Marketers can be obsessed with the “next generation” of younger consumers, but the over 65s are an increasingly valuable customer base. The world’s population is ageing and it’s anticipated that one out of every five people in the world will be 65+ by 2050. And this group also holds an ever increasing proportion of global wealth, estimated to be around US$15 trillion.

The past year has seen many older shoppers flocking to e-commerce sites for the first time. Post-lockdown, some of these may revert to pre-pandemic habits, but many others will continue to become increasingly comfortable with online platforms and tech.

While marketers need to think about how they tailor digital experiences to older shoppers, they also have to avoid making sweeping assumptions about the wants and needs of this audience. Let’s not forget, many will have experienced the dot-com boom first hand, and been part of a period of significant growth in the use and adoption of the internet in the late 1990s too.

So what could some of the opportunities look like for brands hoping to connect with and better support this broad demographic’s digital experience?

Create inclusive and more intuitive content

The 65+ age bracket covers a diverse customer base with vastly differing life experiences. There is no one size fits all. Brands need to develop their customer relationship management (CRM) channels to offer increasingly personalised experiences – a value exchange that puts consumers in control of their experience, based on mindset, preferences and interests.

Smart brands will build authenticity and trust by listening and speaking with older shoppers, drawing out insight to shape tone, content and design. By creating tailored narratives for these users, brands will continue to gain better insight into their preferences, interests, and barriers – and provide opportunities to showcase products that speak directly to their needs.

With one in five of the UK’s over-60s  experiencing loneliness, brand e-mails could be reimagined to offer the community and connection that many crave. Adopting editorial content that feels more familiar to these customers would help keep them engaged and aid product discovery and purchase. Plus, it would also open a channel for businesses to offer educational support, and help bridge any digital skills gaps when using their services.

Create new loyalty and trust

When it comes to online shopping for the first time, some older consumers may feel less in control, concerned that they will somehow get the wrong item, or a lower quality one, than if they were shopping in person and able to ask for help.

One solution to support such shoppers would be to create a digital persona or avatar assistant to make webchat feel more human – much like Domino’s order tracker ‘Dom’. The assistant could also feature on wider onsite and CRM experiences to help drive trust and connection and recommend products based on purchase behaviour, plugging in smart recommendations and deals based on what customers have in their carts, to add more value.

Offer appropriate digital customer service and support

We’re seeing the rise of webchat, but we’re yet to see fully-integrated support in, for example, supermarket experiences. Rather than charities like Age UK having to offer grocery services, brands could instead empower these customers.

Video chat functionality or a ‘family assist’ option – where a designated person could simultaneously log in to guide through any difficulties – would help hesitant

shoppers. Initial account set-up should be as simple as possible, with an easy-to-find and easy-to-understand ‘user guide’ (in a choice of formats, perhaps even a hard copy mailed to the shopper on sign up) including explanations of how to browse, where to find products/offers and where to get help.

Offering personalised favourites or restricting product display to own-brand or value ranges could help remove the choice overload which can be a barrier to purchase. This could be coupled with smart recommendations and deals based on what customers have in their carts to ease conversion and reduce the number of abandoned shopping carts.

Ensure accessibility

Though most sites and digital touchpoints must comply with accessibility standards, it’s worth reminding again of the importance of giving users the option to control their experience, to make it right for them.

Online retailers should consider the breadth of devices shoppers are likely to be using, ensuring that their service is optimised for PCs, laptops, and tablets as well as mobiles.

Content must not only be tailored and speak the right language, it must also be designed to accommodate changes in vision, dexterity and memory. Sites should have an easy-to-find option to increase text size, for example. Or where some customers may not be using screen-readers or large type, utilising voice actions and search could be useful.

Surf the digital silver wave

As we get older, it’s natural to want to maintain our independence for as long as possible. The ability to look after ourselves helps keep the mind active and preserves dignity, and technology can help us feel more empowered. According to Pew Research’s Tech Adoption Among Older Adults, 58% of 65+ adults say technology has had a mostly positive impact on society.

As the size of this demographic grows and technology advances, brands must take the needs of this audience into consideration and create more inclusive and supportive experiences. The alternative is to risk missing the potential opportunities to enrich lives, provide relevant services and connect with customers for the long term.