BABY BOOMERS are finally embracing mobile technology with smartphone ownership expected to double among over-55s in 2014.
A new report from consultants at Deloitte argues that older consumers are likely to continue working, accumulate an ever-greater share of global wealth and become increasingly interested in technology.
“This is such an important market for future growth,” said Ben Perkins, who is head of consumer business research insight at the Big Four accountancy firm.
“The question, the challenge and therefore the opportunity for retailers and consumer brands is that this penetration will not automatically translate into increased activity, increased browsing and increased purchasing unless there is some action taken to better engage with them,” said Mr Perkins.
Deloitte’s latest consumer review points out that older generations have been slower in adopting PCs and using the internet, but said that once the 55-plus group overcame their initial lack of confidence, they became and remain enthusiastic users of PCs, hence the “silver surfer” tag.
Mr Perkins said retailers could learn from Amazon, the US internet giant, which has courted this important and growing demographic by appealing to their number one concern of active and healthy living.
Amazon has pooled relevant inventory in one easy-to-find place online. “It’s demystifying that online shopping process,” said Mr Perkins, who was in Leeds for a business dinner this week.
Tesco, the UK’s largest retailer, has been quick to embrace the opportunity with its ‘super surfers’ initiative. The group has trained older members of store staff to sell mobile technology to older consumers.
Mr Perkins said: “Basically there’s somebody of the same generation who understands the subtleties and differences between what a 25 year-old and what a 55 year-old may be looking for in a mobile device.”
Over-55s control 57 per cent of the UK’s wealth.
The Deloitte report highlights the emergence of wearable technology, such as smart glasses and smart watches, as the next stage of digital connected screens in private, social and professional lives.
Deloitte predicts that global revenues for wearables should exceed £2bn this year through the sale of 4m units worldwide, including an estimated 400,000 in the UK.
Mr Perkins said Google Glass, with its optical head-mounted display, is expected to be launched in this country in the next four to six weeks.
Deloitte said the launch of smart glasses is likely to be met in the UK by both scepticism and delight; the technology is considered to be slightly eccentric and is saddled with significant and fundamental constraints. That said, the consultancy believes that wearable technology has the potential to help consumer businesses offer their customers a more connected, immersive and contextual business and one that is in line with their rising expectations.
“This is something that’s been driven by consumer pull and not business push,” said Mr Perkins. “In various areas of the maket there’s been an inability to move at the same pace at the consumer. That’s the real challenge for business.”
He added: “You have to think of wearable as the next evolution of mobile technology. It’s a smaller connected mobile screen. It’s just making it even easier for consumers to do multiple things on the move. Just as somebody is watching the TV and making a purchase on their tablet, you will see people doing other things through glasses and smartwatches.
“It’s going to disrupt that traditional path to purchase. It’s challenging those businesses to respond, to adapt and to be flexible.
“Flexible is the key word. It is flexible fulfilment, flexible ordering, flexible supply chain. It is all about making it as easy as possible for the consumer.”