I confess: I'm one of those people who loves Black Friday and Cyber Monday! Mind you, not enough to start shopping at midnight on Thanksgiving day, or even before 7 on Friday morning, but by 7:15, I was out and about making a dent in my list. It turned out to be a productive day, in part because of the technology improvements in shopping just over the past year.
This year I observed many changes in the way people shopped, including myself. First, I made a list, but kept it on my smart phone, rather than writing it on paper and leaving it on the kitchen counter as I headed out the door. I used the phone to compare prices, check store hours and locations, and take pictures of various things like leather jackets so I didn't have to remember specific features from one store to the next as I shopped.
Meanwhile, I made use of in-store price scanners and appreciated a new service at Michaels where a clerk came to me as I waited in line, handed me a plastic card with a bar code on it and then scanned every item in my basket. When I got to the cash register, the clerk scanned the plastic card, gave me the total and I was on my way in no time.
So, the shopping experience has certainly been improved, but I'd like to offer retailers a few suggestions on how to better grab the attention of boomers:
> Prioritize your mobile sites. Not many are easy to use and most are hard to read. Don't assume we do all our shopping from a desktop and a 17-inch screen.
> If you want to offer coupons - or groupons - think like we do. By and large, boomers appreciate coupons we can share with friends. I can't tell you how many times I overheard women standing in line asking others if they needed or had a specific coupon. And why think of a coupon as a single transaction? Why not encourage people to share them, perhaps even increasing the coupon's value as it is shared?
> Use coupons as a way to promote your charitable giving. Research shows boomers are actually willing to pay a little more for a product if the company contributes part of the proceeds. Give me 15% off and donate that same 15% to an organization whose mission aligns with your company values in some way. Just yesterday, my family drove past three Christmas tree lots to buy our tree at Pike Nursery specifically because they were donating a portion of each tree sale to Clark Howard's Christmas Kids. We wanted to help them meet their goal of donating $30,000. Yep, we probably paid more for the tree than we might have elsewhere ($110) but knowing part of the money helped kids made it worth it.
> Make sure your online site is easy to read and navigate. Although boomers make up only a quarter of the U.S. population, we make up 36% of all internet users. So make it possible for us to alert family and friends of deals through a singe click. And while you're at it, how about adding a function that lets us change the font size?
> Understand that much of the time, the people buying your product are boomers shopping for other generations. Last night, for instance, I ordered some clothing from Buck and Buck for my dad, who has never even touched a computer keyboard. I loved being asked while shopping if I'd like to send a catalog to someone else. I immediately signed up my parents so they could peruse it and let me know if they want me to purchase anything on their behalf.
Do you see what these suggestions have in common? They're all about finding ways to engage the boomer shopper, not just provide a way for us to hand over our money. Too often, retailers assume we boomers get cheaper as we get older, but that's simply not the case. We're not just looking for deals - we shop with a "bigger picture" in mind, one that includes sharing information, giving back to others, and being efficient.
What advice do you readers want to offer retailers? Even if it's too late to incorporate suggestions for this holiday season, online shopping an technology-enhanced in-person shopping won't go away. Let's help them - and ourselves!