D&C – Episode 61 – How Active Agers Shop Online & How To Connect With Them – Podcast Episode Feature Image (WP Featured Image)

Drive and Convert (Ep. 061): How Active Agers Shop Online (And How To Connect With Them)

In this episode, Ryan and Jon talk about the findings from The Good's latest research report all about online shoppers age 55+. They cover the habits, behaviors, and important ways to connect with this often forgotten about ecommerce audience.

Listen to this episode:

About This Episode:

One of the largest groups of online shoppers often surprises brands and marketers… adults over 55. While it’s a mistake to ignore this key group of shoppers (and their disposable income), it’s also tough to connect with them when there’s a lack of understanding around their needs and habits. So, to fill that gap, the Good surveyed Active Agers on a large variety of ecommerce practices, attitudes, and their general outlook on digital commerce.

In this episode, Ryan and Jon talk about the findings and insights from The Good’s latest research report published in collaboration with Age of Majority. 

Listen to the full episode if you want to learn:

  1. How to understand and engage adults 55+ 
  2. Surprising (and unsurprising) insights about this group of shoppers
  3. How to build trust with Active Agers
  4. The best ways to connect and build trust

If you have questions, ideas, or feedback to share, hit us up on Twitter. We’re @jonmacdonald and @ryangarrow.

Subscribe To The Show:

Episode Transcript:

Announcer:
You’re listening to Drive and Convert, a podcast about helping online brands to build a better e-commerce growth engine with Jon MacDonald and Ryan Garrow.

Ryan:
So Jon, interesting thing that I’ve come across recently, one of the largest segments of online shoppers often surprises a lot of people and it’s those people over 35, or no, that’s the old people that are me. It’s the old people that are over 55. Good job on my notes there.

Jon:
Well, that’s a nice little slip actually because-

Ryan:
That is.

Jon:
… we’re both older. Not to spoil anyone’s surprise on your age, but we’re both definitely older than 35.

Ryan:
We are both. Yeah, I’m over the age of the 40, so I’m just trying to age gracefully here and not doing a great job on podcast notes. But that group of people, outside of teasing my parents in that category about Binging when they’re supposed to be Googling, I honestly don’t know a lot about their online habits and how they do things when they’re interacting with devices or websites. I therefore avoid talking to clients or prospects about that category of online shoppers. Thankfully, as usual in my world, you’ve done most of the heavy lifting for me so I can sound smart. Your team did a good size survey that I heard took over a year to get through it all to learn more about this category of online shoppers and then be able to advise your clients in how to engage them better and how to get them to convert at the end of the day.

Jon:
Yeah.

Ryan:
So I’m excited to dive into some of this data and hear from you about what this is and why it became important for you.

Jon:
Yeah. Well, we did this in conjunction with a agency called Age of Majority. Age of Majority is a marketing firm that helps brands who want to reach the 55 and older consumer. They’ve been in business a handful of years, but what they found very quickly was that it’s a unique demographic and most people are thinking just old, quite frankly. They think 55 and older, oh, that’s my grandparents. But I think what you’re forgetting is that the over 55s are having more fun, have more disposable income for the most part, and have more time on their hands than the rest of us. That is something that cannot be ignored if you’re trying to market your product, and especially if you’re trying to market your product to an older crowd. The challenge that we find was that so many brands don’t even know how to optimize their site for the over 55 crowd. You look at products that are specifically for them and what do you think about? You think about, what’s the necklace, the life-saving necklace, that commercial I’ve fallen and I can’t get up?

Ryan:
Yeah, that was a great [inaudible 00:03:01]. I’ll never forget that one. [inaudible 00:03:02].

Jon:
You’ll never forget it, but here’s the thing, that is the portrayal of this audience. Age of Majority released a great report that caught our attention when we were doing some research on this originally called Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll. The reality was that over 55 is having more sex, listening to better music, more often going to concerts and they just can buy whatever they want.

Ryan:
Doing drugs?

Jon:
You’d be surprised. They are one of the highest demographics when it comes to marijuana usage. A lot of this stems from their youth. It was a much different society in the ’60s and ’70s. Free everything, free love, free drugs, Woodstock, do all that stuff, right?

Ryan:
Yeah.

Jon:
That’s where I think it’s really overlooked, is most people see them as gray hair and that’s it. So really, just a little bit of a groundwork here. An active ager is anybody over 55. We’ll talk about active ager. That’s the term the Age of Majority has branded for this audience. But at the same time, this research was really brought to us because we have had some relationship with Age of Majority over the years. Jeff Weiss, the founder of that, approached us and asked if we could partner on a research report here because they wanted to know more about e-commerce to this audience and so did we. It was pretty interesting.

Ryan:
Was there a specific client that needed some help on this demographic or thought they were targeting them more and needed to do that? How did you decide that this was really something to jump into with the Age of Majority?

Jon:
Well, the reality is that we work with clients who definitely are trying to reach that audience. What we kept hearing was make the buttons bigger and easier, simplify everything. But when it would come to actually understanding what the challenges in online shopping are with this audience and what their concerns are, we didn’t know and neither did the brand. We needed to find that out. Now, demographics are something we user test on every day. So we were able to user test with those folks to understand the experience and their challenges, but we wanted a very large data set and that’s one thing that Age of Majority has, is actually has a pool of test subjects that all are over 55 and have other demographics applied to them that we can then go and run some testing with. They were able to bring the consumers and the perspective, and we were able to go source that data and bring the insights out of that data, which is what we were experts in. So it really worked out well for everybody.

Ryan:
Got it. Okay. I read through that earlier this week and there was some surprising stuff in there, things I definitely wouldn’t have been like, “Oh, yeah, I would’ve totally guessed that.”

Jon:
Yeah.

Ryan:
One that really stood out to me was the typos and incorrect grammar because I can actually hear my mom responding verbally to a text around that’s not correct. My mom is a big on grammar. We’ll just be walking into a store, she’s like, “That sign’s stupid grammar.” I’m like, “We still understand what it says,” but if you have poor grammar on a site, my mom’s not going to buy it.

Jon:
Love it.

Ryan:
Typos, I can read a side note. Okay, you probably were in a foreign country putting up a drop-ship site and that’s when you came out of this. For you, obviously, being in the minutia of something, what stood out to you that was like, I just would not have guessed that?

Jon:
Well, first of all, I think that there are a number of surprising things, but also a number of things that you would be able to guess and were confirmed, right?

Ryan:
Mm-hmm.

Jon:
But things like typos and grammar decrease trust, and trust was a big item that kept popping up here. There’s a lot of data that we break down into charts and whatnot in the report and on a lot of them, number one or number two is trust and security. Active agers are very tech savvy, which surprises a lot of people, but at the same time, they’re very security conscious because a lot of them have just seen all of the warnings about people having issues around their data breaches and data security. The reality is if somebody gets their retirement or their cash savings stolen later in life, it becomes a big issue for the quality of life for the remainder of their life, so they need to be a little more cautious because they don’t have the ability to as easily, I should say, go out and just re-earn that money. That was something that was interesting, is to see security and trust so high up.

Ryan:
Got it. Okay. As you say active ager, does that include everybody over 55? I guess I should have clarified that earlier or is it just this age range or is it just a subset of people over 55 that actually play lots of pickleball?

Jon:
First of all, to answer your question, it’s everybody over 55.

Ryan:
Okay.

Jon:
The reason it’s called an active ager is to dispel the myth that they’re just sitting in an arm chair watching Jeopardy! all day. They’re not. They are active. I listed some examples of that earlier, but that’s really what’s important to understand is people are living longer and they’re being active later in life and they’re finding things to do like pickleball. The vast majority of folks over 55 are enjoying life more fully and longer and being active, so it’s why it’s part of the name.

Ryan:
Got it. It’s funny because, for example, my wife’s grandfather is still alive and he’s 89 and he still golfs every week. He’s got a golf membership at a local club in Beaverton. I think he pretty much has been sandbagging most of his life except for the championship every year because he wins it every year. I’m like, “You’re 89.” He’s like, “Yeah, yeah, but I compete against all these old guys.” I’m like, “You’re 89.”

Jon:
How old?

Ryan:
He’s my definition of the active ager. You’re older than almost anybody you’re playing golf with, but yet they’re the old guys because they can’t get around very well.

Jon:
That’s amazing. That’s amazing.

Ryan:
What I’m most curious about probably is based on what you saw in this report, how does this group of people deviate from average? Because when I look at data on analytics, I’m not usually diving into demographic data because Google gets less and less of that. I’m just looking at this page converted here, this keyword did this and this and here’s what I’m looking at. But there’s probably some ways that this group of buyers are different than what I would generally see as average across the board in certain areas. Where did you see them deviating the most? We talked about trust a little bit, but were there specific areas of the site or aspects of the purchase that were like, yeah, these people are way higher on this than normal or way lower?

Jon:
Well, yeah, exactly. I would think that there’s a couple of big issues. Number one is they want to talk to somebody, where if you ask any Gen Z millennial, they don’t want to talk to anybody. For instance, I’m okay texting. I would much rather text because I can be short and to the point, get it done, and move on. Active agers want to be able to have access to a human customer service representative.

Ryan:
Yes.

Jon:
What you find is that almost 90%, close to the 85% said that it was extremely important, very important or somewhat important. I find that really-

Ryan:
Wow.

Jon:
… interesting because if you ask a millennial, “Hey, I’m going to give you a phone number. You need to call somebody,” they’re going to be like, “Okay, thanks,” and then immediately try to text that number.

Ryan:
Mm-hmm. Yeah, like making phone reservations for a restaurant. No. No, I want to just go online, book it, and not ever [inaudible 00:10:36].

Jon:
I don’t want to talk to anybody. That just slows things down. You’re going to put me on hold. You’re going to ask your manager. You’re going to type it in. Just let me do it. I had this example of this issue just last night. My wife and I are taking our son to Disney and we were trying to book food reservations because everything’s on a reservation system there now. We’re taking some family members with us, so we needed a table for six. The most you can book online is five. We’re like, we got to call. Okay. It took my wife four days to call, not because she’s lazy, because she just didn’t want to talk to anybody. She just kept going back to the app and seeing if maybe a table would open up for six because that was the issue. I’m like, no, it clearly says. Just call them. Then she had to wait on hold last night for 45 plus minutes-

Ryan:
Oh, my God.

Jon:
… while she’s getting my son ready for bed. Then, of course, while we’re brushing our her son’s teeth, they answered the phone. It’s like the worst possible timing. The fact that as you are getting older, you have less of those distractions so you can spend the time on the phone. You don’t have a kid running around your house that you need to go take care of. You might be okay just setting the phone on the counter and doing something else for 45 minutes. Or you just feel more comfortable knowing, you know what? This is real if I talk to somebody. It’s actually going to happen. What if there’s any issues? I can easily deal with it when I’m talking. Where I’m like, oh, they’re going to tell me an issue and I’m just going to type back and we’ll work through it. But yeah, I think that that was one of the big things that surprised me.

Ryan:
Got it. Then as a group, they have more money generally as a generation, the baby boomers and older there. I would guess they’re not as price sensitive as maybe me in my 20s. If I could save a dollar, I was going to do it. Now, I’m like, just whatever. How do they handle price discrepancies across sites? Do they do a lot more research?

Jon:
Yeah. Looking at this data, it’s almost like an inverse bell curve. You’re more price conscious when you’re starting out in life because you just don’t have the means to not care about it. You get into your high earner years and you’re like, you know what? It’s worth the 10 minutes to me to pay the extra two bucks and do whatever. I will not do my research. I’m going to stop at the expensive coffee shop because it’s on my way to work and I don’t have to drive two blocks out of the way. I know it’s going to cost me an extra dollar or whatever for that cup of coffee, but you know what? I’m going to enjoy it. I’ve earned it. As you get older and you’re on either a fixed income or you are more impacted by swings in your balance of your retirement fund, you start to have those thoughts again about being price conscious.
What’s interesting to me is if you look at that same chart along with who has vast majority of funds of resources in the United States, it’s the over 55s that have the vast majority of money. So you start looking at that and you’re like, okay, so they have more money and they are more price conscious. That is completely a mentality at that point. It’s not a necessity in a lot of cases. Now, that doesn’t mean there aren’t people who are clearly on a fixed income, living social security. I understand that, but what we found is the majority of people who are shopping online, it is more about just being price conscious. They want the best deal and they have time to go find it and do the research and look at the coupon code sites and do all of that stuff. So abandoning cart issues are more prevalent with this age group.

Announcer:
You’re listening to Drive and Convert, a podcast focused on e-commerce growth. Your hosts are Jon MacDonald, founder of The Good, a conversion rate optimization agency that works with e-commerce brands to help convert more of their visitors into buyers, and Ryan Garrow of Logical Position, the digital marketing agency offering pay per click management, search engine optimization, and website design services to brands of all sizes. If you find this podcast helpful, please help us out by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts and sharing it with a friend or colleague. Thank you.

Ryan:
In my world, abandoned cart a lot of times. I like, well, let’s go look at what your shipping rates are. Where are you keeping free shipping? I just had that conversation, I think three times yesterday.

Jon:
Yeah.

Ryan:
I assume free shipping falls genuinely in line, but do you see it more or less or is it actually just everybody cares about it almost exactly the same?

Jon:
Everybody cares. The reality is Amazon has spoiled everybody for online shopping with free shipping. It just is what it is. It’s expected now. One of the tests that this led us to run actually is just bake shipping into the cost of the product, raise the product cost to cover our shipping for the client and go from there. Just call it free shipping, but raise the price.

Ryan:
Yeah. Even if this price is the same for me, that line item of shipping just pisses me off.

Jon:
Yes. Everybody. Yeah.

Ryan:
Just give it to me for 20 instead of 15 plus five.

Jon:
Yes, exactly.

Ryan:
I hate doing math probably. Maybe that’s it. And also reading this, I think I determined that my wife is already an active ager in her mid 30s. That’s how she shops. She does all of the things listed that an active ager does. I’m like, huh, I married a woman that’s already an active ager.

Jon:
That’s amazing.

Ryan:
She’s just up there waiting for me.

Jon:
Yeah. It’s funny. I think that trust matters a lot to more people, but I think that the trust and the free shipping and being price conscious are things that are prevalent across all ages. But it’s just what was really interesting was the very high percentage of respondents to this survey that made it very clear that it is more important to them than anything else.

Ryan:
Mm-hmm. Now as a brand, do you think it’s possible to have a site that appeals to all of these various age groups on there or do I need to probably pick a target and say I’m going to be an active ager brand or I’m going to be a millennial brand or can I blend a lot of those things using your data to make it okay for most?

Jon:
Mm-hmm. That’s a great question. I think that it’s going to depend on the product, but we have worked with brands that sell incontinence products. Now there are age groups that buy it that are younger. Maybe they have a health concern, but the vast majority of people on that site were active agers. They were over 55. The reality is you need to look at your product and you probably, as a store operator, know your demographic. One thing we did find is you will not alienate the younger people if you focus on those, serving the needs of the 55 and older because their needs are really not so far out in the field. As I mentioned earlier, everybody cares, like your wife about trust, price, grammar like your mom, right?

Ryan:
Mm-hmm.

Jon:
All these things apply. If I see a grammar mistake that’s very obvious on a homepage of a website, I wonder what the quality is of their product. It’s one of those things where if you target the 55 and older crowd and you emphasize what’s important to them, you won’t alienate other people. Now, if you go on your website and you just post a bunch of pictures of what would look like elderly folks who aren’t active at all and is not a true representation, it’s more of a derogatory representation, then the reality is you’re going to turn some people off. Like when we work with those incontinence products, brands, at that point, we’re making sure that we are showing people who are active and enjoying life. Maybe they have gray hair as well, but they’re not out there in wheelchairs just looking like they are disabled. That’s not the case.

Ryan:
Mm-hmm. I like that. As long as you’re generally broad stroke increasing trust, you’re probably going to be able to appeal to multiple things. Maybe just give me an option to get out of having to call you. Let somebody call you if they want.

Jon:
Well, that’s exactly it, offering options. You could do live chat and phone and have the same people answer both. That’s a very possible option.

Ryan:
Now, one thing that was missing from your survey that I’m curious about, and you probably still have some data around it, I didn’t see if Wheelio was more or less effective in the over 55 group at collecting emails or text message or phone numbers. Did you get any data around that?

Jon:
No, we didn’t do any data around pop-ups, anything of that sort. I should have now that you say that, because I can almost promise you, based on the user research we’ve done with that crowd, they’re going to bounce even more than anyone else. They have no tolerance for collecting information and the reason being is that they are super concerned about security and privacy. 43% are concerned about giving away their information and what happens to it after. 34% regret giving an email, but also feel like they don’t really have a choice. They have to do it. So you start getting into these challenges of a pop-ups come up and they’re having challenges getting it closed just like everybody else and they get frustrated and then maybe they think, oh, I have to give my email address to enter. Then from there, they’re already starting from a place of lack of trust because you-

Ryan:
Got it.

Jon:
… forced them to give your email. The reality is they hate spam more than the rest of us, and this is because we found in our research, they feel compelled to read every message that’s sent to them. Because if you think about it, it’s just like receiving a letter in the mail. You’re going to open that. In that sense, you feel compelled to open it. I think that that’s changing quite a bit, but I can tell you my parents do that. I know my mom’s opening every single email message that comes to her and I find it scary at times. I’m just saying. I know her quantity is way less than you or I, but at the same time, what’s in that email that I don’t want her clicking on?

Ryan:
Mm-hmm. Yeah, that’s true. I was on a webinar today with a company we probably both partnered with and they were talking about their new options for pop-ups to collect phone numbers. They talk about, “Oh, yeah, this big brand increase revenue this much and had this much adoption of the coupon code.” I’m like, yeah, but you gave away a bunch of margin for people that are already on your site. Have you not listened to Drive and Convert? I’ve got to get this in front of that brand. But if you are targeting an older demographic and you start by just saying, “Hey, spend this wheel for money,” and I’m like, ooh, bad, bad, bad.

Jon:
Yeah. You’re going to lose out there pretty quickly.

Ryan:
In my world, so much of our focus is on acquiring the traffic and just getting the conversion. That’s it. A lot of it in yours, but you focus a lot more post purchase as well just in your conversations with clients. I know that post purchase is very important in this group of people. What are your recommendations? What were your findings around once they click buy, you built the trust to get the buy, how do you not blow it and have them just regret immediately pushing that button?

Jon:
Well, I think that this goes back to them being price conscious to some degree, but really what happens is that they have a high instance rate of buyer’s remorse. What you typically will see is after they’ve purchased, they immediately start thinking about whether they should have done that purchase or not. What happens, we’ve seen this trend in user testing, they start going to other sites to see if they can find a better deal. They’ve already spent the time buying.

Ryan:
After purchase, oh, man.

Jon:
Then they go and they’re like, oh, well, did I get the best deal? Maybe there’s something better out there. I find that really interesting. I think there’s ways to combat that that come up in here, price guarantees, easy returns, really focusing on education, meaning, once somebody’s purchased, making sure that you’re getting them some education about the product, getting them excited while they’re waiting for it to arrive. That can be really important, and giving ongoing support. Active agers want and they really do need continued service and support once they’ve made a purchase. How do you provide that to them? When they post these reviews post purchase, it’s follow-up. Everybody asks for reviews. Active agers are really good about leaving reviews. That is something that I find interesting. They’ll come back and feel like they’re part of the brand by giving more information and saying, “Hey, I like this product. Here’s why.” We have a breakdown in here in a chart of the top three things they talk about in reviews. Number one is that they got a really good deal, so price.
Number two is that the customer service was great. Number three is product selection, which to me is not necessarily the fact that you have a lot of SKUs. It’s that you’ve made it easy to filter through those SKUs and find what’s important to them. That’s what’s really the key out of that. Then shipping, and then lastly, the site was easy to use. So again, before you even get to the fact the site was easy to use, you have four other indicators of whether or not someone’s going to have a positive experience on your site. It all starts with price, goes down to customer service, that you make it easy to find the products that are great for them, and then that you ship free and fast. Then outside of that, the site was easy to use as well. So you look at all of those things and really, that’s not too divergent from what you or I would buy online and how we think about it, but the numbers are much greater. Again, that inverse bell curve of needing to find the best price for instance.

Ryan:
Yeah. I would say the fact that they are more likely to leave a review also means if you don’t take care of them, the Better Business Bureau is going to get a bad review. Yelp is going to get a bad review. There will be multiple bad reviews. I see this-

Jon:
They have the time to do it.

Ryan:
We have a client that does accessories and aftermarket things in RVs, and they’re generally targeting the active agers. This is a report I’m going to send over obviously, but their negative reviews are a small portion of their overall sales, but it is a large portion of their overall reviews. It is like all kinds of terrible. This particular business owner likes being right rather than keeping customers happy, which is something we’ve had to talk to him about because he’ll have debates on… You can go to Better Business Bureau and see the debate happening and you’re like, oh my gosh, this was a $200 product. Who cares? Move on. Your business is doing millions of dollars.
This could have been so easy if you just be like, “Fine. You’re right. Yeah. Uh-huh.” But all that to say, expectation setting so that you don’t get in a position of a bad review, or if there is something wrong, just eat it and make it right because the upside of a positive review or the word of mouth in that group of people is so much greater just by who they are and how they’ve done it in the past.

Jon:
100%.

Ryan:
No ego.

Jon:
Yeah. You’re fighting a battle you’re not going to win. That’s hilarious about the example you share though. It’s always the brands that are never wrong that end up having more issues.

Ryan:
Oh, man, you got to get rid of your ego in the e-commerce space. The customer may not always be right, but online, you let them know they are and just eat it because it’ll be better long term. I learned a lot. Hopefully, our listeners did as well. If our listeners want to see the data for themselves and dive deep into this document that took so long to do, but also has great insights, where do they get that?

Jon:
Just go to ageofmajority.com and it’s right there on the homepage right now. You can quickly download it. Unfortunately, if you are an active ager, you do have to give your email address to get the report, but I promise that nobody’s going to spam you. The reality here is, yeah, it did take a year to put this together and there’s some great information in here, a dozen or so pages just packed with data. I know our team at The Good has really taken this and altered how we’re doing a few things based on this data and that’s why we got it. I know that Jeff and the team at Age of Majority are using this to alter how they’re marketing to this audience. Excited about this. Proud of it, and hopefully, people get some value out of it.

Ryan:
Yeah. I’m excited for you. Thanks for doing that, Jon, and thanks for enlightening me.

Announcer:
Thanks for listening to Drive and Convert with Jon MacDonald and Ryan Garrow. To keep up to date with new episodes, you can subscribe at driveandconvert.com.

James Sowers

About the Author

James Sowers

James Sowers is the Director of Marketing at The Good. He has more than a decade of experience helping software and ecommerce companies accelerate their growth and improve their customer experience.