How optimizing for baby boomers will boost your bottom line

Ed Bussey

CSO, Content

Baby boomers are becoming big business for eCommerce. As former WPP boss, Sir Martin Sorrell pointed out, this generation is “where the wealth and income is”, so online retailers ignore them at their peril.  In the US, they control a staggering 70% of all disposable income, and the average baby boomer-led household commands a net worth of $1.2 million – roughly 12 times that of the average millennial household. In the UK, one in five baby boomers is a millionaire.

There is a tendency to assume that older shoppers prefer traditional stores, however, even a pre-pandemic Deloitte study suggested that up to 53% of boomers actually preferred shopping online. And after an extended period of enforced online browsing, many more have now succumbed to the allure of free returns and next-day shipping.

For retailers hoping to attract and retain shoppers from this lucrative demographic, the ease of the online purchase journey – and, by extension, the quality of the website’s descriptive product content – are becoming more crucial than ever before.  Baby boomers spend at least 15 hours a week online, and they rank researching products and shopping as their third and fourth most important online activities (after news consumption and social media). By comparison, millennials ranked shopping as the fifth most important.

To help businesses compete in this crowded marketplace and meet the exacting expectations of this increasingly digital-savvy demographic, here are five things that boomers will want to see in your online product content.

1. A human touch in the online experience 

For many older shoppers, the benefits of brick-and-mortar shopping are aligned with their high expectations of customer service. But by infusing tech with the human touch, retailers can make online shopping experiences more relaxing and personal – from the very beginning of the purchase journey. This means combining those elements that make in-store special, with the convenience consumers have come to expect from eCommerce.

A common approach is to provide interactive help, including online chat features and readily accessible contact information, but offering high-quality guide content on your site may offer a better solution for those browsing outside of opening hours, or adverse to waiting in virtual queues.

Effective guides anticipate and explore common questions, answering them in a helpful and relatable way and, where possible, linking to related products or categories to boost basket sizes. By providing useful guide content, either specifically or tangentially targeted at baby boomer interests and concerns, retailers can also generate more traffic from shoppers conducting more general searches.

2. Clear and detailed product information

To meet the needs of discerning boomer consumers, retailers must offer detailed and helpful product and category descriptions that provide information beyond the basics.

In an online fashion store, for example, product descriptions might offer information on sustainability processes, materials used, or design inspirations behind the garment, in much the same way as an offline shop assistant would. By providing customers with the information that they’re looking for, plus a flavour of the emotive content that nudges users to buy, you will be able to drive significant conversion rate uplifts.

Our research found that 71% of consumers prefer product descriptions that clearly explain the practical day-to-day benefits of a product. In the fashion category, descriptions of a garment fit are clearly beneficial in reducing product returns, and 94% of consumers also consider the ‘feel’ of an item important to them when shopping online.

John Lewis product descriptions tend to provide shoppers with as much information as possible, including details of the fit, feel, material composition, and benefits of the item, with visuals showcasing the product from a range of different angles. In doing so they’re answering all pre-purchase questions so that shoppers won’t feel the need to research elsewhere before they buy.

3. Added convenience

Baby boomers are a convenience-driven demographic. A report by Yes Marketing revealed that for 30%, convenience is their main brand loyalty driver – more than for any other generation.  Boomers are more likely to return to a store that is tidy and easy to navigate, something which applies both off- and online.

Simple features like AI-driven ‘You may also like’ or ‘complete the look with’ sections at the bottom of product pages can save shoppers time and nudge them towards supplementary purchases. However, even greater impact can be achieved by incorporating carefully curated recommendations, specific to a particular item or target demographic. Not only will these increase basket size and conversion rates, but they also infuse the online shopping experience with a sense of personalisation that makes it more enjoyable and instills long-term loyalty.

Other factors, such as a simple user-friendly interface and clear returns options are also important for boosting customer convenience.

4. Mobile optimisation

Although baby boomers trail both Gen Xers and millennials on most measures of technology adoption, adoption rates have been accelerating rapidly in recent years. In fact, many boomers are just as addicted to their smartphones as millennials – spending around 5 hours a day on the devices, and at least one in four shops online using their smartphone or tablet.

As the senior vice president of L’Oréal’s digital business, George-Edouard Dias has said: “Baby boomers are the core of our business and have grown up with our products. They are technology savvy and we think a lot about them when we design our apps.”

A multichannel approach can help you to reach the baby boomer demographic, irrespective of where they are on their purchasing journey or their device preferences. Optimising content for the small screen has never been more essential – and that includes product descriptions. Mobile optimised sites now dominate search engine results, and at least a third of all transactions take place on a mobile device. Key strategies for mobile optimisation include frontloading your information and ‘chunking’ your content.

5. Syncing with social media trends 

As the original teenagers, baby boomers actually have a lot in common with younger shoppers. They aren’t passive consumers – many of them are very tech-savvy and some are even influencers in their own right, setting trends and steering conversations.

The baby boomer generation is highly engaged on Facebook. They are 19% more likely to share content on there than any other generation – so social proof can be a key driver of interest.

When creating eCommerce content with baby boomers in mind, consider related tie-ins with social media campaigns and influencers, or consider including blog content created for and by baby boomers on your site.

Is your website optimised for multigenerational shoppers? To gain a better understanding of the Ecommerce Content Score audit of your website here.