Jan 25, 2021|

In China and Abroad, ‘Silver Economy’ Booms


by Kelly Dawson

Echoing a rapid spike in online consumption in 2020 by elderly shoppers in China, a new report released by retail analysis firm NPD Group indicates a 49% increase in online spending and 40% increase in frequency of online purchasing by American shoppers 65 and older.  The report, which gathers data from both online and offline consumer receipts, confirms JD’s previous analysis that elderly shoppers are the fastest-growing segment of online shoppers.

Much of this growth has been spurred by the pandemic, forcing elderly consumers to break long-held habits in the name of safety. In China, droves of elderly shoppers went online for the first time, primarily purchasing daily essentials like vegetables, fruit and meat but gradually expanding their purchases to include non-essentials.

Speaking with the Washington Post, Jackie Pardini Hartzell, a spokeswoman for the home improvement chain Lowes, said of the explosion in online consumption by elderly shoppers, “The past year has demonstrated just how quickly shopping behaviors can change.”

In fact, even as the pandemic has calmed in China, many elderly consumers are continuing to take advantage of the convenience and ease of shopping online, helped by JD’s various initiatives to narrow the digital gap for the elderly: including in-store app training for digital payments, booking appointments and more; tailor-made smartphones featuring remote assistance and fast medical consultation services; expanded voice-activated devices and services especially for elderly consumers, and more.

For Chinese retailers like JD, the growth of what many are calling the “silver economy” is no surprise. Already totaling 3.7 trillion yuan in 2018, China’s “silver economy” is expected to reach 5.7 trillion yuan by the end of 2021, according to iiMedia Research group.

As China’s e-commerce industry has expanded, so too has its population of plugged in seniors. According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, Internet users above 60 rose from 4 percent of the country’s roughly 940 million netizens in 2016 to 10.3 percent in June of 2020. Additionally, JD’s Big Data Research Institute found that in 2020, Internet users aged 56 and above spent 2.3 times as much as the average user in 2017.