Seniors are embracing tech and online shopping

A Mintel survey suggests ways brands should communicate with older Canadians as needs change due to social distancing.


Seniors may be more tech savvy then they are given credit for, something that is becoming more apparent as they adapt their behaviour in response to COVID-19.

Marketers need to step up and find straightforward ways to communicate with seniors, as it has frequently been an overlooked demographic, says Carol Wong-Li, Mintel’s associate director, of lifestyles and leisure. But the new factor to keep in mind is how their behaviour has shifted during social distancing.

Previously, brands may have given out promo codes to younger family members, who would help seniors get groceries delivered. However, with stricter isolation practises due to the group’s higher risk for getting sick from the virus, families aren’t visiting them, so they’re taking matters into their own hands.

According to a survey of 309 people over the age of 65 from March 13 to 20 conducted by Mintel, 97% of seniors have a desktop or laptop computer, and 76% use digital platforms for things like e-commerce. And Wong-Li tells strategy that, contrary to perception, seniors are not only more tech-savvy than they’re given credit for, they’re also hungry for information.

Previous Mintel research finds that while adoption does lag behind, usage patterns of platforms and devices are similar to the general population. Still, she cautions, they need a bit more hand holding when it comes to on-boarding and more support in terms of troubleshooting.

When communicating to that target, marketers need to focus on utility and to convey how tech tools and digital platforms like meal kit delivery can improve real aspects of their lives, she says.

“Functionality is key,” Wong-Li says. This means making things simple, and showing them how easy it is to set up a grocery delivery account and reorder, and emphasize that there is added tech support if they cannot reach out to younger family members.

With respect to e-commerce, she says, the current gains among seniors will not be sustained when things return to normal, but the long-term adoption of services like Instacart by seniors will still be considerable, after seeing the convenience makes them stick to it.

She cites seniors in China, who are ramping up their online shopping more than ever before as a response to COVID-19.

Adoption of online shopping will also spill over to other categories, particularly related to health and safety, she says, with the potential for outreach in categories like home goods and cleaning supplies also being successful.

Finally, she adds, there is opportunity for brands in the fitness space to improve their outreach to seniors. “We see Spin and yoga studios putting classes online, but I don’t see a lot of offerings like mobility classes,” she says.