Ecommerce Growth

22 ways to make online shopping easy for seniors

One of the most effective ways to cater to senior citizens is by making the online shopping experience super easy for them.

22 ways to make online shopping easy for seniors

Does your eCommerce website cater to all demographics? Especially when it comes to online shopping for seniors?

Let's go through some facts first,

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.

Short on time? Here's a quick video with all the brilliant examples:

22 ways to make online shopping easy for seniors

The senior demographic is an important one — and you should look into developing a senior-friendly strategy to cater to them effectively. Here's how you can do that.

1. Use a magazine layout

If your target demographic consists mostly of seniors in their 50s and 60s, your site layout is important.

You want to make sure it is both attractive and easily navigated — this will help keep your visitors around longer. Using a magazine-style layout can help in creating this type of experience.

Magazines are often a great choice for web design, as the layout is highly familiar to most people of that age group.

  • Using this format can help boost user interaction with your site.
  • It keeps your customers coming back as they stick around to read and use more of your content.
  • You can also create a more familiar environment for newer users who might not understand where to click without more visual cues.

Here’s how TOMS builds a magazine layout for their website:

Magazine-style website layout, TOMS

2. Bring in more intervals

Elderly people do not read at the same pace as younger people. And so, you should create more intervals between one page or section and 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.

One of the best ways you can make your website appealing to seniors is by creating multiple intervals between each section.

For example:

You have 10 categories with 10 products under each category.

Create 3-4 intervals, which will divide the product list into groups.

So instead of having one long list, there are smaller groups to read through and shop.

Easy on the eyes too, right? Here’s how Abel & Cole does that:

Category division on website, Abel & Cole

3. 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.

Here’s how you can do that: 

  • Use rectangular-shaped fields or simple straight lines
  • 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
  • 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.

Example of form with labels, ASOS

4. Use contrasting colors

As we age, the color of objects tends to fade. We also become susceptible to glare and have difficulty seeing small details.

These same difficulties will be experienced by users with decreased vision as they browse your website. So, it’s important to help them work their way through this.

Having contrasting colors on your site makes the text more readable for seniors because the words stand out.

As illustrated in the example by Sean John below, it’s always a good idea to use white, black, and a vibrant shade in your color palette. The vibrant color helps draw the audience into the important stuff.

Contrasting colors, Sean John

Vibrant colors like red also increase readability since they draw attention to that part of the page.

Here’s a cool example of how ASOS uses the color red to direct your attention to their sale.

Example of a vibrant CTA, ASOS

5. Be deliberate about live links

Live links can be confusing for seniors. So, it’s important to maintain hygiene when working with them. There are three ways you can do that:

  • Have enough space between live links

This is especially true if they are adjacent to one another, to prevent a senior from clicking on the wrong one.

  • 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.

Here’s how Amazon keeps links separated by diving them into categories with different borders:

Live links usage, Amazon

6. Make login quick & simple

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.

Enable users to recover their password in the fastest way possible so they can log in to your site and shop.

Pro Tip: Look into enabling log-in through social media.

Social media login is easier and more convenient for the elderly because they just have to select their Facebook profile to log in.

You can keep it simple as ASOS does.

Example of social media login

7. Offer pictures on 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 for 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.

Example of autopopulating searches

8. 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 is perfectly compatible with seniors. Even their CTAs are large enough and hard to miss. Notice how it’s also in a contrasting color? Read on for more information on that.

Example of large font and CTA

Remember: customizing your design to match the needs of your elder shoppers will make them more likely to shop from you.

9. Secure their transactions (AND let them know)

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.

The senior demographic, who are generally warier of online transactions, is often anxious about online transactions due to security breaches.

Some of the ways you can protect yourself from data breaches include:

  • Only ask users for the information you require when they are making the payment
  • 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

Pro Tip: Use an SSL certificate to not only protect your website but also build trust with your older customers.

Example of SSL certificate in URL
Source

10. Bring in the 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, a tutorial video on how to use the site for purchase would 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.

Here’s a cool example of an explainer video by Tommy John.

Want more? Check out eCommerce product videos: 30 brand examples to learn from

11. 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 having them click off your site.

When it comes to menus, there are a few rules you can follow:

  • Add the word ‘menu’ clearly so customers can know exactly what it is.
  • Stay away from hamburger menus because they provide a bad user experience and thus lead to lower click rates.
  • Ensure that everything is clearly visible. If a customer can’t find something easily, they may conclude that you don’t have it and log off without looking.
  • Ensure the menu is visible on all devices — phone, laptop, tablet, etc

Above all, opt for a vertical navigation menu. It is a great choice because it enables senior citizens to see everything on the menu and choose what they want.

See this menu from Chewy? You know exactly where you go when you look at it.

Vertical menu, Chewy

12. Be clever with your 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.

Example of 404 page

13. Don’t make any significant changes

Here’s something you may not realize: your senior customers tend to master the navigation process and searches for items on your website.

They have mastered the order of the process to buy things from your store.

They know where to find a specific item, how to sign in, where to click and so many other details that when you make a significant change, it tends to throw them off.

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.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make changes to your website. In fact, it’s essential for any website to make at least some changes to stay relevant and fresh.

However, if you are making significant changes to your site, at least let seniors know and provide an easy way for them to find the products they need.

14. Make your site tablet-friendly

Research shows that around one-third (32%) of seniors above 65 years use tablets for their online activities.

So, when you're creating a design layout, think of how it would look not only on personal computers and smartphones but also on tablets.

Besides - the use of tablets, such as the Apple iPad, is not just limited to senior citizens, but there is a vast population of users who prefer using their iPads compared to desktops and personal computers.

Given the number of people who rely on tablets, you really shouldn't neglect the fact that your site should be user-friendly for them. 

Remember: the best-performing websites are generally prepared to tackle a variety of devices, and provide responsive design with each one.

Here’s a cool example of an entirely responsive site:

15. 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 early access to products you haven’t released into the market.

Here’s an example of how Sephora’s Beauty Insider loyalty program looks like:

Example of a loyalty program

Seniors love such programs and they're even happier when they are able to enjoy these rewards from the time they join your loyalty program!

16. Send a photo of the product before delivery

Elderly customers are some of the most vulnerable people to be interacting with online.

They are often shopping for the first time or are unfamiliar with the technological aspect of a website.

It is paramount that you be clear when communicating with them, making sure they understand what they’re ordering and receiving.

It is not uncommon for miscommunication to occur when you and an older customer are operating online.

So, it is important to follow up on a purchase after it is made to make sure there are no misunderstandings on behalf of the client.

Doing so will give you three major benefits:

  • It reduces the chances of customers being unhappy with their experience
  • Improves the positive reputation your company has built
  • Helps you provide client satisfaction across the journey and build client relations for the long term

PLUS: it doesn’t even have to be a full-fledged photo-shoot image. Something simple that is clear, visible, and shows all facets of the product is great.

17. Highlight all that's new

When a senior shopper becomes your loyal customer, they will visit your site frequently to see if you have 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.

Example of a new arrivals section

18. Keep away from distractions

Think of your site as a physical shop and you’ll realize no one would get to the till if there were distractions everywhere like flashing elements, pop-ups, auto-play video ads, loud music, and so on.

Having a lot of flashing elements that you can’t mute, and ads placed at the center of the page will only distract a person from what they came to do on your site: to buy your product.

This is especially true for seniors who are generally wary of eCommerce websites, don’t entirely understand the technicalities, and are hence anxious of online purchases. 

Of course, these might be a necessary evil in some scenarios. They do increase conversion rates and can help you drive more people through the door. But they work best when they are minimalistic, purpose-driven, and actually add to the user experience rather than distract from it.

Here’s how ambsn creates a distraction-free and yet efficient website:

Example of a distraction-free homepage

19. Make your content fun

With age, it’s common for older adults to be easily distracted by irrelevant things. Therefore, seniors do not respond well to long-form content. So, it’s important to mix it up. Here’s how you can do that:

  • Add in bullet points (like we just did 😉)
  • Bring in relevant images and illustrations
  • Use video content well
  • Break content down into paragraphs, lists, and other blocks
  • Use a font that’s easy to read

Most importantly, keep it interesting. When you fully engage a reader, they’re far more likely to read everything you have to say!

Here’s how Kate Spade designs their blog page:

Example of a blog page by Kate Spade

20. Show them where they're at

Breadcrumbs and progress bar improve navigation for senior citizens.

Breadcrumbs highlight exactly where an elderly is on the site. For example, they show whether customers are on the cart or billing section.  

A progress bar indicates where the user is and the next steps they need to take to achieve their goal, for example, buying an item.

It can show that the shopper is in 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.

Example of progress bar

21. Be upfront about the important stuff

It’s as simple as this: customers like honest information upfront — seniors, even more so.

It’s vital to provide seniors with information about the product, taxes, 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.

While it is important to get your customers to your checkout page, it doesn’t add up if the customer drops off due to high shipping, tax, or other added costs.

So, keep all of your terms & conditions and company policies available at easy access.

You can also include it right on the checkout page like Made does here.

Example of checkout page, Made

22. Make your website an experience

When dealing with the older demographic, you need to remember that these are people who experienced face-to-face customer service.

The online world is still a foreign concept they are adapting to.

You should try and bring in a human touch to make their journey more pleasant, something like what ModCloth does here.

Example of live chat, ModCloth

There are many ways in which you can do this:

  • Adding a live chat on the homepage to help them connect with a customer representative
  • Have AI personalization that takes them through the entire website
  • Providing delivery and assembly services for heavy or delicate items
  • Sending notifications on when their orders will be delivered
  • Having a human, conversational tone across the website

Those are some of the best ways to build a high-converting eCommerce homepage.

Want more? Check out 4 secret pillars to building a high-converting eCommerce homepage
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BONUS: Here’s a senior-friendly eCommerce strategy for you

"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 for 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.

Graph explaining what activities senior citizens engage in online
Source

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.

Example of a user persona
Source

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 what 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.

Example of a customer online shopping journey map
Source

The data you gathered from conducting user research will guide you in profiling senior citizens and understanding 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 with.

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 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 have 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.

Final thoughts

As an eCommerce brand, you can’t afford to ignore the elder demographic. These consumers have a higher income and higher purchasing power. They’ve also embraced technology, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and online shopping has become their latest hobby. 

However, what works for the general crowd might not suit seniors. That is why you need to adjust your website to make it easier for senior citizens to shop from you.

You can find some good inspiration for senior-friendly elements on 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.

You can also experiment and build your own strategies. Remember to A-B test at regular intervals and have fun while you’re at it. It’s only when you’re having fun that your customers will, too!

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