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By Tom Wintaugh
Learn how to convert Baby Boomers and keep them shopping on your site.
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The current obsession with millennial consumer habits is misleading. The countless articles, studies, and thought pieces dedicated to picking apart the millennial psyche make it seem like they’re the only generation worth considering. This couldn’t be further from the truth, especially when it comes to ecommerce.
With a population of over 70 million strong in the United States, the Baby Boomer generation (people born between the mid-1940s and mid-1960s) controls 70% of the nation’s disposable income. They’re a consumer powerhouse with enormous buying power and unique preferences for how and why to buy products… especially online, as the generation is increasingly shopping via ecommerce. What do Baby Boomers buy, and how can online businesses support selling to this important audience? Read on to find out.
92% of Baby Boomers shop online. What are they buying? To understand this, it’s valuable to begin by thinking about what themes and lifestyles are important to this generation. Health and wellness are top of mind for Baby Boomers, and this is reflected in their online shopping preferences. Overall, they are healthier than their parents’ generation, and are retiring much later—as a result today we see them spending heavily on health products including foods, gym memberships, health supplements, and personal care products. Other popular Baby Boomer products help older adults enjoy leisure time and save them effort in daily tasks. When it comes to enjoying life, what products do baby boomers buy? Think electronics, entertainment, and leisure products—these comprise 69% of Baby Boomers’ online purchases. Baby Boomers who are preparing for retirement might also be shopping online to re-feather the nest, as products for home and garden also score highly for this generation. All of these product categories have grown for Baby Boomers in recent years, a trend which was accelerated during the pandemic—Baby Boomers increased their online spending by nearly 50% in 2021 alone.
Trust and peer opinions are extremely important to Baby Boomers, if they judge the opinion to be an “expert review.” A massive 92% of Baby Boomers consult reviews on a company’s website before making a purchase. However, only 8% of Baby Boomers report they trust amateur “influencer” opinions online. This means that businesses hoping to convert Baby Boomers from leads into customers should solicit authoritative reviews and testimonials of products from experienced users online. Recency is also very important to Baby Boomers, with nearly 70% saying that recent product reviews are more important than the volume of review when deciding to make purchases, so sellers need to refresh this content frequently.
Once convinced of a product’s merit, the average Baby Boomer will complete their purchase using a PC or laptop, as they are the least active mobile app shoppers. However, 40% of Baby Boomers do use mobile apps for product research. This means that creative mobile shopping experiences can indeed have a positive impact on Boomer sales.
For many Baby Boomers, the customer journey doesn’t stop here. This generation is known for valuing good customer service and personal communication, so online sellers can benefit from having real representatives available to assist shoppers.
Quality is just as important to Baby Boomers as price—up to a point. If you can communicate the benefits and value of your products effectively, you’ll be able to appeal to this age group. Implementing an easy-to-understand loyalty program can also be a great way to keep Baby Boomers coming back for more. However, cost is still an issue, as products for Baby Boomers with higher prices can lead the group to delay purchases at a far higher rate than their counterpart generations.
Baby Boomers are major content consumers active across platforms and content categories. On Facebook, Baby Boomers may spend up to 20 hours per week scrolling and posting. They are just as engaged on YouTube, where nearly 70% of the generation watch online videos regularly, a fact that should be of keen interest to all merchants—26% of Baby Boomers report that they find new products most often via YouTube. Pinterest is the next most popular social network in this group, with 38% of site users between the ages of 50 and 65. A merchant that prioritizes content marketing will be able to create a relationship with this generation, gaining valuable mental real estate and a reputation as a trustworthy, authoritative source of information.
Baby Boomers are flocking to ecommerce, but still have much stronger ties to shopping in-store than Millennials. Merchants can appeal to this preference by offering more hybrid shopping experiences which link online research and ordering to browsing and completing transactions in person.
No matter where they shop, Baby Boomers’ substantial buying power sets them apart from Millennials, who are more likely to focus on discounts. Content marketing campaigns aimed at meeting Baby Boomers shopping habits should reflect this, prioritizing quality, use cases, and expert reviews over discount messaging.
Baby Boomers are considered the most loyal of all shoppers, and make purchases based on brand trust more than Millennials, who are less loyal to brands overall. For this reason, strong brand-building elements should be important features of ecommerce websites, as they are a key way to generate trust with older shoppers.
Baby Boomers also love customer service, while Millennials are more worried about ensuring they can use technology for an easy, streamlined shopping experience. If you’re targeting Baby Boomers, keep your website engaging, user-friendly, and interesting while focusing on customer experience to help increase brand loyalty and customer lifetime value.
It’s definitely possible for ecommerce businesses to appeal to both Millennials and Baby Boomers without alienating either. The way to do this is via personalization of ecommerce content—one thing that both generations desire. Large majorities of Baby Boomers and Millennials want dialed-in, personally calibrated interactions with websites and marketing which respond to their preferences and don’t waste their time. Sellers can tap into this broad trend by using first-party customer data to fine tune the sales experience and shape it to the individual user.
Baby Boomers present an excellent opportunity for your ecommerce business. With more purchasing power than any other age group, this generation is absolutely worth refining the online shopping experience to deliver exactly what they’re looking for.
To learn more about creating the best online experience for Baby Boomers, download our guide below.
This was originally published on June 13, 2019 and updated on December 20, 2022.
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