How understanding the preferences of Gen X and baby boomers can improve your eCommerce strategy.
As brands focus more on delivering personalised experiences to customers, an important place to start is by understanding the online shopping preferences and expectations of different generations.
There is an abundance of information on the spending habits, browsing behaviour and influences of younger groups. However, Gen X and baby boomers shop digitally too, and shouldn’t be forgotten when it comes to formulating an approach to gain, and retain, customers. So, how can companies better reach this audience?
In January 2023, we conducted research with Censuswide, investigating UK online shopper preferences by age. The findings highlighted that there are multiple factors to consider when trying to grab the attention of older customers which don’t involve implementing over-the-top campaigns or a total restructure of your eCommerce strategy. For example, unlike younger shoppers—who enjoy receiving unexpected freebies with their purchases and are willing to spend more time browsing—those over the age of 43 seek a more straightforward purchasing experience from start to finish.
You may already have these factors in place (to an extent) but were simply unaware of their importance to the more mature customer. With that in mind, let’s delve in…
Search engines continue to thrive—especially for older generations
Social media platforms such as TikTok and YouTube are fast becoming the ‘new Google’ for Gen Z-ers, who turn to these channels due to ease of access, authenticity of content, and, of course, entertainment.
But although products today can be discovered and bought almost anywhere—including social media—our research found that search engines continue to be the most popular channel for Gen X (40%) and boomers (39%) when they look to make a purchase.
This provides an opportunity for businesses to take advantage of organic traffic and SEO when targeting this demographic. While a number of brands focus on paid search, organic has outpaced it in recent years, making search the ideal place to start when drawing in older customers. Ensuring your content is on the right platforms for your target demographic, creating high value topics that make sense to your brand and conducting keyword research can also improve your SEO and boost customer engagement.
Leaning on personal recommendations
Search is closely followed by recommendations by friends and family as the main way older (and younger) generations discover brands (at 34%).
Product recommendations are also high up on the list in terms of how boomers are influenced to buy an item, so providing a tailored experience for each demographic is crucial. With so many ways to influence customers (and for customers to influence one another), word of mouth is not to be overlooked as a way people direct their loved ones to your business.
Although Gen Z and millennials tend to be ‘digital-first’ generations, older groups are also savvy when it comes to online shopping. While they may not spend a lot of time trawling the Web, when they do set out to make a purchase, they know what they want, and the journey itself needs to be seamless. From prioritising convenience to seeking a secure payment process, there are three things that matter most to older generations when making an online purchase:
Fast, free and convenient
One of the most important aspects of an older customer’s shopping experience is delivery. In a world where anything can be bought at the touch of a button, shoppers expect their orders to arrive quickly and preferably at no cost. However, while businesses may think that younger shoppers are those who need instant gratification, it’s Gen X (44%) and boomers (41%) who are most likely to be loyal to a brand that doesn’t delay their order.
People of all ages like a good deal, and receiving regular and relevant discounts and offers encourages people to shop directly from a brand more regularly. But while millennials also appreciate a personal touch—such as a note from the person who made the product—and Gen Z-ers are swayed by a business’s sustainability credentials, boomers are more concerned with elements such as being able to easily navigate a brand’s website and receiving their purchase on time.
Partnering with an experienced DTC consultancy can help to ensure that those customers who fall within the Gen X age group and above (and all generations, for that matter) get the most out of their eCommerce journey. This can be done in a number of ways such as identifying the best ways to boost customer engagement and satisfaction, and by creating and executing plans which drive better interaction through content and design.
Safety and security
Everybody wants a secure online shopping experience, but knowing their information is safe during the payment stage of a purchase is of particular importance to Gen X (58%) and boomers (60%). And, should something go wrong, they don’t want to be left in the lurch, and need the assurance that their bank will support them.
Further, older generations aren’t interested in having their details remembered when paying for items—the opposite of Gen Z-ers who are willing to have their billing information saved in order to fast-track the checkout process.
The good, the bad and the neutral
While older customers want to shop securely, no business is safe from reviews.
Just as shoppers are likely to discover your brand through friends and family, both young and older customers will tell those they’re closest to, in person, about their good and bad online shopping experiences. However, older generations are more likely to leave an online review. So, while you can’t track what customers verbally share with one another, you’ll certainly witness the effects! And as businesses know very well, unless the review is left on your website, it’s difficult, and sometimes impossible, to have it removed.
Providing customers with a great experience is therefore essential to not only receiving repeat business, but to protecting your brand’s reputation as well.
Efficiency is key
It may seem difficult at first to know how to tailor your DTC strategy to attract older generations when brands are often encouraged to cater to millennials and Gen Z. But by understanding how Gen X and boomers like to shop, and with the help of a supplier, you can build better brand awareness, engage customers, grow online sales and learn how to make the most of your business.
From motivating retailers to pay closer attention to their website security to speaking about your products to their nearest and dearest, Gen X and boomers can (and in most cases, already do) influence brands, just as brands influence their customers.
So remember, while it may be tempting to continuously find ways to target the young, those with more life experience are the ones leaving the reviews!