Using ecommerce to reach everyone from Boomers to Gen Z

by Michael Hill

Using ecommerce to reach everyone from Boomers to Gen Z

Not only has ecommerce completely changed the rules of the game for how things are bought and sold, but today’s consumer is a much different one than twenty, ten or even five years ago.

In today’s retail market, you’re often fighting for the attention of everyone from Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 (age 56 to 74 in 2020) to Gen Zers born between 1997 and the mid-2010s (or young as 8 to 23 as of 2020) — a range that includes the Millennials, born between 1981 to 1996 (or 24 to 39).

While that’s a vast span of years, all of these cohorts have one key thing in common: They’ve all been alive during the age of ecommerce. Sure, some may have watched it grow from its infancy, and some have never lived in a world without Amazon, but like it or not, people in these age groups have had ecommerce be part of their lives.

Of course, there’s the old adage that the older consumers are, the less likely they are to shop online.

While this is certainly a good generalization in a limited sense, it’s worth noting that many of the Boomers, who are still in their 50s or 60s, are still likely to be computer savvy. Many of these consumers saw the digital age take over their workplace and, thanks to their children, are also hooked up with mobile devices, social media and more.

Mobile

Mobile will still continue to be a driving force in ecommerce, so it’s vital that your marketing strategies, Shopify theme and checkout options continue to be optimized for phones and tablets.

That said, keep in mind that both phones and tablets are getting larger and, as consumers upgrade to newer models, you’ll gain the advantage of having more space — including the equivalent of desktop sizes on tablets, so it’s important to keep that in mind and ensure your store looks great on larger screens too.

Fast and easy browsing, checkout and payment options will be vital as on-the-go consumers often end up making purchase decisions in between (or even during) meetings, social engagements or family time.

Sales and customer support via mobile — namely chat, text messaging or social media — will continue to grow in popularity as consumers’ lifestyles mean making phone calls or sending emails with questions isn’t fast or convenient enough.

Also, while “traditional” social networks such as Facebook and Twitter continue to drive huge traffic and are a great way to attract customers, it may be a good idea to check out the newer platforms, such as Snapchat and TikTok, which are also seeing growth.

Want it now

Thanks, in part, to Amazon’s same day and next day delivery, and services such as Instacart, DoorDash and Grubhub, getting products to your customers fast is going to become more and more key.

While offering same day or even next day delivery is often a bit of a reach for small or medium-sized Shopify stores, it’s still important to do anything you can to get products in customers’ hands as quickly as possible.

In some cases, this can be done by keeping inventory at geographically disparate locations throughout your service area so that two or three day shipping via more affordable methods is possible just because you have origination points close to most customers.

There’s also order processing time to take into consideration. Even if you are able to get overnight shipping at a reasonable rate, if it takes a few days in order to ship out, that can be a big issue.

That said, as personalization and bundling, especially with premium brands, becomes more popular, there is understandably some justification for slightly slower processing times on these types of orders.

Pricing and products

With the dizzying array of online shopping options, consumers will likely continue to be price sensitive — but still willing to pay a premium if they deem it’s worth it.

That’s a huge advantage that Shopify businesses selling their own products, brands and lines have right now.

Products with household names from traditional manufacturing giants might be available at every store on the block, but a similar product sold under a more finely tuned brand, perhaps with a premium edge, has shown promising growth in both ecommerce and brick and mortar retailers.

That said, close attention should be paid to position your products as different from “legacy” products.

It might be because of its approach to “clean” or higher-end ingredients or materials, being more environmentally responsible or quirky and unique — but the way the product and online store look need to match that feel instead of the often generic mass-market looks used for big brands.

For stores selling products available at other retailers and cannot or will not lower prices, there are often other approaches, such as design, branding and experience, that can help set your company apart and draw interest and, hopefully, sales.

Store design

Most online consumers, no matter their demographic group, are still quick to judge online stores based on how they look (the same goes for brick and mortar stores, too — exposed brick that’s clean and well maintained looks great, but dusty walls missing big chunks of mortar, not so much).

Even an unfamiliar brand or company can still make a great first impression and increase the likelihood of a sale with a skillfully designed, clean and well thought out website.

This includes everything from a solid logo design to carefully curated typography and great product photography with well-crafted production descriptions that match the “tone” of the brand.

In short, details matter when it comes to selling products that stand out to consumers who are used to operating in the cluttered digital marketplace.

There is also a growing trend among younger audiences (think Gen Z and Millennials) that puts more emphasis on experiences.

While this can be taken to be understood as more of an emphasis on spending money on activities with friends, family and even strangers (think of the rise of escape rooms and ax throwing bars), it’s also applicable to making your online store an “experience.”

Of course, much of this will come about as a result of your store’s design, but other areas such as the tone and style of your writing and photography are also just as important for making shoppers “feel at home” and that your store aligns with their way of thinking, style and needs.

Influencers

“Influencers” don’t have to be limited to YouTube stars or Instagram accounts will millions of followers — in fact, every one of your customers (and even potential customers) is an influencer.

Many shoppers today enjoy being a “trendsetter” and being the first to try a new product or brand and, if it’s a good experience, spread the word within their social circles.

That’s another reason why focusing on the experience of interacting with your company is so important — great packaging and a fun “unboxing” experience are natural ways to encourage social posts, but remember to focus on the core of the experience — the product.

Expanding beyond that, social media and near instant communication with friends and family have made it easier than ever to share a link to a product, store or service that might be of interest to someone you know.

What demographic?

Some products or brands are inherently aimed at a certain age group or other demographic — which will, in turn, drive decisions about website compatibility, product and packaging design, processing and shipping times, as well as the general layout of the store.

Stores should have a solid idea of what their target audience is — and make decisions such as how to handle customer service, pricing strategy and overall “look and feel” of the online shop based on this.

However, as ecommerce continues to permeate across multiple age demographics, it’s becoming more and more risky to make broad assumptions about products, customer service and marketing strategies when building a business.

Michael Hill
Michael Hill

Michael P. Hill is a Shopify, Shopify theme, content marketing, digital marketing and product management expert based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelphill or connect on LinkedIn. While comments and feedback are always appreciated, Michael regrets that, due to the volume of inquires received, personal responses are not possible. For specific assistance or support with Out of the Sandbox themes, visit the help center.