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How Retail Marketers Can Ride the “Silver Surge” of Baby Boomer Online Shopping

If it wasn’t clear before, the pandemic has clarified it: Baby Boomers are the most valuable shopping demographic for online retailers. Despite their smaller numbers, Baby Boomers have more buying power than Millennials and Gen Z and hold over half of all household wealth in the U.S., explains Jasmine Glasheen, a speaker, thought leader, and writer for The Robin Report, The Sourcing Journal, and other retail publications. In addition to their wealth, Baby Boomer online shopping has grown significantly during the pandemic, meaning online retailers cannot afford to overlook this group.

“It’s definitely a great strategy to appeal to the next generation shoppers. But this shouldn’t come at the expense of targeting Baby Boomers who have more liquid capital.– Jasmine Glasheen, CEO of Jasmine Glasheen & Associates

In this episode of Retail Uncharted, she explained how the pandemic has only strengthened Baby Boomers’ position as top buyers. Unlike many Millennials and Gen Zers, Baby Boomers have been diligent savers and many have the added security of home ownership. That has helped them weather the pandemic particularly well, whereas younger generations faced greater job insecurity and financial setbacks. The recent uptick in vaccinations also means older generations are ready to go out and shop again, driving a “Silver Surge” in both online and physical retail.

Jasmine spoke with Sidecar’s Director of Product Marketing Mike Perekupka and Senior Director of Integrated Digital Strategy Mike Farrell about how retailers can target the Baby Boomer demographic more effectively online, while still building powerful connections with the next generations of shoppers.

During the podcast we asked Jasmine:

  • How has the pandemic impacted generational shopping behavior and buying power?
  • What is the Silver Surge?
  • How can e-commerce marketers shift their strategies to capitalize on the Silver Surge?
  • Are there certain retail verticals that have a greater opportunity to engage the Baby Boomer shopper?
  • How have younger generations altered their shopping habits during the pandemic?
  • When will Millennials become the generation with the greatest buying power?
  • As the pandemic declines, how should e-commerce marketers adjust their generational shopping strategies? What is the most important thing for them to consider in the next 12 months?

Top Sound Bites

Despite being a smaller demographic group, Baby Boomers have the most buying power of any generation. Why is that?

Jasmine Glasheen: Baby Boomers are savers by nature. They’re a lot more settled in their lives, and they have more savings than the next generation who are still relatively new to the workforce. Even though Millennials are the largest demographic in the workforce right now, Baby Boomers are the most influential when it comes to purchasing. And when many Millenials lost their jobs or had to wipe out their nest egg to endure the pandemic, the Baby Boomers were actually financially prepared for it. They had the savings to draw upon. Millennials are also burdened with heavy student debt, and they have yet to buy their own home, which can mean more financial insecurity in terms of living situation, rent payments, et cetera.

How the pandemic impacted generational shopping behaviors?

Jasmine Glasheen: Where boomers weren’t purchasing for a while, we’re actually seeing a Silver Surge in spending from vaccinated boomers. So they’re buying stuff like cruises, travel around the world, and dining out locally. Even cosmetics and apparel, which are traditionally low investment categories for Boomers, are actually expected to see a boost as newly vaccinated Boomers go out and live their bucket list dreams.

Mike Perekupka: We’ve definitely seen an influx of traffic across all demographic segments among our customers, because of the big surge of online shopping in general.

That being said, we did see a higher percentage growth in the 45 to 64 and 65-plus segments as well. And it’s not just that there’s more people online searching, but the conversion rates and the return on ad spend metrics for those particular demographics also increased during the pandemic.

Categories that drove older generations online are things like vitamins and supplements, online, grocery, PPE. I think the pandemic broke down some of the preconceived notions older generations had about the security of shopping online and also the customer experience. And I think that that’s where we started to see that trend of online shopping for those older demographics branch out into other categories as well, like apparel.

What advice do you have for retailers looking to more effectively engage the Baby Boomer demographic?

Jasmine Glasheen: Since e-commerce marketers are often from younger demographics, they have a tendency to think of Baby Boomers as older and discount them entirely. I think that marketers and retailers need to understand that Baby Boomers’ lives are just beginning. Middle-age is just that: it’s the middle of their lives. So they aren’t knitting in a lazy boy, you guys. Instead they should be thinking about using marketing imagery that actually shows Baby Boomers how they see themselves: active, dynamic, growing, having new experiences, learning. And traditionally, this hasn’t been how we’ve marketed to the 50-plus demographic.