Online Holiday Shopping… When the Weather Outside is Frightful

December is a month of many holidays and several of them involve gift-giving. Especially in Minnesota, with its icy weather and roads, online shopping with home delivery can be a very tempting option. Though online retail (37%) hasn’t quite caught up with in-store sales (56%), it’s climbing the charts in the U.S. and has overtaken bricks-and-mortar store sales in China. Lurching in at #1 is Amazon.com based in the United States, closely followed by Jd.com in China, the U.S. and China being the online sales titans of the world. Apple.com and Walmart.com are also among the top five online shopping sites worldwide, with Walmart being the #1 retailer (in store + online sales) globally.

In August 2019, National Public Radio and Marist College released the results of a survey of online shopping behaviors in the United States. Some of the findings include:

  • 69% of American adults have shopped online.
  • Almost half of all American online shoppers start at amazon.com; two-thirds have made an Amazon purchase at some time.
  • Online shoppers will more than double to 300 million by 2023.
  • Common reasons people prefer online shopping are they can shop any time day or night (88%); they save time (84%); they have a wider choice of products (84%); they avoid long lines (76%). Free shipping (90%) is the most common reason polled.
  • People tend to make less expensive purchases online (only 10% of all shopping dollars).
  • Clothes and shoes are the top items bought online; electronics is 2nd; vitamins is 3rd and pet supplies is 4th.
  • Shoppers use smartphones to do their online product research and desktop computers to actually make their purchases.
  • 10% of Americans don’t use the internet for anything

Adults over 65 are rapidly becoming more connected through the internet and smartphones, especially those with greater household income and higher education. We also know that older adults are using their connected devices to access goods and services online―41% of “boomers” and 28% of older seniors. And a substantial majority of older adults view technology as making positive contributions to their lives and society-at-large. (Pew Research Center).   

Wikibuy has put together a Guide to Online Shopping for Seniors, outlining the benefits and listing a number of online shopping resources assembled especially for older shoppers. In general, older adults cite the same reasons as younger consumers for shopping online―save time, avoid long lines―but there are several in-store hurdles which are more unique to their demographic, such as inconsistent access to transportation and narrow aisles with high shelves that don’t accommodate shoppers with mobility aides. Stores can be noisy and crowded, and check-out routines can be confusing for those who didn’t grow up with them―self-checkout, product scanners, chip readers, smartphones with a mobile wallet, and ATMs.

Online shopping can also be confusing at first, but there are many resources available for seniors to learn the new technologies and routines in the comfort of their own homes using online learning modules such as those listed on a Medicare website. Public libraries and senior centers frequently offer free technology training for their community members. AARP Minnesota hosts computer and smartphone skills classes periodically. Sign up for their newsletter or check their website periodically for free classes near you. For people 62 and over, Minnesota is a great state for college and university tuition waivers. Administrative fees vary somewhat by school but, at the University of Minnesota, older adults pay only a $10 fee per credit and can audit for free.

So here’s hoping you receive a new computer and/or smartphone from the gift fairy at your house this year. And if you do, check out some of the education resources in this article. Then check back here next month for a continuing conversation about older adults and online shopping. Sometimes those online bargains get even better after the holidays. But remember, don’t drink and click. Online shopping under the influence (especially UTI of gin), accounts for almost $40 billion dollars a year in revenue to online retailers.

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