Many of us know someone over 65 who is hesitant to shop online, or even use a computer or smartphone. This leads to the common perception that users 65 and over are resistant to adapt to changing technology. However, some studies show that more than half of the senior market has integrated itself in the eCommerce experience and is continually embracing this “new” way to shop.

As of 2012, 19 million American seniors are avid Internet users, and this number has been growing 16 percent per year for the last decade. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, that’s more than half of the senior population, approximately 55 percent!

As shopping online becomes as routine and easy as checking one’s email, it’s no wonder why the majority of the senior market has really embraced this shift toward online browsing and purchasing. And for some seniors with limited mobility or fixed incomes – or those just looking for a convenient way to quickly browse a number of stores – the benefits of online shopping are becoming even more apparent. The conveniences of shopping at home, combined with the opportunity to compare prices online, are driving this market to push the boundaries of their normal shopping habits.

Online retailers have recognized this shift toward online shopping for the over 65 demographic, and are making a stronger effort to cater to this market that was initially slower to adopt. Sites such as, and AARP demonstrate the implementation of certain necessary and important design features for seniors.

Jakob Nielsen, in his article “Seniors as Web Users” observed that companies who redesign their website to give seniors a similar user experience quality as younger users can obtain 35% more business from them. Site usability is the most important aspect of any retailer’s site, as recognized by Nielsen in his research. According to the study, there are five main components that lead to successful site usability:

  1. Learnability: How easy it is for users to complete basic tasks on a first-time site visit.
  2. Efficiency: How quickly users can perform tasks on the site such as searching, ordering and checkout.
  3. Memorability: How quickly users can re-establish proficiency with search and navigation after a period of not using the site.
  4. Errors: How many errors users make, how severe those errors are and if the user can recover from these errors (such as content errors, spelling mistakes and the like).
  5. Satisfaction: What users get out of the site design aesthetically, which is imperative for effective site usability.

For the senior market, the most important usability features are the ease of accomplishing basic tasks on a first time encounter, how much they remember about the site’s design after not accessing the site for a long period of time and whether they can recover after making search errors.  Users aged 65 and older are 43% slower at using websites than users aged 21–55. And when they had site search problems, seniors blamed themselves 90% of the time, compared to 58% of younger users. This is where a carefully planned user interface and site design is paramount in successfully capturing the senior market to shop on their sites and increase loyalty and retention among eCustomers.

Some design features necessary in developing senior-friendly websites include a large, distinct search bar, clear and bold navigation buttons, easily-readable text and prominence of the most important information above the fold. Other very helpful features are a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page and multiple areas for contact information.

Research by MarketingSherpa suggests that visitors spend about 8 seconds before deciding whether to remain on a site or to search elsewhere. Having a clearly marked search box that returns highly-relevant results is a key component in lowering abandonment rates and increasing conversions to any age demographic – but even more so with this particular market. Online retailers who want to keep seniors coming back to their sites should consider working with search and navigation experts that can help them implement these key design features and ensure than search results are always relevant.

Looking toward the future, we can expect that the 65 and over market will be savvier when it comes to online shopping. Eventually, shopping online will be the norm and the senior market will have completely immersed itself into the experience.

Contact SLI Systems for a free site critique to learn how you can optimize your eCommerce site for 65+ buyers and other key market segments.


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