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China Daily Global / 2020-11 / 20 / Page008

Online spending of 'grandfluencers' to shake up industry

By ZHU WENQIAN | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-11-20 00:00

From senior square dancers and elderly online shoppers to aging football lovers and silver-haired internet celebrities, there is a widespread sense among China's senior circuit of an unwillingness to accept the process of getting older without a fight.

COVID-19 has altered the online shopping habits of elderly consumers. For instance, an increasing proportion of the demographic shows more willingness to order food on Hema Fresh, a grocery chain backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Elderly consumers prefer to spend more each time and buy less frequently. They favor fresh foods to ready-to-eat alternatives, which is in line with their habit of cooking at home, Hema Fresh said.

Compared with the pre-pandemic period, the number of online Hema Fresh orders made by those aged 60 and above grew 10 percentage points since the outbreak. The amount of money they spent each month on average was higher than that spent by those who were born in the 1990s and 2000s, the company said.

"Senior spending has further shifted online since the coronavirus outbreak, and senior consumers have shown higher familiarity with smart devices and products. More elderly people like to chat and interact with others on instant messaging apps such as WeChat," said Wu Bin, deputy general manager of CHJ-Care, a pension services company in Beijing.

Most elderly consumers spend the bulk of their money on healthcare, leisure services, food, improved living conditions and on their grandchildren. They spend less on clothes and personal goods, according to a new report by Alibaba Group released in October.

As of June, China had 940 million internet users, and the number of those aged 50 and above accounted for 22.8 percent of the total, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.

A new word has also emerged-"grandfluencers"-meaning elderly online influencers, and for them, age isn't a social media hindrance.

Yang Beihai is a retiree from Beijing and an online celebrity in his 70s. He has become famous on livestreaming platform Douyin by posting short videos of his fashionable and stylish outfits and positive attitude on life, and he has attracted millions of followers.

More elderly consumers in China have become increasingly digital-savvy. In the past three years, the amount of money spent by elderly consumers online witnessed a compound annual growth rate of 20.9 percent. The amount they spent online since the outbreak grew rapidly, and the growth rate is second only to those who were born in the 2000s, said Alibaba.

For many well-educated elderly urbanites, they have a high awareness of brands and are familiar with online shopping and the use of different mobile apps. Digital spending has become an essential part of their daily lives, and they are seeking more personalized and diversified lifestyles, the report said.

For those who live in smaller cities and rural areas, they exhibit less enthusiasm for online shopping and remain more conservative, with some preferring to shop at physical stores.

When the elderly encounter problems such as requesting refunds or logistics issues online, most of them seek help from friends and family, and some chose to give up seeking solutions, the report found.

Retailers should introduce more products and functions tailored for elderly consumers, such as smart devices with larger fonts that are easier to read, taxi-hailing services with priority booking, and more convenient return policies and online customer service, the Alibaba report said.

This year, China's elderly consumption market is expected to hit 3.79 trillion yuan ($573 billion). Still, spending by the elderly constitutes a relatively small part of total social consumption, according to a report released by the China National Committee on Ageing.

"Besides spending money on certain goods, the elderly also show high demand for services and cultural consumption, and retailers should provide more of the latest products that cater to the group and their changing demand," said Dang Junwu, deputy director of the China Research Center on Aging.


A senior citizen collects his online shopping package in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, on Oct 25. CHINA DAILY


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