eCommerce

Alibaba Leads The Pack On Elder-Friendly eCommerce

It’s time to retire the perception that consumers at the older end of the spectrum (65 and up) can’t or don’t shop online. They may not be digital natives, yet that hasn’t stopped them from figuring out some of the ins and outs (even if they are more likely to fall for tricks and scams).

Alibaba is leading the movement for elder-friendly eCommerce. This week, it announced 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.

The theory is this: China has around 230 million citizens over the age of 60, but only 6 million of them are on Taobao (out of 468 million total users). Maybe that’s not because senior citizens don’t want to shop online; maybe it’s because online shopping doesn’t accommodate them in its current form.

Research from the Nielsen Norman Group in 2013 showed that elderly internet users were likelier to abandon efforts to complete web-based tasks than users under the age of 55. Even when they complete a task, it takes them 40 percent longer, sometimes due to impediments like deteriorating eyesight and sometimes simply because the navigation on a website is not intuitive or friendly to them.

Building an elderly exclusive website is no mistake. The senior demographic is only growing in proportion to the rest of the population, and this group has purchasing power that its younger counterparts may lack. For instance, by this stage of life, they have accumulated more wealth.

Furthermore, there are goods and services available in an eCommerce environment that are perfectly suited to the needs of older buyers. These shoppers are more likely to vote, own a home or be on long-term medication than younger shoppers, and as age reduces their mobility, the appeal of having goods and services delivered to their doors will only grow.

Other businesses would do well to take a leaf out of Alibaba’s book. Here are a few helpful tips.

Choose larger fonts (or enable easy toggling between font sizes) that have good contrast with the background color. Separate live links so users don’t accidentally click the wrong one. Simplify forms so users don’t have to enter spaces or brackets in their phone numbers, and label input fields clearly.

Support users with poor short-term memory with “breadcrumb” style navigation. Create clear signposts so customers know what to do if they receive a 404-error message or encounter any other issue that may frustrate them and drive them away from the site.

Finally, consider that many older consumers are using tablets rather than desktops, so investing in an inclusive mobile experience becomes even more critical than before.

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