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Seniors and E-Commerce

Heading to the store to research online purchases

July 15, 2008

Many studies in the US have focused on the relationship between online and offline retail sales. Typically, consumers comparison shop and get product information on the Internet before buying the product in a brick-and-mortar store.

However, new data from the USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future examines the opposite situation: consumers ages 50 and over who have researched offline before making purchases online.

The researchers found that about two-thirds of consumers ages 50 to 69 had researched their online purchases in stores. More than one-half of consumers ages 70 and over had done so.

"Online seniors are a lucrative consumer segment that Web retailers cannot afford to ignore," said Jeffrey Grau, senior analyst at eMarketer. "They have higher incomes and are more likely to be employed than seniors overall."

US Senior Online Buyers Who Often or Sometimes Research Products Offline* but Purchase Online, 2002 & 2007 (% of respondents)

From 2006 to 2011, eMarketer estimates that the percentage of Internet users ages 62 and older will increase at a 7.6% average annual growth rate—more than twice the 3.1% growth rate for the entire US Internet population.

Researching in local stores overcomes the main objection to online shopping for all age groups: People like to see things before buying them.

Pew Internet & American Life Project researchers released data in February 2008 indicating that older consumers were less enamored of retail e-commerce's benefits than were younger consumers. So it makes sense that many of them use a multichannel approach to get the best possible retail experience.

Positive and Negative Attitudes of US Internet Users Toward Online Shopping, by Age, August-September 2007 (% of respondents in each group)

The Internet is growing in influence for all parts of retail, both online and offline. Web-influenced sales will account for 28% of total retail sales in 2012, up from 18.7% this year.

US Web-Influenced Retail Store Sales and Retail E-Commerce Sales As a Percent of Total Retail Industry Sales, 2007-2012

Learn what's ahead for online merchants in the second half of 2008. Read eMarketer's US Retail E-Commerce: Slower But Still Steady Growth report.

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