- A newly released survey finds that one in six Americans over 50 say they order groceries online. Among this group, just over half say they place orders once a month or less. The survey included 1,004 respondents and was commissioned by the International Food and Information Council, an industry-funded education organization.
- Despite low penetration and frequency, a majority of older Americans that shop online say they’re very or extremely satisfied with the service, the survey found. The results also note that lack of mobility, transportation issues and being able to take their time while they shop are motivating older Americans to try grocery e-commerce.
- Cost remains the biggest hurdle for older shoppers, with close to 70% of shoppers who have not bought groceries online citing high delivery and service fees as a major obstacle. Concerns over quality and freshness, and the desire to hand select their own foods, are also barriers to adoption, the survey found.
Online shopping is often viewed as the playground of younger consumers, particularly millennials. But these survey results show that grocery e-commerce’s appeal stretches across age groups and suggests that elderly consumers could be an untapped market.
Older Americans are similar to the general population in many respects when it comes to online grocery shopping. They're turned off by high delivery fees and have concerns over freshness and not being able to pick out products themselves. When they do get delivery, they want it to be fast — typically same-day, according to the survey.
But it’s recognizing these shoppers’ unique needs and demands that will help grocers maximize sales within this important demographic — both in stores and online.
A key finding by IFIC is that some of the difficult realities of getting older — including a lack of mobility and lack of transportation — make online shopping a tailor-made solution. Close to 15% of consumers surveyed who buy groceries online cited mobility issues as a major obstacle to in-store grocery shopping, while more than 30% cited this as a minor obstacle. Supermarkets that might have formerly lost an aging customer can now retain them by delivering groceries to their door.
A few retailers interviewed recently by Food Dive say elderly consumers make up a significant portion of their online sales. Nakul Patel, owner of single-store Mt. Plymouth IGA in Sorrento, Florida told Food Dive these shoppers like to make stock-up trips through his online platform, which launched two years ago. He also established his store as an outlet for consumers with disabilities.
“We are finding that the more vulnerable part of the community is really embracing this,” he said.
In Buffalo, New York, three-store operator Dash’s Market is seeing the same thing, according to director of operations Mark Mahoney. When the company launched online shopping four years ago — before competitors Wegmans and Tops Friendly Market — its first two orders came from California and Florida, from what Mahoney believes were family members of elderly customers.
“One of the first thing we discovered is the people who are very interested were senior citizens and mobility impaired customers,” he told Food Dive. “We looked at it as providing a service in the community to give those people a chance to receive high-quality groceries, just the same as someone who comes in to shop would be able to get.”
Marketing specifically to elderly customers through mailers and creative partnerships with assisted-living facilities and other organizations could be a worthwhile investment for grocers. At the same time, grocers should be mindful of middle-age consumers, who are currently most receptive to online shopping, according to the IFIC survey.
Concerns over cost and freshness are significant hurdles for grocers to overcome. But the survey suggests that older consumers are very receptive to coupons and discounts. Many grocers already offer “first delivery free” promotions, and could benefit from targeting these to shoppers over 50. The IFIC survey, like other related research, also finds that older Americans are very health conscious and look for labels like low sodium and low fat. Grocers could use their online portals to not only call out these labels, but offer education and outline how their offerings meet specific dietary needs.
Older consumers may not be the first group supermarkets think of when marketing their e-commerce platforms. But the unique demands of these consumers line up quite well with online shopping and could, with the right outreach, become a potent weapon for those looking to stand out in the online grocery wars.