Chasing the grey pound: Can online brands successfully target 65+ shoppers?
The ongoing pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives but perhaps the most impacted has been how we as a nation shop. From our weekly groceries to smart home tech and even furniture, the changes in rules due to lockdowns has led to us having to rely more on online shopping as physical stores were forced to close.
And for some, the changes will now be permanent, with some well-known high street brands collapsing and being brought back as online only.
But while more and more older people have embraced the internet and online shopping due to necessity, many brands and e-commerce sites are yet to consider older shoppers as a viable demographic.
This is partly due to online shopping traditionally being seen as the domain of younger consumers, meaning older demographics and their shopping habits are still somewhat of a mystery to many online retailers.
So can brands who have traditionally appealed to older shoppers, survive the migration to online?
Well, if the success of other brands such as Chums are anything to go by, they can not only survive but have the potential to really thrive. After all, pre-pandemic, the ECI Partners reported that ‘the ‘grey pound’ accounts for £320bn of annual household spending and the over-50s hold over three-quarters of the nation’s financial wealth’.
Chums are an online clothing brand that is specifically designed for older shoppers, and while they’ve faced their fair share of challenges, they are currently celebrating 40 years in the industry.
So what is the secret to their success? Well according to them, it’s down to a constant cycle of listening to their customers and then adapting their approach and product in order to ensure they are always fulfilling their customers’ actual wants and needs.
Chums say they have had to deal with a lot of stigma and stereotypes over the years, particularly from potential partners, about targeting an older demographic, with people thinking 65+ shoppers didn’t or wouldn’t shop online.
However, over the last 11 months they’ve seen a 175% increase in mobile traffic to their site from this age range.
Potentially due to more of their customers getting ‘hand-me-ups’ of their adult children’s older phones and tablets so that they can stay connected when they are not physically together – resulting in them placing orders online and seeing how easy it is.
This can be one of the more trickier aspects of targeting a niche demographic; not falling victim to stereotypes and preconceived assumptions and instead letting your customers tell you what is true for them.
The market for 65+ is constantly changing, not only as consumers adopt technology more readily into their everyday lives, but also as the life experiences of those consumers feed into the market and translate into their taste of fashion, footwear and how they style their home.
For example, a customer who grew up with the swinging 1960’s as their formative years will have a very different outlook to those that grew up in the 1940/50’s where rationing and being frugal was ingrained into the psyche.
Yet both of these customers fall comfortably within the older shopper demographic.
A lot of research is done every year on the latest fashion trends for younger consumers, or the different styles and tech goods they need, but very few brands are interested in what older consumers are looking for.
Which is why it’s so important for any brand that is chasing this demographic to make sure they actually listen to and understand their customer.
As Paul Gray from Chums explains: “Chums was founded on the belief that the traditional high street fashion stores are predominantly set up to service the 18-44yrs market and very few design their clothing around the needs of the mature customer. Offering product design that actually addresses these needs, such as touch fastening shoes for shoppers with reduced dexterity, or for trousers with discreet comfort bands that are more suitable for longer periods sitting down in a range of different styles allows us to not only fulfil the practical needs of a customer, but also appeal to their fashion wants.
“It’s this attention to detail combined with a strong customer service ethos which has allowed us to withstand the test of time over the past four decades and will carry us through to future success.”
And what does the future hold for Chums? Well, they expect that changes in shopping behaviour brought about by the pandemic will likely remain and the rise of online ordering will continue to increase within the 65+ groups. However, they are still seeing customers who prefer to order through the post with a cheque or over the phone as this has been the way they have shopped all their lives and they plan to continue to provide these services as Chums maintain a strong customer service ethos.
Ultimately, the one thing that is certain for the future at Chums is that they will continue to listen to and be guided by their customers, because as they put it these are the most experienced shoppers in the country and after all their years of shopping, they know exactly what they want.
About Chums and the grey pound:
Chums provides comfortable and stylish clothing and footwear and a wide collection of homeware that appeal to the 65+ UK market. The company is based in the Knowsley Business Park, Merseyside and continues to be a privately run family business. Find out more info at chums.co.uk