Will vaccination see older shoppers rushing back to the shops?

We’re at the stage in the UK where the over-65s and younger people with ‘underlying conditions’ are being invited to have their first Covid-19 vaccination, with a second potentially happening around May time.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced people who used physical shops to go online. That’s been difficult for those who weren’t internet-savvy. And while internet shopping works well for the weekly supermarket shop – as long as you can get the slots – it’s not ideal for buying clothes or other goods that are much better seen and felt in person.

We’ve also lost the social interaction that shopping in person can bring. If you live alone, just being amongst other people is a boost to mental health.

So now that the end of lockdown is looming, we hope, for later this year, will there be a rush back to the shops for the older generation?

I think not.

Surveys suggest that the pandemic has simply accelerated a trend that was happening anyway, as retail moved to an online model.

The online model is here to stay

Not only have we been forced to shop online from the major retailers who already operated websites, but many of the smaller and independent retailers have had no choice but to set up e-commerce sites or go under. They are unlikely to give up on that investment when the high streets open again.

There is also the fear factor. Despite the fact that many of my acquaintances had our own jabs, no one is in a hurry to hit the shops again. We’ve been listening to the ‘guidance’ for a year, and we’re nervous about mingling, however safe we may be. Even getting a haircut, which is a huge priority next to seeing family, is a scary thought.

This all suggests that we are not going to just go back to retail shopping of pre-Covid times. Retailers will be considering how to move forward, and with the more mature audience taking up a significant and growing percentage of potential customers, it’s an opportunity to be addressed.

A few questions for retailers to consider:

  • Is it an opportunity to reach a new market that hasn’t been online traditionally, and what do you have to offer them?
  • How do you approach a market with plenty of wisdom and life experience that may need hand-holding through the experience but should not be patronised?
  • What technology will make shopping easy for those who aren’t, and don’t wish to be, on top of the latest apps?

Older people aren’t a completely different market. As with any age group, they are just moving along through phases of life.

Successful conversations

As far as content is concerned, it’s really important to get inside the head of your prospective customers. Do your marketing team and copywriters understand and empathise the wide range of aspirations and needs that motivate more mature customers? Do they speak the language of people who have lived and worked through the last 50 or more years?

Style of conversation matters too. For many older people, the human element is important, and they want to pick up a phone. That’s a technology to include in the channel strategy for customer interactions, that can also include email and chat.

If retailers aren’t yet studying the opportunities to attract older buyers, it’s a great time to do so.