Retail CEOs Beware: the Older Online Shopper is Here

After interviewing more than 10,000 customers in 10 countries, in addition to the leaders of retail businesses, Boston Consulting Group found 85% of millennials who buy luxury brands are ready for so-called omni-channel interactions.

Perhaps more surprisingly, 75% of baby boomers and older people were also keen for digital experiences, ranging from e-commerce, social sharing and digital in-store services.

“Digital is the new consumer reality,” said Olivier Abtan, the report’s co-author and a partner in BCG’s Paris office.

The results of the survey don’t necessarily suggest that older shoppers’ interest in bricks and mortar stores is waning. They’re more indicative of a desire to access a range of services, both digital and physical.

“The results of the survey don’t necessarily suggest that older shoppers’ interest in bricks and mortar stores is waning. They’re more indicative of a desire to access a range of services, both digital and physical.”

Online sleuths still eyeing the showroom
Although BCG’s survey found that around 60% of luxury sales are now swayed by digital approaches, these included customers researching products online before purchasing them offline.

In fact, BCG found that 41% of luxury shoppers research products and services online before buying them in a physical store, while 9% engage in “showrooming”—checking out products at a store then buying it online.

E-commerce overall is gaining ground, BCG said, making up 7% of the global personal luxury market, a proportion the consultancy expects will rise to 12% by 2020.

Its findings gel with recent research by Goldman Sachs, which predicted a broader majority of shoppers could be about to hit the Internet after following the trail-blazing habits of millennials.

Older millennials aged between 25 and 34 were more likely than any other generation to spend most of their clothing budget online, the investment bank found. But it also found that the spending habits of 35-44 year-olds lagged this group by about one or two years, while the habits for 45-55-year-olds lagged by two or three years.

If the shoe fits
Addressing fickle customer needs won’t just mean setting up a company website. BCG found respondents to its survey wanted integrated delivery services, the same promotions and rewards regardless of channel and a consistent brand image across channels.

CEOs in the retail sector may also want to have a good returns policy. According to a new survey of 1,000 online UK shoppers by consultancy EY, participants returned on average 2.2 items out of every 10 clothing purchases. Of these returns, 76% were sent back due to a fit or sizing issue.

Customers don’t want to be penalized or charged for returning goods, EY partner Helen Merriott said.

“That said, the same shoppers would prefer not to be bothered with the inconvenience of the returns process at all and would buy more online if they were more confident of the fit and knew that the retailer had used leading technology to improve the likelihood of this.”

Ross Kelly :Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.