Brands must work quickly to harness older shoppers driven to ecommerce by lockdown

Posted on: Monday 15 March 2021 | IAB UK

IAB UK study reveals pandemic has driven new shopping habits across all age groups

Ecommerce is set to see a surge in new long-term customers after nearly 60% of those aged 55 and over who adopted or increased their online shopping in 2020 revealed they would continue to do so after the pandemic.

A new study by IAB UK shows that older age groups are fuelling the growth of ecommerce and that 58% of 55 and overs said they do not plan to reduce the frequency of their online shopping once lockdown measures ease, compared to 53% of 35-54s and 61% of 16-34s.

The findings, from IAB UK’s 2021 Real Living study and released as part of its Ecommerce Week, point to a permanent shift in shopping habits that present a major new opportunity for brands to tailor their messaging to an older demographic in a bid to cement these habits for the long-term.

Results show that those aged 55+ have driven the growth across the four highest-growing ecommerce categories - with an overall increase in spend for food and drink; clothing and fashion; home and garden; personal care and beauty - proving how crucial this audience will be to retailers who are preparing to adjust their marketing plans to this new retail environment.

The research also sheds light on the different sources of inspiration for each demographic, with social media and word-of-mouth being the key drivers for 16-34s, while older age groups are more likely to turn to retailers and online stores - 45% of 35-54s and 55% of 55+.

However, further findings show all is not lost for traditional bricks and mortar stores, as one in three respondents said they expected to increase both ecommerce and physical shopping - a group who over-index on young families in London - offering retailers twice the available moments to engage with these customers. 

Meanwhile, in another major shift in habits, younger shoppers have turned to local retailers during the past year, with 62% of 16-34s saying they have bought more things online from local shops, while the same proportion of 25-44s are shunning chains in favour of independent retailers.

Elizabeth Lane, Head of Research & Measurement at IAB UK, said: “While it comes as no surprise that 52% of people report doing more grocery shopping online than before the pandemic, what is interesting is how those numbers translate across demographics. Older shoppers, who might never have had cause to switch to online shopping in the past, have embraced the concept to the point that the majority will now continue doing so once we can resume our old lifestyles. 

“Retail has changed forever over the last year and as we begin to plan for life after lockdown now is the time for marketers to be establishing what their customer base looks like now, what their priorities are and mindset is, and how best they can be reached. 

“We know the older cohort look to retailers and online stores for inspiration, suggesting it is the first-party data gathered during the year that will come to the fore as brands look to cement this new relationship.” 

Jamie Simpson, Quantitative Insight Specialist at Sparkler, Part of PA Consulting, added: “While ecommerce is seeing a natural uplift across the board, there is also heartening news for the high street as local shops are being shown more support, particularly from younger people. 

“Retailers and brands who fall into this bracket should be considering ways to incentivise these new customers to continue supporting them post-pandemic, whether that’s through geographically-based loyalty schemes, location-based targeting or online community partnerships.”

IAB UK members can access the research here

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