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What the New Demographics of Online Shoppers in 2021 Mean for Your Selling Strategy

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The effects of COVID-19 are far-reaching. The impact of the virus is being felt in several areas, including the demographics of ecommerce shoppers. While this arena was once saturated with mostly young consumers, the pandemic’s fallout is introducing a more seasoned batch of buyers to the idea of clicking “add to cart.”

According to a June 2020 survey by the National Retail Federation, 45% of Baby Boomers said the pandemic prompted them to shop online more often. Other studies estimate that at least 30% of Boomers who tried online grocery shopping would continue to do so after the pandemic ends. Not bad for a generation that, until recently, preferred the in-store experience.

Food items, cleaning supplies and more have become sought-after products in the land of ecommerce. That surging demand lies heavily with those of advanced age even more than millennials, who usually lead the pack when it comes to ecommerce trends.

With online spending on the rise across all demographics, how brands approach ecommerce will need to evolve. But how will that new process look?

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Get in With the Old (and New)

Online retailers will need to be conscious of these new audiences and adapt to these more inclusive demographics. Modern marketing tactics are primarily geared toward millennials and Gen Z’ers, with not much attention given to the 55-and-older crowd.

However, COVID-19 has revealed a new market need. And when you consider that Baby Boomers account for 70% of our nation’s disposable income, this market need is one that retailers will want to fill. This shift is significant for online retailers and should guide strategy in 2021.

What exactly should you do with this information? Here are some key strategies that will help online retailers serve and sell to new audiences.

1. Get acquainted with your new slew of shoppers.

You have to know who your biggest demographics are and speak to them directly. Before the pandemic, you may have been sure that 90% of your customers were between 25 and 35 years old. That population may become more skewed and dispersed after the pandemic, so do your research and act accordingly.

For example, if Boomers are shopping digitally more often in your industry, then you’ll need to find ways to reach them online. Even though they’re 56 or older, you’ll still find them on social media — so leverage those as marketing and advertising platforms. Just make sure your campaign copy and the landing pages aren’t identical to what you’d use for young audiences.

2. Lean heavily into customer support.

Because this is still a new landscape for some shoppers, it’s critical to remember that older shoppers aren’t as digitally savvy as younger buyers. While they’re not computer novices, there may be parts of your user experience that aren’t as intuitive for them. Make customers feel heard by asking for feedback whenever appropriate.

Customer satisfaction is a high indicator of customer retention, so quick surveys are a great place to start when determining if and where you may need to offer more support. Be concise and avoid overwhelming users with questions. Ask only what’s important and aligned with your goals. What information will help you improve your digital experience? Ask simple and specific questions in these areas.

3. Invest in personalized marketing.

Personalized marketing is a must in today’s competitive ecommerce world, yet 85% of new product launches in the U.S. don’t meet revenue expectations because they lack segmentation.

To adapt, get personal — think individualized messages and product recommendations, which can help you reduce the risk of spending money on campaigns that don’t resonate with specific customers. In email marketing specifically, marketers have seen a 760% increase in revenue when segmenting campaigns.

ROI is good, but it’s not the only reason to focus on segmentation and personalization. It also helps you build solid, lasting relationships with your customers. You come across as more human, which gives shoppers a sense that you’re on their side and trustworthy. The more they engage with you, the more you’re able to learn about your target audience and modify your products or services to serve everyone better.

4. Maintain transparency with your customers.

While transparency is often seen in terms of meeting requirements (e.g. privacy policies and data updates), it should be part of a larger marketing and customer retention strategy. We know two things for sure: Ecommerce is competitive, and there is a lot of consumer distrust thanks to financial hardship and incidents like data breaches.

The brands that proactively communicate with customers about how they’re growing and evolving — acknowledging where they want to improve — will have a stronger chance of survival. When customers ask questions, be open and honest with them.

Ultimately, there may be more eyeballs on your brand as more shoppers go digital. This presents an opportunity to garner more data, get to know your customers on a deeper level, and leverage their insights. The better you understand their needs, the stronger your 2021 bottom line can be.


Jan Bednar is the CEO and founder of ShipMonk, a technology company reimagining third-party shipping logistics. Bednar, a native of the Czech Republic, moved to America to attend Florida Atlantic University, where his entrepreneurial interests were piqued enough to start BedaBox, a shipping startup that became ShipMonk’s predecessor. Bednar lives in Deerfield Beach, Fla.

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