Is Your Online Store Senior-friendly?

Times have changed. So have our senior citizens. Today’s seniors live longer, healthier lives, and have become acquainted with technology. They now go online … and shop.

In a research my company commissioned last November with market intelligence firm Synovate, 69 percent of the 162 participants ages 65 and over claimed to have made purchases online. This may be low compared to other age groups, so why targeting them? The answer is simple: why not. Consider this:

  • Most of today’s online merchants focus on the 18-45 market, leaving fast-growing baby boomer and senior markets inadequately served. There lies an opportunity to seize and dominate an underserved market.

  • Seniors tend to be loyal consumers as they switch brands a lot less often than their younger counterparts. According to George Moschis, director of the Center for Mature Consumer Studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta, seniors stick to a brand, product or company because it ‘simplifies the purchasing process’.

  • Today’s seniors are less stressed about the economy than other age groups. They also can count on their pensions, which can’t be guaranteed for younger generations. According to a study by Dr. Maryrose Gerardi, Assistant Professor of the Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program at Emory University, seniors “either have the money or they don’t and they’re dealing with that,” which is why 67 percent of seniors reported very little concern about their level of everyday stress. This translates into less hesitation when it comes to spending.

So what can you do to make your site senior-friendly? Here are a few tips:

  • Design: Simple navigation and design is critical. Prevent seniors from getting frustrated with your site by making it easy to navigate. Whenever possible, avoid the use of pull-down menus – as they can be confusing – and use links that require only one click to navigate.

  • Fonts: Consider using font types like Helvetica or Arial, at sizes 10pt or larger. Also, it is easier to read dark-colored text against a light background than vice versa, so you may want to take that into account when getting your website designed.

  • Content: Make sure a mature audience can relate to the content of your site. The majority of Internet users 45 years and older believe that online content, as well as website design and online advertising, is skewed toward younger web users, according to a February 2008 study by Burst Media.

  • Security: Senior shoppers are more concerned about Internet security than younger shoppers. According to a Pew study, 82 percent of those 65 and older agree or strongly agree that they don’t like to give their credit card or personal information to websites. Let your customers know it is safe to buy from your store. One way of doing this is by displaying logos from your SSL and Hacker Safe certificate issuers, as well as from the Better Business Bureau, an organization seniors tend to trust.

  • Price: The Guidance-Synovate research on online purchasing habits showed that for 44 percent of online shoppers 65 and older, price was the most important factor when making a purchase, followed by free shipping, at 31 percent.

  • Web 2.0: Seniors are also receptive to Web 2.0 technologies, which tend to make their online experience a lot less intimidating. Videos are attractive to mature audiences as they explain products, services or concepts that would otherwise be hard to understand. Product recommendations are also preferred by seniors. According to our research, 34 percent of interviewed seniors said they would return to a given shopping site if it lists recommendations on products and services for sale.

  • SEO & SEM: Make it easy for seniors to find your site by improving your online search engine optimization and marketing efforts. Think of the terms they would use to search for your company’s products or services, and add them to your tags and/or SEM campaigns.

The stereotypical senior – the one who wouldn’t use a computer because ‘they were evil’ – is no longer your average senior. Today’s seniors have greater free time and higher discretionary income than past generations. And they’re ready to use that income, online.

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