The online retail industry has been catapulted years ahead by the pandemic. According to the Office for National Statistics, in January to February 2020, 87% of all adults in the UK had shopped online within the last 12 months, which is up from 53% in 2008. Those aged 65 years and older had the highest growth over the same period, increasing from 16% to 65%. A survey reveals that many of these feel neglected and overlooked by retailers online.
Simon Hewett-Avison, Director of Services at older people’s charity Independent Age, said that more seniors have turned to online services during the pandemic whilst shielding and dealing with loneliness and isolation, making it vital to know how to shop safely and confidently online.
According to a survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of independent comparison site PriceRunner, many older shoppers find it too complicated to shop online and feel ignored by online retailers, missing the social interaction of physical shop visits.
PriceRunner has seen a significant increase in website visits from older consumers this year and believes this will continue far beyond the pandemic, helping to drive both growth and profitability in the online retail industry.
“This remarkable rise of older shoppers has emerged through an online boom over the past few years, where we have seen a significant shift in the way older consumers shop, especially this year. Almost half of senior shoppers have bought less from physical shops and more online since the pandemic started, but the industry still needs to catch up.
It is extremely disappointing that a majority of online retailers still tailor their services to those who grew up with technology and the internet, excluding senior shoppers who feel isolated and left out.” said Christine Gouldthorp, Consumer Expert at PriceRunner.
The survey, carried out by YouGov of 2,000 UK nationals, found that consumers 65 years and older are buying products online more regularly. Before the pandemic the largest group, almost a third, shopped online once a month. Since then, the frequency has increased to once a week.
Looking at the UK as a whole, the biggest growth could be found in North West England, where 62% of older shoppers had bought more online since the start of the pandemic. Trying to avoid in-shop visits, those living in the East of England had decreased their physical shop visits the most; by 63% since the start of the pandemic.
Founded over 150 years ago, leading older people’s charity Independent Age provides daily care, free information and advice for elderly individuals and their families on for example how to shop safer and smarter online. They have experienced first-hand how the pandemic has affected older people in their care.
"While the ongoing pandemic and associated lockdowns around the UK have been difficult for all ages, older people have been particularly affected, where people over 70 are more likely to live alone than any other age group. People over 70 were asked to shield for months at a time and may have to deal with feelings of isolation and loneliness, while still having the same needs for essentials like food and medicine as before.
We know that more people have turned to online services, including online shopping and video calling in this time. For those who choose to do this it is vital to know how to shop safely and confidently online”, said Simon Hewett-Avison, Director of Services at older people’s charity Independent Age.
New challenges derived from online shopping
The survey found several barriers older shoppers face when forced away from physical shops; almost 50% find it hard to reach online retailers if something goes wrong as they often lack adequate customer support to help with issues.
It also found that 60% are reluctant to buy from a brand online that they have never bought from before or heard of, where a third think the information on many websites is unclear and that it is more complicated to shop online instead of going to a physical shop.
"While some older people are extremely tech savvy, there are others who find it difficult to shop or socialise online due to accessibility issues that are not being addressed by certain websites. It’s important that, where there are issues, consumers – including older people – are able to speak to someone on the phone to put things right", said Simon Hewett-Avison.
A valuable element lost when shopping online is the social aspect of physical shop visits, something that is often a weekly highlight amongst older consumers. The survey found that 50% of older shoppers miss the social interaction of going to a physical shop.
For more tips on how to shop safer and smarter online, read about your rights as a consumer, how to spot scams and fake offers, please visit Pricerunner.com to read our safer shopping advice and Independent Age’s guide to staying safer online.
PriceRunner is the UK's independent price comparison service with over 1,600,000 products from more than 5,000 retailers. PriceRunner was founded in 1999 and is primarily active in Sweden, Denmark and the UK. We are a team of 150 ambitious PriceRunners who work to develop the most loved service for comparison shopping. PriceRunner is completely independent; we are not owned by or dependent on any manufacturer, retailer or other organisation that might have an interest in providing biased information. PriceRunner's mission is to help consumers find better products and better prices. Every month we help hundreds of thousands of consumers to find better, cheaper products and save money by comparing prices for a particular product.