Silent Gen Shoppers: How Can Retail Brands Future-Proof Online and Offline Engagement?

by Axel Heyenga

Posted on 11-24-2020

It’s not often we see the Silent Gen­er­a­tion rep­re­sent­ed in stud­ies or advice for retail­ers. Typ­i­cal­ly, con­ver­sa­tion revolves around younger, more dig­i­tal­ly-savvy audi­ences. They dom­i­nate the lion’s share of con­sumer retail spend, after all, and are more open to adopt­ing new dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences and ways of shopping.

How­ev­er, Silent Gen – gen­er­al­ly cat­e­gorised as 71 years and above – still war­rant seri­ous atten­tion. There’s no doubt­ing they’re an eco­nom­i­cal­ly valu­able audi­ence, and one of the most finan­cial­ly sta­ble gen­er­a­tions: in fact, they spend $162.9 bil­lion annu­al­ly in the US alone.

It’s vital, there­fore, that retail­ers focus on the basics in order to con­tin­ue dri­ving bricks and mor­tar vis­its, while encour­ag­ing those who have adopt­ed dig­i­tal shop­ping to stay engaged. They’ll need to focus on the val­ues that this gen­er­a­tion val­ues most: com­mu­ni­ty, trust, and safety.

Over-deliv­ery on basic val­ues to keep phys­i­cal stores thriving

Silent Gen has per­haps been hard­est hit by the restric­tions of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. Many fall into the ‘vul­ner­a­ble’ cat­e­go­ry, severe­ly lim­it­ing their abil­i­ty to vis­it phys­i­cal stores, which is a shop­ping habit typ­i­cal­ly favoured by this age group.

In fact, accord­ing to recent Adobe research into shifts in con­sumer pur­chas­es in France, Ger­many and the UK with PK Glob­al, Silent Gen shop­pers are two times more like­ly to shop at a local, phys­i­cal store ver­sus online. The rea­sons they give for shop­ping local­ly should give retail­ers some seri­ous food for thought:

The take­aways are clear. If retail­ers are seri­ous about engag­ing Silent Gen shop­pers, they must over-deliv­er on the above val­ues, invest­ing heav­i­ly in fun­da­men­tal areas around health and safe­ty and stock­ing local prod­ucts to fos­ter a greater sense of local com­mu­ni­ty support.

Adapt to Silent Gen pref­er­ences to keep them engaged online

With much of the world in the throes of a sec­ond COVID wave – and with many Euro­pean coun­tries cur­rent­ly endur­ing dif­fer­ing lev­els of the sec­ond lock­down of 2020 – it’s vital that retail­ers con­tin­ue to adapt and scale in order to meet shift­ing con­sumer behav­iours and atti­tudes, even among Silent Gen shoppers.

While it’s true this gen­er­a­tion has his­tor­i­cal­ly been resis­tant to online shop­ping, the restric­tions of lock­down saw many of them become dig­i­tal retail con­verts, with almost two-thirds (64%) increas­ing their online spend on essen­tials since the start of the pandemic.

Mov­ing for­wards, as Silent Gen shop­pers reveal their most impor­tant con­sid­er­a­tions when choos­ing where to shop online (see below), there are sev­er­al key areas of focus for retailers:

One brand that excelled dur­ing the first lock­down was Oak­house Foods. The UK-based meal deliv­ery ser­vice adapt­ed to the chal­lenges of a lock­down, scal­ing its exist­ing com­merce plat­form to meet increased order demand. To cater to an old­er age group, it also com­plete­ly redesigned its mobile and tablet expe­ri­ence for peo­ple with poor eye­sight or mobility.

Peo­ple have long mem­o­ries and won’t for­get the brands who offered spe­cif­ic sup­port and assis­tance quick­ly. Sto­ries abound of retail­ers who offered doorstep deliv­ery to the vul­ner­a­ble and brands that didn’t force new tech­nolo­gies on Silent Gen shop­pers, but rather let them dic­tate their method of pay­ment. This doesn’t just help keep Silent Gen con­sumers engaged – the empa­thy shown by brands and their will­ing­ness to serve this age group, will invari­ably res­onate with all peo­ple, regard­less of age.

Silent Gen deserve invest­ment, as much as any other

It’s crit­i­cal that retail­ers keep in mind that just because one age group con­sid­ers some areas impor­tant, it doesn’t mean every gen­er­a­tion feels the same. In fact, areas of low con­cern among Silent Gen are some­what at odds with the pref­er­ences of younger audi­ences. For exam­ple, Silent Gen do not rank same-day or overnight deliv­ery (31%) as par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant, and do not real­ly care for per­son­alised prod­uct rec­om­men­da­tions based on past pur­chase his­to­ry (27%) – the lat­ter being an area that mil­len­ni­als, espe­cial­ly, val­ue greatly.

Retail­ers must strike a bal­ance between invest­ing in tai­lor­ing their offer­ing to spe­cif­ic audi­ences, but not focus­ing too heav­i­ly on one gen­er­a­tion at the cost of anoth­er. True, Silent Gen shop­pers do not com­mand the same mar­ket­ing and online invest­ment as younger audi­ences. But over­look them at your per­il – their needs and pref­er­ences are just as viable as any oth­er, and the knock-on effects, such as ero­sion of trust among oth­er audi­ences, could be considerable.

To learn more about how Adobe accel­er­ates busi­ness growth for retail­ers, please vis­it Com­merce Cloud.

Topics: Digital Transformation, consumer, retail experience, Silent Generation, UK, UK Exclusive, Digital EMEA

Products: Commerce Cloud