Globally, Asia dominates the e-commerce universe, accounting for over 50 per cent of all retail sales. However, NielsenIQ’s consumer panel data across a number of Asian markets – including pre-Covid sales comparing the last three months of data in four core markets at various rates of e-commerce maturity – confirms an extraordinarily high rate of online adoption among older consumers.
In South Korea, for example, roughly 60 per cent of the population presently purchase fast moving consumer goods online. However, online buying in the 60+ age group increased a staggering 25 per cent from September-November 2019 through to December-February 2020-21. Not only did the number of online shoppers in this age group increase, they also increased their supermarket spending during this time by 5 per cent and bought more frequently, increasing their shopping trips by a whopping 29 per cent.
In Hong Kong, we saw similar numbers but at an even more dramatic rate, with the number of older families which transitioned their shopping to online increasing by 80 per cent from October-December 2019 versus December-February 2021. This group also increased their frequency of shopping online by 40 per cent, which in turn nearly doubled their overall online FMCG purchases with a 47 per cent increase.
In developing markets such as Thailand, the trend was similar, with older singles and couples who shopped online for FMCG increasing by 64 per cent alongside a 27 per cent spike in spending from September-November 2019 versus December-February 2021. In Indonesia, a similar trend was also detected among predominantly older households without children, whose online shopping increased by a massive 60 per cent from October-December 2019 versus December-February 2021. This group spent 43 per cent more when they shopped online during the same period and increased their digital shopping frequency by 22 per cent.
The significance of older omnishoppers
Older online shoppers have long been viewed as the last barrier to full scale generational e-comm adoption. The pandemic precipitated a forced change for the mature consumer group, whose overall experience with e-commerce has primed them to continue.
It’s important to remember that this isn’t a one-or-the-other scenario, as consumers will continue to shop in traditional retail formats. However, the increase of new online shoppers will continue to erode the share of the spending pie for bricks-and-mortar retailers, which will need to further innovate or risk losing an even larger slice.
Traditional retailers committed to retaining many of these shoppers must embrace the retail revolution and provide valuable, seamless omni experiences. While retail incumbents hold the advantage of having a trusted legacy relationship with their longtime shoppers, they have a stellar opportunity to further solidify the bond in the online world as well. They can also accelerate their omni offerings by leveraging their loyalty programs with customised offerings to different consumer groups, while consistently communicating offerings that are proven to draw foot traffic and clicks, both in-store and online.
Furthermore, with the older demographic becoming increasingly more comfortable with online purchasing, brands would be wise to consider how their marketing approaches align with this group to further enhance their comfort levels. As opposed to a one-size-fits-all mindset that targets all online shoppers as a collective, digital merchants can enhance older shoppers’ online journeys – and in the process cultivate stronger loyalty – with dedicated content and resources.
While the rampant penetration of older online adopters during the pandemic will likely subside somewhat, there is a huge opportunity for greater sustained digital adoption in the future for several important reasons:
1. These countries have huge older populations;
2: Older e-commerce adopters were exposed to the convenience that online shopping and delivery offer throughout Covid and;
3. Older Asians may continue to buy certain products online post-pandemic, such as big or bulky products that make more sense to be delivered.
At the precipice of a new frontier for e-commerce, the next chapter of omnichannel evolution in Asia resides in a deeper understanding among retail buyers and sellers of the ever-changing consumer behaviors and preferences. To that end, online retailers’ and omni players’ needs for accurate and reliable data and precise decisions have never been more urgent in order to court, win, and keep the highly valuable 60+ shopper demographic.