The digital opportunity for retailers is greater than ever. Forbes recently published an article labeling ecommerce as ‘the great equalizer’, referencing its consistent growth figures across North America, Western Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Online connectivity is also a great equalizer in terms of reaching a broad spectrum of consumers. It is not just younger shoppers that are looking to engage with retailers through digital channels; an increasing number of older consumers are also embracing multichannel retail.

Not to be confused with Baby Boomers, these ‘Silver Surfers’ are shoppers aged 50+ that are comfortable engaging with technology and the Internet. In the UK alone, last year Silver Surfers spent more than £14.5 billion online, and with an ageing population in many developed countries, retailers who ignore the spending power of older shoppers could be hampering themselves significantly.

So, how can the retail sector effectively target the tech-savvy Silver Surfers? Here are some fundamental principles for reaching this consumer group:

Make the ecommerce experience easily navigable

Although the older generation is receptive to technology, their digital skills have been acquired later in life. This means, for many, using a smartphone or tablet is not intuitive – it’s a learned behavior.

Retailers that build an ecommerce platform with the clearest path to purchase will therefore see the greatest benefits, as there is less likelihood of frustrations en-route causing cart abandonments.

If their website is optimized for a consumer group that has undergone a steep technology learning curve, then younger shoppers that have grown up with digital devices will also find browsing and buying very straightforward.

Use technology to enhance store service

Retailers’ biggest opportunity to score with Silver Surfers is within the store environment. Older shoppers have more time on their hands than most younger consumers, and they also place real value on quality of customer service.

If store associates can use technology to enhance the bricks-and-mortar experience – by checking product availability through a mobile POS device, for example – they can potentially increase the value of transactions among this consumer group.

The key is not to replace people with processes, though. Silver Surfers want a perfect blend of digital and emotional.

Encourage Silver Surfers to engage through social

The 50+ demographic is one of the fastest growing in social media, which gives retailers a great opportunity to engage with them online at all points during the buying cycle.

Creating and marketing online promotions targeting this group through social networks is an effective way to increase followers, while encouraging Silver Surfers to feed back on their ecommerce and store experiences can support brand advocacy.

Retailers must ensure, however, that the tone and content is appropriate for this audience; how they address a 21-year-old online will be very different to how they interact with a 55-year-old, for instance.

Age is just a number

A final piece of advice I would offer retailers targeting older shoppers is this: age is just a number.

Consumers aged 50+ are cashing in on a lifetime of hard work and are ready to enjoy life, whether that’s through exploring new products or embracing new technologies. Brands that approach them with a sense of vigor and clarity are far more likely to nurture good relationships than those who view them as too old for the digital engagement techniques they utilize among younger shoppers.

For many Silver Surfers, retirement is just the start of a new and adventurous chapter in their lives.

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