Boomer Digital Shopping Behavior: Forever Changed by the Pandemic?
Dan Gallagher, EVP, Brand Strategy + Research
Use of digital shopping tools increased significantly—particularly search—but one consequence is weakened boomer brand loyalty
Recent research on boomer digital attitudes and behavior indicates that nearly half of boomers (46%) did more of their shopping online during the pandemic vs. pre-pandemic. Post-pandemic, Amazon (72%) and search engines (70%) are now the premier online shopping tools of choice for boomers.
Clothing is the category that has benefited the most from increased boomer online shopping with 45%, followed almost evenly by home goods (27%), personal care products (26%), everyday household items (25%) and grocery (23%).
One consequence of this shift could be weakened brand loyalty among a segment of society that is known for its brand stickiness. Ease of shopping online is likely the main reason why two-thirds of boomers say they are now willing to try new brands or products.
Another threat to brand loyalty is the substitution effect where people negatively affected by rising food and energy prices are searching for substitutes for higher-end brands and cutting out some discretionary items as “nice to have.” This searching-and-purchasing behavior was also likely influenced by product shortages during the pandemic. In fact, one in four boomers now says digital tools have inspired purchases from brands they’ve never considered previously.
Marketers who decrease ad spending to boomers are now more at risk of loyalty erosion given the ease of shopping digitally combined with newly adopted substitution effects in shopping behavior during high inflation.
Also, digital shopping tools like search appear to have equal weight and influence among boomers from the top of the marketing funnel (25% influence on awareness) to the middle of the funnel (29% influence on consideration) and to the bottom (29% influence on purchase).
For the roughly 77 million Americans aged 54-73, the shift to increased use of online shopping will continue as 45% of boomers indicate they will continue to shop online as they did during the pandemic.
One other thing learned from the research is that consumers across all generations value peer reviews over expert reviews, a reliance very likely caused by the increase in online vendors’ historical usage of ratings and reviews.
On average 70% of GenZ, Millenials and GenX say consumer reviews are more important than expert reviews (53% consider them “Important”). Boomers however, say they value consumer and expert reviews equally (64% and 62% respectively). Perhaps it’s boomers’ viewing celebrities as both consumers and experts that explains the propensity of marketers to use celebrity endorsements. Nevertheless, the use of real customer reviews in advertising should be effective across all generations.
To learn more about boomer online shopping behaviors and how to reach them, download the free Boomers Digital Shopping Trends report.