Age Appropriate: Adjusting Retail Approaches to Attract Older Customers

Graeme McVie, VP, LoyaltyOne

By Graeme McVie, VP, LoyaltyOne,

Statistics tell the story: the U.S. population is getting older at a dramatic rate. The Department of Health & Human Service’s Administration on Aging estimates that nearly 55 million people – nearly one-in-six – will be age 65 or older by 2020, compared with 40 million in 2010.

Research indicates the U.S. is already shifting to meet the needs of an aging society in many areas. Global AgeWatch recently ranked the U.S. eighth out of 91 countries when considering issues such as income security, health status, and enabling society and environment.

Yet in recognizing this demographic trend, retailers are faced with some real challenges as well as great opportunities. Those who can effectively meet the changing needs of aging consumers will be able to tap into the largest slice of the mature market pie.

Retailers looking to score points with senior shoppers and ensure repeat business should consider the following:

Adapting the in-store experience. The physical layout of stores will play a significant role in attracting and retaining a mature consumer base. Retailers can cater their infrastructure to the rising consumer base by lowering shelf heights to allow easier access to products.  

Wider aisles permit greater maneuverability and enhance flow. Enhancements such as larger, easy-to-read signage and on-cart magnifying glasses will also encourage a loyal following.

Adjusting quantities. Value promotions that encourage consumers to purchase larger quantities than they need or will use will increasingly become less effective. Think monetary discounts, not buy-one-get-one-free.

Pack sizes can also be a factor.  Seniors living in households with one or two mouths to feed will not need large pack sizes, especially in categories that are perishable.  Fresh, healthy ready-made meal options with single or double portions will be ideal for seniors.

Altering the product mix. Since healthcare is a primary concern with this demographic, consider bolstering pharmacy offers to meet the increasing demand for health related products and services. Pricing will also be key; with many seniors facing lower benefits from social security programs, ensuring essential healthcare products are affordable will foster the loyalty of seniors.

As it relates to healthcare products, convenience is also key. Over-the-phone and online prescription re-fills will be valued by customers with limited mobility.

Leveraging Technology. Unlike previous generations of seniors, many baby boomers have integrated the internet into their daily lives. A report last year by seniors’ services provider Revera Inc. in partnership with Leger Marketing found that more than half of online seniors older than 75 belong to a social networking site and more than one-third of them go to those sites daily. This number is only set to increase. Discard the presumption that seniors do not understand technology and instead use it as an avenue for delivering targeted, relevant offers to increase engagement.

As the number of older Americans continues to grow and increasingly gains purchasing power, retailers must rely on their customer data to adapt and respond to these quickly approaching market changes. By using analytics to properly tailor their offerings, retailers will appeal to this demographic and in turn, continue to foster and strengthen customer loyalty.

Graeme McVie, VP, LoyaltyOne, a a global provider of loyalty and marketing programs. He can be reached at

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