The physical store remains the primary retail touchpoint for consumers – particularly older ones

This global survey about shopping behaviours is distinctly ageist and potentially misleading.

Although the research covers multiple countries with a sample of 19,068 online interviews, it has a disproportionately small sample of older consumers, clearly the heaviest spenders! The online methodology would also limit a representative sample of them and their shopping behaviours.

One of the main conclusions to PwC’s 2015 Annual Global Total Retail Consumer Survey; “All the digital prophets have been right about one thing: the new technology, from smart phones to social networks, has fractured the once-cozy world of retail, and particularly of the physical store”.

At first glance a marketer could be forgiven for thinking that this is the burning, immediate priority to focus on. But is that really the case!?

Deeper thought reveals this to be clearly ageist, perpetuating a form of marketing discrimination against older consumers.

The findings are based on a sample where just 14% are over 55 years and that this sample is already pre-selected by being an online research sample.

Consider a few other facts contained in the same report (to PwC’s credit) proving that the oldest parts of national populations are also among the wealthiest, citing;

  • “the average wealth of French 80-year-olds is 134% that of 50–to 59-year-olds” and that, in the US, “the share of male earnings going to those aged 60-74 has risen from 7.3% to 12.7% since 2000.” according to a report in the Economist.
  • A study by the Pew Research Center in 2011 showed the median net worth of households headed by those 65 or older to be almost 47 times that of a household led by someone 35 year old or younger (as opposed to just over 10 times in 1984).
  • The spending capacity of older consumers is also strong in the emerging economies. As an executive from a major African retailer told PwC: “…. the younger generation is made up of browsers and the older generations are transacting.”shopping

One can only imagine what this report would conclude if the 55+ sample was closer to the population norm of over 30% in most developed countries and include people who do not respond to online surveys!

I would suggest that the importance of the physical store would be even more pronounced given the reasons given for in-store shopping as a preference over online per the graphic.

There’s no denying the impact of technology on retail however, we must design the customer experience with all consumers (particularly the older, wealthier ones) in mind.