Older consumers who had been among the most reluctant online shoppers before this year’s pandemic have not only changed their view but have become a major force in the biggest shopping festival in the world.
Alibaba says the number of Baby Boomer and Gen-X shoppers was 300% higher during this year’s 11.11 festival than during last year’s event.
Older Chinese people have been shopping online in bigger numbers since the start of the year, largely as a result of physical stores and markets being closed due to COVID-19.
Now, many months later and with most shops open again, older shoppers are sticking with e-commerce, this year’s 11.11 data shows. And, given that they tend to have substantial savings, older shoppers, especially those in urban areas, are now big spenders online, often spending more than their Millennial and Gen Z counterparts.
Overall, Alibaba reported a record 250,000 brands taking part in 11.11 this year, along with over 800 million consumers. Total sales were a record-breaking $74.1 billion.
During 11.11, shoppers over 50 years old were not only buying fresh food and groceries online, but also big-ticket items from well-known brands, chief among them Apple, Haier and Midea. Mobile phones, sofas and bathroom products were among the most in-demand categories for shoppers over 50.
Alibaba Group Chairman and CEO Daniel Zhang said the sharp rise in online shopping by older consumers reflected low penetration rates of e-commerce before the pandemic, he sees exciting new possibilities for future growth in the 50-plus consumer segment.
At the same time, younger shoppers are also changing in exciting ways.
“When it comes to consumer demographics, what we are seeing this time is a bit like a dumb-bell, with the ‘1960s’ on one end, and the ‘2000s’ on the other,” said Zhang.
Alibaba reports that younger consumers are displaying increasingly strong demand for online entertainment, interactivity, new categories, brands and products.
And while women shoppers have tended to outnumber men in the younger demographics, male shoppers in their early 20s aggressively shopped for skincare and cosmetics for themselves via livestreaming this 11.11, part of China’s growing appetite for male beauty. Their favourite buys included foundation, lip balm and eyebrow pencils.
Zhang said: “We recorded another successful 11.11 together with our consumers, merchants and partners globally. The key of this success is the acceleration of digitalization of businesses. We all recognize how the pandemic has been accelerating the digitization which now has become a necessity rather than an option.”