Digital Technology Demographics

Brands warned not to ignore ‘grey pound’ as over-65s embrace e-commerce


By John Glenday, Reporter

September 28, 2020 | 5 min read

The majority of UK’s over-65s have increased their use of technology in the past six months, purchasing food and clothes online as well as using virtual education tools. The pronounced shift in behaviour has prompted warnings that brands overlooking silver surfers are in danger of missing out on the ’grey pound’.


Brands warned not to ignore ‘grey pound’ as over 65s embrace e-commerce and digital

Silver surfing and the digital wave

  • Design and technology agency Beyond commissioned Savanta to poll 2,006 people across the UK to inform its findings.

  • Key results include 58% of people aged 65 and over having increased their use of technology over the past six months as dictated by pandemic necessity.

  • This takes a variety of forms, from 57% speaking to loved ones using digital means to 43% shopping online and almost 10% taking part in online learning.

  • Illustrating the scale of change, 17% of those aged 65 and up reported making their first video calls on their phones since the coronavirus curtailed movement, with 15% turning to their laptop to remain in contact with friends and family.

  • Drilling down further, the survey found that 13% have now tried online food shopping from their laptop for the first time, with 11% using their laptops to shop for other goods

  • Silver surfers are less likely to use their mobiles for such activities, but 4% did buy food or clothes via their smartphone for the first time, with 5% using the device to shop for other items.

  • Other interesting nuggets of information include the fact 5% have participated in online education using their laptops for the first time ever, while 3% turned to their mobile to access remote learning.

  • Social media is another beneficiary of burgeoning confidence among the age group, with 7% reporting to have used social media on their phone for the first time and the same proportion accessing networks from their laptops.

  • Embracing such opportunities, the majority of respondents stated that they found technology to be useful while 42% say it is straightforward to use and 47% actively enjoy the experience.

  • Not everyone is so enamoured with their experiences, however, with 13% frustrated by their online adventures and 8% irritated by the medium, while 3% struggle to get to grips with the process.

  • Such sentiments mark a dramatic reversal from the situation last year when 29% of over 65s admitted to having never used the internet, according to figures produced by the Office for National Statistics.

  • This picture was reinforced by a similar report from Ofcom, showing that 33% of people in the 65- to 74-year-old age bracket never went online, with 48% of those aged 75 and over never venturing online.

  • With established norms being upended everywhere over the past six months, that situation now looks to have changed permanently, opening up new doors for brands seeking access to a lucrative market.

  • This embracing of technology mirrors that of society as a whole, where 74% have turned to technology in increasing amounts since March with 86% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 83% of 25- to 44-year-olds using technology more frequently.

Why should brands take notice?

  • Service provider Saga has long championed the power of the ’grey pound’, estimating that the sector accounts for an impressive £320bn of annual household spending, with the over-50s holding no less than three-quarters of the nation’s wealth.

  • Separate figures from insurer Prudential indicated that people who retired in 2018 can anticipate an annual income of close to £20,000.

  • Detailing how daily life is evolving, Nick Rappolt, the chief exec of Beyond, said: “This marks a significant change for those who are over 65, many of whom remained relatively distanced from digital life until this year. Now I see my parents talking to my children over Zoom and shopping online for their groceries.“

  • Addressing what this means for brands, Rappolt adds: “Companies need to ensure that their designs are inclusive and that technology is an enabler for this age group, rather than a cause of frustration. It’s incredible how many sites don’t even incorporate the very basics of making sure their site is responsive; ensuring fonts are of a good size with a strong colour contrast so text and call-to-action boxes stand out. This important, growing segment of society cannot be overlooked.“

  • “We’ve seen a huge technological leap in the first half of 2020 with more change over the past six months than the past six years,“ observes Rappolt: “This affects all generations and means that businesses need to adapt to everyone, from children to the elderly, expecting to access services online.“

Digital Technology Demographics

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