E-commerce retailers generally target the 80 million millennial shoppers because they are more likely to buy things online and spend more money online than other demographics.
In addition, boomers were wary of e-commerce in the beginning and reluctant to make purchases online. As a result, the potential of baby boomers as digital consumers often gets overlooked. This is a mistake.
Boomers were the largest generation of Americans born in U.S. history and today represent 77 million people. By the end of 2015, Americans 50 and older will represent 45% of the population and control approximately 70% (or more) of the wealth. The fact that this demographic group is just now beginning to shop online in a substantial way signals a shift within the ecommerce industry, and represents a huge opportunity for online retailers who are ready to take advantage of it.
A study from McAfee security found that 9 out of 10 boomers reported making a purchase online. 72% of adults aged 55-63 shop online, and eMarketer estimated that three-quarters of boomer Internet users in the U.S. (45.2 million people) would be digital buyers by the end of the year. Adults over 50 spend an average of $7 billion a year via online shopping, which represents 49% of total online sales. In fact, Forrester Research found that boomers outspend younger adults online 2:1 on a per-capita basis, and they outspend other generations by an estimated $400 billion a year on consumers goods and services as a whole.
Clearly, boomers are active online shoppers and have tremendous buying power. So what changed? On a basic level, Internet penetration. More boomers are using the Internet and increasingly comfortable doing so. They actually represent the Internets largest constituency and spend as much time online as millennials.
Another major factor are improvements in payment security. The technology surrounding online transactions has grown leaps-and-bounds over the past decade. This fact, combined with the recent outbreak of security breaches at big box retailers, have shown boomers that online transactions are in many ways more secure than offline. Once that concern is out of the way, it is hard for this generation, many who struggle with mobility, to ignore the convenience of shopping from their home.
When targeted right, boomers can powerfully drive sales for e-commerce retailers. However, there are a few key things to keep in mind. Boomers have different shopping styles than other generations. A study from KRC Research and Vanson Bourne revealed that two-thirds of US internet users ages 50 to 69 agreed strongly with the statement: When making a big or expensive purchase, I search online to compare prices across stores or retailers. Comparison shopping online is important for this generation, but many boomers go into physical stores to complete the purchase. Boomers are also big users of home computers and are less likely to shop on their mobile devices than GenXers or millennials. This information should be factored into any cross-device campaigns, and the type of messaging that gets sent.
Quality of experience is another important factor for this demographic, as is trust. If a site seems confusing or insecure, they wont buy. Boomers may be more comfortable with entering their credit card information online than they used to be, but they are still more wary than younger generations, and more concerned with security. Any ecommerce vendor hoping to tap into this market has to make security and seamless checkout a priority. As a bonus, taking steps to improve your overall payments experience will appeal to other customers of all ages. In todays fiercely competitive ecommerce market, targeting boomers is too valuable an opportunity to pass up.
Shawn Budde is CEO of 2Checkout.