Commerce

Seniors Help Drive Progress In The Digital Economy

young woman with older woman

Younger consumers — millennials, Generation Z — seem to get all the focus when it comes to eCommerce and digital payments these days. But older citizens are still out there, shopping, buying and paying, and they are getting attention from businesses, too — and that consumer segment, in its own way, is pretty important to the future of retail and payments.

Consider ongoing and looming advances in home automation and artificial intelligence (AI)-guided systems for consumers

As Cherry Home CEO and Co-Founder Max Goncharov told PYMNTS, the company’s Cherry Home device is a smart device equipped with computer-visioning technology, designed to monitor older users’ in-home behavior. The tech sends notifications whenever normal patterns change, or if there’s a dangerous event, such as a fall or significant stumble. That could appeal to older consumers (along with their younger relatives concerned about their well-being).

Growing Segment

Such a consumer segment is not insignificant. About 50 million Americans are over the age of 65, according the U.S. Census Bureau, and that number will rise sharply over the next decade. By 2030, the Census estimates there will be 78 million Americans over the age of 65.

As well, senior consumers are becoming increasing tech-friendly. According to one account, at least “75 percent of adults over the age of 75 go on the internet each day. Furthermore, 82 percent of adults age 65-69 use the internet daily. Daily internet use continues to decline as senior citizens age, but the decline isn’t as rapid or dramatic as most people think.” A further trend? Visual matter, according to that report, which stated that “video content is also just as popular among older adults as their younger counterparts. More than half of older internet users watch video content daily, and 75 percent of adults have taken action based on a video.”

And aging populations are hardly an American phenomenon, of course. China-based Alibaba is among the leaders in what could be called the movement for elder-friendly eCommerce. For instance, it had previous launched a version of its Taobao shopping app that specifically caters to this demographic, with a larger interface and the ability to link to a relative’s account so that the user’s children can help view and pay for products if needed.

The Chinese eCommerce giant is also partnering with brick-and-mortar stores and even building its own, such as the Hema Supermarket, which only accepts payments by mobile phone. The goal of these real-world outposts is to meet older customers where they’re already shopping and ease them into the digital commerce experience.

Smart Homes

The future of the Internet of Things and even automotive could also be significantly influenced by senior consumers.

For example, IBM and British startup Cera Care are teaming up to test out how lidar laser sensors might be able to help seniors. The six-month pilot will look into whether the sensors — which are used to help self-driving cars “see” — can allow elderly people to stay in their homes for longer without violating their privacy.

The lidar systems utilize laser light pulses to capture fine-grained images. In the pilot, the two companies will install the sensors in around 10 to 15 volunteer households in the U.K., starting in June, to find out if they can create a detailed picture of a homecare client’s daily routine and home environment. The goal is to alert caregivers if there are any changes to a person’s physical and psychological health, such as changes in gait or a fall.

If the pilot is successful, it could open up a new market for lidar, which has recently fallen out of favor with some carmakers. Nissan and Tesla, for example, have complained that the technology is expensive and unnecessary.

Sure, pay attention to the younger consumers — they will earn more soon enough, and they have major digital influence. But don’t count out senior citizens.

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