generation in e-commerce - how to take care of the shopping experience of the 50+ group?

Anna Meller

The over-50 generation is more than ⅓ of Europe's population. Despite this, brands continue to target their communication and offerings primarily to the young, neglecting the older customer group. How to improve the shopping experience of the Silver Generation?

An ageing population has an impact on market structure 

In Poland, nearly 14 million people, or almost 40% of the population, are over 50 (Report: Generations 50+ in Poland and Europe, 2017). More and more of them are using digital solutions in their daily lives, and the pandemic has further exacerbated this trend.

However, the brands' communication, focused on young consumers, overlooks the huge sales potential targeted at the Silver Generation. While the average amount spent on online shopping is 573 PLN, the Silver Generation spends 656 PLN per month. Purchasers 50+ have savings and are willing to spend them on satisfying their own needs and whims (Report: E-commerce in Poland, Gemius, 2023).

Silver Generation - Changing the stereotype

The stereotype of a generation of modestly living silvers has recently diverged significantly from the truth. Nearly 60% of those aged 50+ are working on an open-ended contract, and more than 60% are self-employed and plan to work beyond the retirement age. What's more, 55% of Silvers are spending the same as before the pandemic and 21% are spending more. (Report: Power of Silver Generation, Axel Springer 2022)

Poles aged 50+ assess their quality of life similarly to other Europeans. They have brought up their children, the busiest times of their career are behind them, they remain professionally active and can use their time and money more freely. The contemporary representative of the Silver Generation lives an active life, goes on dates, goes to the theatre, meets with friends, plays sports and travels.

The purchasing potential of the silver generation

The Silver Generation is a huge group of potential customers, so it makes sense to focus on tailoring marketing communications to them. Especially as many of them spend more on products than the average consumer. The 50+ spend as much as PLN 394 on shoes online (with an average of PLN 275). Silvers spend the most of all groups on pharmaceutical products (130 PLN) and cinema or theatre tickets (160 PLN). Over the last 6 months, they have also spent the most out of all groups on household appliances and audio/video devices (PLN 1695). (E-commerce in Poland, Gemius Report, 2023)

Barriers facing the Silver Generation

Although there has been an intensive lifestyle change among the 50+ group in recent years, they still face the consequences of the passing of time and the difficulty of adapting to the new digital reality. For customers unaccustomed to using laptops, smartphones and tablets, the sudden change in shopping habits and the switch to e-commerce is a major challenge. Companies designing websites and applications in line with the latest trends often forget the need to adapt them to an audience less familiar with the online experience. 

Fundamental to improving the customer experience, therefore, is making sure the site is intuitive, including clear menus, categories, a search window and shopping cart, product information and the ordering and delivery process provided in strategic places, an easy-to-find customer service contact, preferably in the form of a phone number, and visible payment options, delivery and return terms. Slightly larger letters and a clear page layout will also be a significant help. 

When designing the purchase path, it is useful to imagine a customer entering an online shop for the first time. What questions might he have? What will make him/her uncomfortable? What might cause anxiety, doubt, irritation or discomfort? A well-designed shop should respond to problems even before they arise.

Silver Generation shopping channels

When shopping, 50+ customers are most likely to use laptops (71%), smartphones (63%) and desktops (39%). 75% of them buy on Polish websites and 19% choose to use foreign sites. 13% buy products via social media. 90% of them use Facebook for this purpose, and 13% use Instagram and YouTube. 

When investing in the experience of the 50+ audience, it is worthwhile to provide various forms of payment, including the option to pay on delivery. The oldest target group is also increasingly willing to use banking and shopping apps and online payments. For this purpose, they are more likely to choose bank transfer, card payment or payment on delivery than Blik. (Report: E-commerce in Poland, Gemius, 2023)

Shopping habits of the Silver Generation

The 50+ customer is less likely to make spontaneous purchases. Their shopping habits and preferences, formed over the years, make them less prone to impulse purchases. He or she approaches purchases more rationally, analyses, seeks specific knowledge and answers to his or her questions.

Silver Generation needs to understand whether the product will meet its needs and form its own opinion about its usefulness. All kinds of guides, lists, rankings and feedback from previous customers are useful in this decision-making process. Before a typical 50+ customer makes a purchase, he or she checks the return and complaint conditions. If they are friendly, they are more likely to make a purchase.

Challenges of the Silver Generation in e-commerce

The main obstacles cited by Silver Generation representatives when shopping online were intrusive advertisements for products they had searched for (23%), long waits for product delivery (23%), high delivery costs (18%), dissatisfaction with products received due to different expectations (14%) and damaged shipments (10%).

Improving the experience in these respects is important in building loyalty among customers who like to return to proven shops. (Report: E-commerce in Poland, Gemius, 2023)

Customers appreciate good UX

Those in the Silver Generation pay particular attention to the easy ordering process, which is mentioned 10% more often in this age group than in others. 

Interestingly, the problem does not only affect the silvers. 3 times as many consumers aged up to 24 and 2.5 times as many consumers aged up to 35 as those aged 50+ complain about overly complicated pages! 

When it comes to mobile shopping, 32% of 50+ customers surveyed complain about letters being too small. The inconvenient filling out of forms, difficulty in making payments and too slow loading of the page are also problems. (Report: E-commerce in Poland, Gemius, 2023)

Delivery and return - motivation for online shopping

Among the most desired delivery methods, 50+ customers mention parcel machine delivery (81%) and home or work courier delivery (70%) are the main methods preferred by 50+ representatives. Silver generation also appreciates delivery by post or to a point such as Żabka, ORLEN or Ruch. Report: E-commerce in Poland, Gemius, 2023

The 50+ generation also values convenient returns, including the possibility of sending the product back for free by courier (49%) or by parcel machine (43%). In terms of delivery, the ecological criterion is the least important in this target group, although 72% of 50+ respondents consider ecological packaging to be important (E-commerce in Poland, Gemius Report, 2023).

Develop sales potential at Silver Generation

Despite the limitations and long-standing habits of the offline market, the 50+ generation is increasingly actively using e-commerce opportunities. The Silver Generation buys online mainly: footwear, pharmaceutical products and household appliances. However, in order to fully exploit the potential of this market, it is necessary to take care of the needs of 50+, i.e. solve the problem of too small letters, inconvenient form filling, appropriate delivery or problems with payment. In addition to comfort, the 50+ buyer particularly values a sense of security in the form of various forms of payment (including on delivery) and a friendly complaints and returns policy.

Representatives of the Silver Generation are increasingly active in sports, take care of their nutrition and want to stay fit and take care of their health, so this target group wants to see an inspiring image in the media of people their age leading active and happy lives(Power of Silver Generation report, Axel Springer 2022). Online retailers have a lot of work to do in this regard to move away from the harmful stereotype of older people and help them to participate more actively in the digital reality.

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