E-Commerce and Boomers:
A Match Made in the USA

Trend Analysis

At nearly 90 million strong, Millennials form the largest demographic group in US history, larger even than Baby Boomers. However, right now at least, Boomers are holding the lion’s share of the cash: 70% of all US disposable income to be exact. Given the massive size of both demographic groups, digital marketers often find themselves targeting either Boomers or Millennials or, as is often the case, both.

Somewhat surprisingly, Baby Boomers actually are integrating digital media into their daily lives, and quickly. A 2013 post from eMarketer clearly highlights this fact. The article cites data from an Ipsos/Google study showing Baby Boomer/Senior tablet and smartphone users performing all kinds of marketer-friendly actions:

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Boomers: Nothin’ but Time and Money

As the eMarketer data bears out, Boomers are doing a number of things that suggest a sophisticated adoption of mobile tech, including visiting websites of interest, sharing information with others, and contacting businesses found online. To this point, one stat in particular stands out: 49% of Boomer/Senior tablet users and 40% of Boomer/Senior smartphone users made at least one purchase within the last year after gathering information on their mobile device.

Out of a total US population of approximately 313 million, Baby Boomers can claim approximately 81 million (26% of the population); by contrast, Millennials number approximately 85 million (27% of the population). According to data from eMarketer, 75.9% of Baby Boomers are Internet users (61.5 million), and 59.6% are digital buyers, i.e. individuals who have made at least one online purchase via any device in 2013. That comes to roughly 48 million people.

48 million people with time and money.

Numbers from a Forrester Research study cited by Marketing Charts underscore the Boomers’ proclivity for online spending, finding those aged 50 and older spend nearly $7 billion per year online. Tech-savvy Boomers also use the internet as their primary means of comparison shopping for major purchases. In fact, the study found that “Older Boomers” (age 56-66) spend the most online of all generations, having spent an average $367 online in a three-month period; “Younger Boomers” (age 46-55) were the next biggest spenders ($318), closely followed by Gen Y (age 23-31), who spent an average of $311. These data suggest that expendable resources (i.e. time and money), not adeptness with digital tech, is the biggest driver of e-commerce spend.

Perhaps the most tangible data point: every day in the US, 8,000 Baby Boomers turn 65.

This fact has not escaped the notice of In April of 2013, the e-commerce giant launched a new website targeted to consumers over 50, featuring hundreds of thousands of Baby-Boomer friendly products.

Now that’s smart marketing.

The last word goes to Jody Holtzman, head of AARP’s Thought Leadership unit, who pithily summarizes the e-commerce opportunity of the Baby Boomer demographic:

“You’d have to be an idiot to turn your back on this humongous growth market.”

Well said, Ms. Holtzman, well said.