In the US, 49% of individuals between 52–70 years spend at least 11 hours a week online.
And then, 1 in 4 mobile shoppers in the US is above the age of 55 years.
As an eCommerce business, you may have ignored older shoppers as a possible target audience — probably because you thought they preferred physical stores — but it’s high time to shift your focus.
One of the most effective ways to cater to senior citizens is by making the online shopping experience super easy for them.
And in this blog, we tell you how.
A. Create a senior-friendly eCommerce strategy
“A goal without a plan is just a wish” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
First and foremost, you need to come up with a strategy on how to make the shopping experience better for seniors to enable them to shop more.
Here are some tips to craft a great eCommerce strategy for seniors for your eComm business:
1. Conduct user research
The aim of this research is to understand the user base: in this case, who is a senior citizen. The primary question to ask is: are the products or services that you offer valuable to the older generation?
As you get to know your potential customer, find out how they spend their time. When do they go online? What type of activities do they indulge in?
Limelight Network’s report states that 49% of people between 52–70 years go online for 11 hours or more every week. It also mentions that two of the most popular activities the older shoppers engage in when online are researching and shopping.
2. Use product prototyping
Prototyping will give you a better understanding of the experience the potential user will have with your product. Since you’ll be dealing with real users, you can get feedback at every stage without putting your resources into creating a product that ends up failing.
You can use the feedback you get to refine the user journey until you are sure that a senior citizen would want to engage with your eCommerce business if they come across it. This means you may need to rebrand a little bit or change your interface or functionality.
The process of creating a prototype will guide you towards what you need to improve.
3. Build a user persona
Now that you’ve mapped your user journey, it’s time to put together a user persona.
Give your target user a name and create a storyboard for them.
Here’s an example.
Let’s say our user is Timothy, a 76 years old widower. Timothy wasn’t familiar with online shopping before. His wife used to go to the market to buy groceries but since she passed away, he has been forced to do that himself.
The trips to the market are hectic for Timothy and he is also concerned about exposing himself to coronavirus. In such a situation, shopping for groceries online will definitely make Timothy’s life easier.
With this background, you can chalk about Timothy’s goals, emotions, and pain points.
4. Map their goals
To understand the user better, it’s essential to map their goals. Building on the example from the previous point, let’s see how Timothy’s goals may look like:
- Timothy wants to continue eating healthy meals just like his wife used to cook before.
- Timothy wants to be able to order his groceries himself without depending on anybody else. He wants to learn how to do mobile grocery shopping.
- He would like to limit his movement to public places.
5. Create an online customer journey map
The next step is to visualize what steps a customer like Timothy will take when buying from you online — ideally in the form of a diagram or visual representation, like a customer journey map.
An online customer journey map will tell you if your customers are achieving their goals (for example of buying a product) and if they are not then what hinders them from doing that.
You can either use a template such as this one by HubSpot or a graphic chart like the one below by Edraw.
The data you gathered from conducting user research will guide you in profiling senior citizens and understand their goals. The next step is to sit down and list all the steps that seniors will take when trying to buy items from your online business. Get a few older adults to take the journey of purchasing from your site and see which areas of the process they enjoy and which ones they encounter difficulties.
You can also take the user journey yourself.
Through mapping, you can make the necessary changes to create a better shopping experience for seniors who engage with your eCommerce brand.
6. Match your features with their needs
Now it’s time to match whether your products and/or services match what the boomers need or not. From the above example:
- Timothy wants to eat healthy meals. Does your business provide healthy foods and ingredients he can use to make these meals?
- Timothy wants to learn and do grocery shopping himself. Does your website has a simple interface that Timothy can easily use to shop?
- Timothy would like to go out less. Can you home deliver the groceries to him?
All this information you have gathered will help you to come up with an ideal eCommerce strategy for seniors that will make it easier for them to shop.
B. Implement the strategy on your website
Now that you have a strategy in place, it’s time to implement it on your eComm website. Here are a few tips:
1. Make the login process easier through email or social media
If your site has a complicated registration process, you run the risk of losing your senior shoppers. Think: do you really need their date of birth, contact details, location, etc. on the first go?
Imagine you want to buy a beautiful dress and are caught up, instead, in typing your details.
You don’t want to overwhelm your elderly shoppers in the first instance, right?
If you choose to have an email login option, make it simple and also enable the user to recover their password in the fastest way possible so they can log in to your site and shop.
Social media login is easier and more convenient for elderly people because they just have to select their Facebook profile or whichever site you have chosen and they are in.
You can keep it simple as Asos does.
The easy login process helps seniors to stay longer on the site which helps your website to be ranked higher on the search rankings.
Additionally, they may subscribe, buy your product, come back another time, as well as bring in more people when they share the great experience they had on your site.
2. Provide tailored search results
People have different tastes and preferences, seniors included. When you provide search results that are specific to what an elderly person has purchased before or what you think they might be interested in then you save them the hustle of going through pages and pages looking for what they want.
You can achieve this by showing their recently viewed items. When you are shopping online, you might look at some products and then come back and buy them at a later date. The same happens to seniors.
If they look at a particular item then they are interested in it but may not remember exactly how it looked like when they visit your site again. If you display it to them, they might buy it.
You can also use the seniors’ purchasing and browsing history to give them auto-complete suggestions when they are searching for items on your website.
Check out how ElderEase promptly shows results as soon as you type a query in the search button.
3. Use large fonts
1 out of 3 older people develops a disease that affects their eyesight by the time they are 65 years old. Using large fonts will help seniors to easily read the information on your website. Any links on your site should also be bigger to encourage seniors to click on them.
The same applies to calls to action. Increase the font size for any information you want senior citizens to read.
Buffy’s font size seems perfect for elderly visibility. Even their CTAs are large enough and hard to miss.
Customizing your design to match the needs of your elder shoppers will make them more likely to shop from you.
4. Facilitate secure financial transitions
Senior shoppers will key in sensitive information such as their debit or credit card numbers when purchasing products from your website. It’s your responsibility to prevent this information from getting into the hands of the wrong people such as hackers who can use it to access your customers’ financial accounts.
This protection is also for your peace of mind because a data breach can kill your business. You can lose your customers because they won’t trust you as well as incur huge litigation costs if the affected customers seek legal action against you.
A study was conducted in the US to assess the consequences of security breaches on businesses. Results showed that 41% of consumers will never buy from an eCommerce brand if they have a security breach while 44% said it would take them a while to shop with the brand again. Elderly people will be even more anxious about the security of transactions.
Some of the ways you can protect yourself from data breaches include:
- Only asking users for the information you require when they are making online payments.
- Get rid of customer payment information once the transaction is over.
- Encrypt sensitive information so that only a few people from your eCommerce business can access them.
- Update your web applications regularly.
- Change your passwords as frequently as you can.
- Ensure your internet is well protected.
- Back up important information.
5. Use tutorial videos
No one likes to see a huge block of text — certainly not an elderly person.
Having tutorial videos on your website will make it easy for senior citizens to consume the information you provide faster and easier.
Since the senior shoppers may not be well-versed with all eCommerce best practices, hence a tutorial video on how to use the site for purchase will be great value addition.
You can add the videos on your homepage to guide them to the page/section they want to visit.
When the elderly are watching and listening to the custom videos, they are engaged which means they stay longer on your site which search engines will pick up on and make your site rank higher.
User-generated videos (UGCs) are the best ways to win your boomers’ hearts.
6. Use contrasting colors
Having contrasting colors on your site makes the text more readable for seniors because the words stand out. A good example is having the text in black and the background of the page in white.
Vibrant colors like red also increase readability since they draw attention to that part of the page.
7. Keep live links separate
It’s vital to have enough space between live links if they are adjacent to one another to prevent a senior from clicking on the wrong one.
Additionally, ensure that the links are single clicks. An elderly person would be easily frustrated if they click a link that takes them to another page then they have to click another link to finally get them to the section they need.
If a user clicks on a link, it should change color. This simple color change will help senior citizens know that they already visited a page and prevent them from wasting their time checking out the same pages unknowingly.
8. Simplify forms
Studies reveal that 27% of online shoppers abandon their shopping cart due to the overcomplicated checking out process.
You may require users to fill out a form to complete their purchase. There’s no problem with that. Just make sure that the journey is smooth for elderly people. For example, use rectangular-shaped fields or simple straight line, clearly label each form field so the senior citizens know what they are required to fill (e.g, name) if they have filled out a form correctly use green ticks to show them and if not, use a red x sign and let them know the correct details to fill.
Asos again sets a good example here with the prompts in their forms.
9. Make menus easy to use
Menus act as a map to guide a user to the information they need on your website. Menus that are difficult to use will do the opposite by turning off senior citizens and have them click off your site.
Stay away from hamburger menus because they provide a bad user experience and thus lead to lower click rates.
A senior can fail to realize that the hamburger icon is a menu and can therefore conclude that you don’t have what they are looking for. Also, they can fail to see it, especially if they are navigating your site on their phones.
The vertical navigation menu is a great choice because it enables senior citizens to see everything on the menu and choose what they want. It is also vital to put the words ‘menu’ clearly so they can know what it is.
10. Clear error messages
If a senior shopper encounters an error message, it should be clear what the problem is, how it came about and what the user should do. A simple 404 error is vague and may make a user leave your site.
You can add more information such as ‘Error 404 – page not found. We are sorry the page you are looking for is not available. Kindly click on the back button to return to your previous page.’
If the error came about because the senior used all caps then it should be clear and the message should tell them to remove caps.
If you’re out of ideas, keep it simple, light, and funny like Southwest does.
11. Don’t make significant changes to your website
This may surprise you but seniors usually master how a page looks like and the steps they took to buy an item. This makes it easier for them to go back to the site and shop some more.
If they come back to the site and it looks different, especially the navigation process, they may think they are on the wrong site or get discouraged from mastering the steps and instructions afresh.
12. Make your site tablet-friendly
Research shows that around one-third (32%) of seniors above 65 years use tablets for their online activities. Therefore, when creating a design layout, think of how it would look not only on personal computers and smartphones but also on tablets.
13. Have subscription loyalty programs
15% of online shoppers have subscribed to at least one site.
Introduce a loyalty program whereby your customers subscribe by paying a particular amount every month to receive products. These are usually items they purchase regularly.
You can go a step further and provide more value to your subscribers by giving them rewards, discounts, free items, or access to products you haven’t released into the market.
Here’s an example of how Sephora’s Beauty Insider loyalty program looks like:
Seniors can enjoy these rewards from the time they join your loyalty program.
14. Send a photo of the product before delivery
It’s easy for miscommunication to occur between you and an elderly customer when operating online and this can lead to an unpleasant experience. To avoid this, send your elderly customers photos of the product they have ordered to be sure you are on the same page.
15. Use a magazine layout for your site
The older demographic is familiar with magazines and so using this format for your website layout will help them connect more to your site.
16. Make new arrivals stand out
When a senior shopper becomes your loyal customer, they will visit your site frequently to see if you added new items. That’s why you should mark the new arrivals separately and make them stand out so they don’t miss them.
You can keep the New Arrivals section on top like David’s Tea has done.
17. Avoid distractions on the site
Having a lot of flashing elements, pop-ups, auto-play videos that you can’t mute, and ads placed at the center of the page will only distract a senior from what they came to do on your site which is to buy your product. Therefore, keep these distractions to a minimum.
18. Create more intervals
Elderly people do not read at the same pace as the younger people. Thus, you should create more intervals between one page or section to another. This will allow them enough time to get the information they are seeking before they move to the next page which will create a pleasant shopping experience for them.
19. Have long-form content
With age, it’s common to be easily distracted by irrelevant things. Therefore, seniors do not respond well to long-form content. Provide them with relevant information they are seeking, mix it up with images to keep their concentration and leave the long-form content for other demographics.
20. Use breadcrumbs and progress bar
Breadcrumbs and progress bar improve navigation for senior citizens.
Breadcrumbs highlight exactly where an elderly is on the site. For example, it shows whether they are on the cart or billing section.
A progress bar indicates where one is and the next steps they need to take to achieve their goal, for example of buying an item. So, it can show that the shopper is on the cart section then there are arrows pointing to billing and shipping.
This makes it easy for seniors to shop because they know where they are and where they should go.
AO.com sets a good example for a progress bar.
21. Improve end to end-to-end user experience
When dealing with the older demographic, you need to remember that these are people who experienced face-to-face customer service and the online world is a bit of a foreign concept they are adapting to.
You should then aim to deliver this kind of human touch to make their journey more pleasant.
The various ways you can do this include adding a live chat on the homepage to make them feel like they are talking to a real person, providing delivery and assembly services for heavy or delicate items, and notification on when their orders will be delivered.
22. Provide necessary information upfront
It’s vital to provide seniors citizens with information about the product, taxes, and shipping costs, possible delivery dates, limitations of the product, and anything they need to know before making a purchase. This will enable them to make an informed decision which will reduce friction between you and them.
As an eCommerce brand, you can’t afford to ignore the older demographic. These consumers have higher income and thus higher purchasing power than the younger generation. Additionally, they have embraced technology particularly during this covid-19 pandemic and so online shopping has become their latest hobby. What works for the younger people might not suit seniors. That is why you need to adjust your website to make it easier for senior citizens to shop from you.
A good inspiration for creating a website customized for senior shoppers can be Taobao, an Alibaba-owned online marketplace. It’s already garnering a lot of attention for being brilliantly senior-friendly. Around 6.5% of the apps’ total users (around 30 million people) are aged above 50 years — this number is only expected to rise to around 330 million by 2050. That’s roughly the entire population of the US!
Implementing the strategies discussed in this piece will help you to create and implement a marketing strategy for seniors and be able to attract them, have their trust, and keep them as your loyal customers.