Baby Boomers Go Digital: How the Pandemic Affected Baby Boomer’s Online Behaviour
The pandemic causes Boomers to move online
With nationwide lockdowns limiting (and in some cases preventing) brick-and-mortar shopping and in-person meetings, the move to online channels for socialising and consumer purchasing was a necessity for everyone. This includes the Baby Boomer generation, in which we have seen a significant increase in digital behaviours over the last year and a half.
Baby Boomers are mainly using the internet for two things: spending time socialising with family and friends and spending time researching and purchasing products. Baby Boomers have increased their social media usage during the pandemic, with more Boomers and they increased their share of online spending from 25% to 37%, the biggest increase of any generation during this period.
Obviously, Baby Boomers online are not to be ignored. The last year has seen an entire generation move online, hone their digital skills and start spending. With Baby Boomers spending 4 more hours per week online compared to a year ago, the opportunities to engage with the UK’s largest generation are increasing, but only for those who understand how Baby Boomers behave online.
In particular, Baby Boomers should be of interest to companies selling groceries, personal hygiene products, clothing, footwear, consumer electronics and leisure items such as books and games. All of these sectors saw spending from this generation increase over the last 18 months.
Read on to gain a greater understanding of Baby Boomers, which channels they use and what drives their online purchase decisions.
Who are Baby Boomers?
The Baby Boomer generation were born between the years 1946 and 1964, currently making them aged between 57 and 75 years old. They are the UK’s largest and wealthiest generational cohort, as the 14 million Baby Boomers hold 36% of total household wealth and one in five are a millionaire.
Nowadays, Baby Boomers are more adventurous than one might have expected. They crave new experiences, are avid travellers and are technologically-savvy, buying online as much as other generations and using social media and websites to research products more than physical stores.
Needless to say, when a large majority of the wealthiest generation that has an appetite for new experiences migrates online, it’s vital that you update your digital strategy to include this audience and acknowledge their behaviours.
What are Baby Boomers buying?
Baby Boomers primarily use the internet to research products, however, 66% of Boomers regularly make purchases online. Other than the expected increase in groceries and personal hygiene products, the biggest increases in online purchases for Boomers were for ‘Book, toys and games’, ‘Footwear and clothing’ and ‘Consumer electronics.’ Boomers are still looking to purchase apparel items, are looking for ways to pass the time at home and the rise in spend on electronics reinforces the fact that they are becoming more technologically adept.
Baby Boomers are also at an age where they are likely to have larger families than most younger generations and will sometimes be buying or searching for products for their children or grandchildren.
Like most generations, their purchases are motivated by quality and clear value propositions, and even though they are more likely to spend on premium and luxury products most Baby Boomers are also partial to discounts or special offers. Remember, they are usually retired and their capital is no longer being replenished with a regular wage. Therefore, engaging Boomers with special offers at the top of the sales funnel is a great way to grab this audience’s attention. As previously mentioned, old expectations of Boomers not being technically-savvy or sitting at home reading the newspaper don’t reflect this generation. Breakaway from these stereotypes. Rather than depicting them as ‘old’ in your marketing, engage with them on their passion points of travelling, a desire of new experiences and socialising with friends and family.
Companies that can engage Baby Boomers on the following passion points will have a huge advantage in converting them to purchase from them:
- New experiences
- Clear value propositions
- Luxury and quality products
- Leisure activities. Provide interesting ways for them to spend their time
- Gift ideas for younger family members
- Socialising with friends and family
What channels do Baby Boomers use?
There are no currently technological devices that Baby Boomers find alien. They are confident in using desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets to access the internet, meaning that SEO should be a priority across all devices if you want to engage this generation. Any complications with the website will lose this audience’s interest.
Even though desktops and laptops are the most popular devices used to access the internet, almost three quarters of Boomers in the UK accessed the internet on a smartphone during the pandemic and they use tablets the most, making up 40% of all primary tablet users.
The internet has become a crucial part of the Boomer buyer journey, with Boomers using a variety of digital touchpoints to research and compare products and brands, mainly using blog articles, videos and reviews to gather information. It is important to note that Boomers mainly search for products they have already discovered, typically via offline channels such as TV adverts, in-store displays, radio adverts or word of mouth.
Even though they are less likely to look for new brands online, the benefit if you are their first information provider on a product or topic, is that Boomers will be likely to make you their go-to digital source for future information. Any company that can clearly communicate their product’s value to Boomers will do well in driving their final purchase decision.
Insights on Baby Boomer’s social media habits indicate that Facebook is the most popular platform with 91% of them having a Facebook account and 86% of them logging into social media daily. They are mainly on Facebook to communicate to friends and family and catch up on the news, however, 69% use it to research a brand’s products or services.
This makes Facebook a vital channel to use when engaging with Boomers. Use it to demonstrate your product, provide them with entertaining content, or as an active channel where they can connect with an assistant who can answer any queries. Baby Boomers are used to the in-store experience so having an online presence that mimics a store assistant can make the online experience more familiar to them and make them feel at ease.
Additionally, you can use Facebook to retarget Baby Boomer’s with ads or increase your following and conversions by capitalising on the 60% of Boomers who follow brands on social media for deals and promotions.
What are Baby Boomers searching?
Baby Boomers are mainly looking to use search engines to research products. The majority of their search queries will be information seeking and they have a tendency to use long-tail keywords. It would be useful to start researching longer keywords that aim to seek information about your product or sector in order to target Boomers, however it’s worth noting that search queries are expected to shorten over time as this generation becomes more confident using the internet, so make sure to regularly update and review your SEO strategy.
Research by Fractl provides some insight into the search terms Boomers are likely to use when compared to other generations. They are most likely to use the term ‘How to’ in a search followed by ‘Best,’ whilst being least likely to use the terms ‘Guide’ or ‘Affordable.’
This research gives us some insight into the types of content you can produce to engage Boomers and what they are looking for. A content marketing strategy, supported by SEO insights, that involves blogs, videos and how-to content that indicates value and unique experience is a key way to engage Boomers.
What influences Baby Boomer purchase decisions?
Research has shown that key factors influencing a Boomer’s online purchase decisions are free delivery, coupons and discounts, a simple return policy, customer reviews and a qucik and easy checkout procedure. On top of this, the website experience should be straightforward to navigate and smooth to use, making sure that all of the above information is clearly communicated.
Remember, a lot of Boomers are relatively new in the online space and privacy and security are huge concerns; 47% of Boomers are ‘very concerned’ about how companies use their personal online data and 26% are ‘somewhat concerned.’
As Boomers have gotten used to brick and mortar shopping experiences, and are mainly online out of necessity, use your website to resemble a physical store. Implement features such as a chatbot to simulate a store assistant and clearly state your refund policy at checkout.
These features can make the process feel more like the familiar, in-store shopping experience Baby Boomers are used to and have been shown to be positive factors influencing their purchase decisions.
The future of online Baby Boomers
The pandemic drove everyone to online alternatives, including Boomers, who have integrated digital behaviours into their everyday lives. Their use of ecommerce sites is where marketers should focus their attention. Boomers are more open to online shopping and this trend is likely to continue as an increasing number of Boomers become more comfortable using the internet to shop.
After the pandemic ends, it’s expected that some Boomers will return to brick and mortar stores. It makes sense, it is what they are familiar with, but with 70% stating they’ll maintain or even increase their newfound online habits, it is imperative that digital marketers keep in mind the Boomers that will still be online. Online touch points around the discovery stage of the sales funnel are particularly important and if these online behaviours continue to increase, online channels could become more important to reach Boomers than offline channels.
They may have been driven online out of necessity but they are here to stay. Such a big audience with growing digital habits provides a massive opportunity online companies should be taking advantage of. Baby Boomers are a large group, they are a valuable group and their new online behaviours are only likely to grow, making them a valuable group all companies should consider incorporating into their digital strategy.
If you want to talk about how you can improve your marketing to this valuable audience, contact our team at CandidSky.