12 Nov The Silver Economy has shifted online
The needs of consumers have shifted during the Covid-19 pandemic. As yet, what the “new normal” will look like is far from clear. Amongst the turmoil one of the most impacted, yet most affluent groups in history who comprise the ‘Silver Economy’ have shifted not just their interests and priorities but also the how, where and what they purchase.
What is the Silver Economy and how buoyant is it?
The Silver Economy refers to economic activities, products and services that meet the the needs of people born before 1960 thereby encompassing the Baby Boomers (1945 to 1960), the Silent Generation (1925 to 1945) and the last of the Great Generation (pre 1925). Whilst no demographic escaped financially unscathed from Covid-19 (except maybe pre-existing multi-millionaires and billionaires) this unprecedented group entered the pandemic, largely free of economic burdens, and with a stronger financial resilience than any of their younger cohorts. Despite the ongoing economic uncertainties that face us all, the Baby Boomers (those who are already retired) have not been hit as hard and still have high purchasing power. Even younger Boomers who are still working and took a big hit in earnings since the start of coronavirus tended to have higher incomes and more savings to begin with so are likely to be in a stronger financial position than their younger counterparts. If you’re looking for solvent consumers the Boomers (60-74 years old) and Silent Generation (74-95 years old) who combined make up most of the Silver Economy are hard to beat.
What impact has the pandemic had on the digital usage of our older generations?
From a health perspective the over 60’s have been particularly vulnerable since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Being the most affected segment of the population many, of the so-called Silver Economy around the world, were called upon, or have opted, to stay home. This has had the interesting effect of digitizing an ageing population that had largely been written off the digital map. The changing circumstances they face has led many members of the Silver Economy to buy groceries, clothes, and day to day items online for the first time. Their mistrust of digital media for money transfers and payments for services has been largely pushed aside (for now). Out of necessity Covid-19 has managed to overcome the technophobia of a generation where banks, grandchildren, adult education classes and even Amazon failed. As a result, a major economic segment just plugged in for the first time.
What are the Silver Economy buying online?
Whilst the pandemic may not have hit the Silver Economy as hard in terms of disposable income, what Covid-19 has done is curb how our older adults spend their time and money. In this regard our Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation have possibly been hit hardest of all as they have been forced to shelter-at-home to safeguard themselves and in many cases stay away from their families. Their famed love of travel is now firmly on the backburner and the opportunity to get out and experience new things has halted, at least for now. This means the disposable income of this affluent group is now up for grabs in different ways.
With movement and heading out to the shops curtailed it seems their four- legged furry friends seem to be doing rather well out of this. Not only do they have their silver-haired humans around more, dogs and cats everywhere are getting well and truly pampered with pet supplies being one of the areas that the Silver Economy are now buying online. Predictably they have also shifted online for essentials such as groceries. They may be at home more, but our older cohorts have no intention of letting their appearances go and have also shifted online for personal care and clothes shopping. All that extra time spent at home has led to a boost for home improvement, DIY and garden related suppliers. For those less inclined to pick up a paintbrush or spade, researchers Bidstack in the UK report a 25% increase in Baby Boomers online gaming since the onset of Covid-19.
How has Covid-19 changed the purchasing behaviour of older consumers?
The older generations have been slow to join How the Silver Economy navigate the digital world is also different. Buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) has really caught the attention of the Silver Economy with greater awareness of BOPIS amongst those born before 196o than any younger groups and a massive 66% having tried it- with very positive feedback on the experience both for in store pick up and curbside pickup. Interestingly, according to research by the National Retail Federation in the USA the main reason (62%) for choosing BOPIS was to avoid the delivery cost!
What can you offer to the Silver Economy?
They may be older but Baby Boomer et al are still largely active and as frustrated about being stuck at home as anyone else. It’s more a case of thinking if your message, products, or the delivery of them could be adapted to entice this audience.
✦ Does your brand engage with older audiences to entertain them at home?
✦ Can you offer products, services and delivery that would work for older consumers in quarantine?
✦ How can you help facilitate connections with their loved ones?
✦ What can you teach older consumers seeking new experiences but now confined to their homes?
✦ Is there a way you can inspire and raise spirits through some aspect of what you do?
✦ Being productive is great for keeping spirits up and maintaining good mental health at any age!
✦ Would your products or services be able to tap into the Silver Economy by helping them look and feel better?
✦ As many older people are staying at home more how can you make their home environment look and feel better?
✦ Health remains a big focus as people age, staying fit and healthy is a high priority!
What happens post-Covid?
The future is still very fluid and although increasingly online and starting to use digital media, the Silvers are still slow to use the full functionality of smart phones (even if they have them) and it’s likely that even as restrictions ease, Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation who are the highest risk for Covid-19 will continue to social distance although their interest in BOPIS and several reports indicate they looking forward to getting back to physical shops even more than most. Surprisingly these older generations are the most optimistic of everyone in terms of the future. Whilst some of the Silver Economy will stick around online, when things re-open expect to lose some of these older consumers back to old school brick and mortar.
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