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Much has been written about the growth of online grocery shopping since Covid. The rate at which people in the UK shop online for food and other groceries has almost doubled since 2016, with peak spend occurring during the 2020-21 pandemic years, according to figures from Statista.

This is particularly true among the over-65s. In fact, our latest report shows more than half (55%) of this age group shop for their groceries online – a habit that was formed during the pandemic for one in five. Meanwhile, 81% of this age group use websites or apps for other non-grocery shopping.

With this in mind, you might assume grocery retailers are considering the online requirements of this important demographic when designing their websites and apps. 

However, the research paints a worrying picture. Among the 1,296 over-65s we surveyed, 81% said they were frustrated by inaccessible websites and apps, while 70% said retailers failed to consider age-related impairments such as reduced fine motor skills, deteriorating eyesight, hearing loss, poor memory, and increased anxiety, all of which can make using websites and apps more challenging. One-third (33%) also said they had abandoned an online purchase due to difficulties in using a website or app.

Problems included not remembering complicated passwords (37%), confusing site navigation (34%), not having enough time to complete a task before being ‘timed out’ (32%), and text being difficult to read (30%). More than one in 10 (11%) also said they found it difficult to hear the sound in online videos.

There is opportunity here for retailers. More than one in 10 over-65s said they would spend more online if websites and apps were easier for them to use. This is even higher (17%) among older consumers who are employed either full or part-time, and interestingly, among those with age-related impairments. For example, more than one in four consumers (26%) with deteriorating eyesight said they would spend more online if websites and apps were easier for them to use.

The research shows older consumers already spend an average of £163 per month online. And those still employed full-time spend 52% more than those who are retired – an average of £244 per month. Those who have an age-related impairment such as a hearing, sight, memory, or mobility issue spend 11% more than those who do not.

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So how can retailers make sure they seize the opportunity of the ‘silver spender’? There are three key steps grocery retailers can take.

Acknowledge the specific problems older consumers might be experiencing with websites and apps.

This can be achieved by researching their needs – for example, conducting focus groups and gathering feedback about their specific accessibility requirements. You should also review the accessibility of your websites, apps and communications, including social media, email, and PDFs.

Address the practical fixes that will improve the user experience for older consumers.

For example, make sure videos have captions for customers with hearing impairments, make buttons big enough to tap with an unsteady hand for those with poor hand control, and ensure the design of your website and app has a clear layout and makes good use of white space.

Adopt an age-positive mindset across your organisation.

To effectively address the needs of your older customers, it must be part of a long-term strategic approach. Embedding this throughout your company will ensure the needs of older consumers are thought about at the outset of any digital project. Retrofitting for their needs is neither efficient nor effective in the long-term.

What is clear is this demographic has become increasingly tech-savvy. In 20 years’ time, older consumers will be those of us who are currently in our forties and fifties, are used to doing everything online, and expect the experience to remain user-friendly as we age.

None of us can stop the impairments that come with ageing, so retailers need to consider how this will influence the design of their digital platforms so that they meet the needs of an increasingly tech-enabled older generation. At the end of the day, can you afford not to?