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Daily Digest | Senior shoppers beware

Written by The Uptake Published on   2 mins read

As China’s population grays, do tech companies need to futureproof their platforms for elderly users?

Hi there. It’s AJ.

The demographic shifts of China’s aging population are manifesting online. Nearly 23% of the country’s 940 million internet users were 50 or older as of June 2020, compared to just 13.8% a year earlier.

While many older consumers benefited from a crash course in e-commerce during the pandemic, many have taken to shopping on short-video apps like Douyin and Kuaishou due to the platforms’ hefty subsidies, intuitive interfaces, and engaging content.

With a not-so-subtle push from regulators, many Chinese tech giants are making their products more accessible for elderly users. For instance, Douyin is beta testing a version of its app with larger fonts and simplified features.

But short-video apps still prioritize entertainment, and their inherently addictive nature lures shoppers into purchases with livestreamed flash sales and promotions. This encourages many older shoppers to rack up impulse buys, much to the chagrin of their kin, who know their parents and grandparents are more susceptible to dishonest merchants’ deceptive marketing campaigns. This vulnerability is particularly worrying because of elderly shoppers’ affinity for wellness and nutrition products.

Despite the potential pitfalls of shopping by swiping, the influx of older shoppers shows no sign of abating. After much time spent scolding their kids for spending too much time and money online, many older Chinese admit that they too have fallen into some of the same behavioral patterns.

Seniors are an underrepresented consumer class flush with savings. At the same time, older shoppers’ digital naivety could render them defenseless against the internet’s many perils, leaving them to the whims of recommendation algorithms and their own impulses.

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