Retail Innovation Depends On Older Consumers, Too

baby boomer couple shopping tablet

Youngsters tend to get all the credit when it comes to being a force that drives retail innovation, and that’s fair enough. Their mobile habits, for instance, are fueling so much change in commerce and also payments. But older consumers shouldn’t be counted out, either.

New PYMNTS research about mobile commerce and how mobile technology informs the in-store purchasing experience provides fresh evidence for that view.

Sure, millennials and bridge millennials use apps the most for planning in-store purchases — 47.9 percent and 42.8 percent, respectively, frequent users. (PYMNTS defines bridge millennials as consumers between 30 and 40 years old. This group is more likely to have a college degree, be employed and earn higher salaries than other consumers.)

But other, older consumers are also taking part in the mobile revolution. Nearly 61 percent of baby boomers and about 37 percent of senior citizen qualify as either “frequent” or “occasional” users of mobile devices when it comes to planning trips to stores. According to the PYMNTS research, “frequent users use mobile apps to aid with in-store purchases at least once a week. Occasional users are use apps in such a manner once a month to a few times per year.”

Gig Trends

That’s not all.

The hot and increasingly influential gig economy is also a place where older consumers are gaining more voice.

An app meant to promote community for baby boomers called Umbrella has raised $5 million in a seed round led by Thrive Capital, with participation from Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, Refactor Capital, Trailmix, Box Group and others.

Venturebeat reported that there are 55 million people in America who are 65 or older, which represents about 16 percent of the country’s population. That age group grew about 15 percent in the last census, which is more than any other segment of the population.

Umbrella is an app that’s meant to connect these people with each other, through a marketplace with a membership model. The app lets seniors sign up for “jobs” and provide their services, like mowing a lawn or painting a fence.

The jobs are charged around $20 an hour, and Umbrella keeps $4 of that. The neighbors can choose to make less money, and the difference goes toward cheaper work for lower-income seniors.

Umbrella costs $199 a year to join. The startup was co-founded by CEO Lindsay Ullman and President Sam Gerstenzang. Both worked at Sidewalk Labs previously, among other places.

“Our Members use Umbrella to maintain their independence and stay connected to their communities — whether that means some help around the house or meeting others in the area,” Ullman said. “We are the easiest way for older adults to continue to live in the homes they love, rather than the traditional alternative of ‘senior living.”

Subscription Push

Subscription commerce is another area that is responding to the needs and demands of an aging consumer population.

eCommerce innovators are offering plant-based nutrition beverages designed for baby boomers and their parents with the help of the subscription business model. Take Perennial, which Co-founder and Co-CEO Sara Bonham described to PYMNTS as a progressive health company that is creating foods and beverages for consumers age 50 and older “by leveraging the endless kind of power of plant-based input.”

Bonham, along with fellow Co-Founder Brent Taylor, discovered the company could go beyond animal protein “and really address more personalized solutions for healthy aging.” The company currently makes a non-dairy nutrition beverage that is a blend of protein, vitamins and fiber, which supports daily gut, bone, brain and muscle health. The beverage is said to not have artificial colors, sweeteners or flavors; genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or animal products. The goal, Bonham said, is that people will consume it every day – put in their oatmeal or drink it after they work out. “It’s super functional,” she said. “It has a clean taste.”

The message? Pay attention to younger consumers. But don’t write off the older ones, either.



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.