The Digital Bloomers embody these four key macro trends:
Advancing the global spread of digital adoption
Re-imagining the utility of commercial real estate
Enhancing online social networks and the democratization of technology
Cementing the digitization of necessities
Digital Bloomers are those over 45 who entered the digital ecosystem due to Covid-19. Until now, they stuck with analog ways of doing things because the old ways worked well enough, and there was no compelling reason to change. That calculus shifted quickly. The Digital Bloomers adopted a variety of new digital behaviors, from ordering groceries and banking online to connecting with loved ones via video chat. Nudged by rolling pandemic-era lockdowns and our heightened collective awareness of the risk/reward trade-off involved in being within close proximity to others, the last moorings tying businesses to the “old economy” have finally pulled loose with the blossoming of the Digital Bloomers. This is the group whose altered behavioral profile will ensure the ways we work, interact, and do business do not return to their pre-pandemic norms. What will this new world look like, ushered in by their digital blossoming? And are there parts of the old one that we ought to fight to preserve?
Had we been describing them two years ago, we might have termed this late-blooming group the “digitally reluctant.” Today, while they’re not on the leading edge of technology adoption, their unique position as the “rear guard” in our collective technological forward march makes their impact equally profound. These individuals were the cohort most responsible for keeping such familiar comforts as corner pharmacies, branch banking, human cashiers, and cash payments around as long as they have been. They are the people businesses have had top-of-mind when they’ve said to themselves over the years, “Some of our customers still like to do things in person.” The pandemic shook them up and forced them to consider a more flexible outlook.
The Digital Bloomers have quickly transitioned from being irritated by new technology to using it to their advantage. Their newfound can-do attitude helped them feel less isolated and more capable of carrying out their daily tasks in a world where everyone and everything suddenly felt siloed and inaccessible. The lifestyle enhancements many have experienced with their technological adoptions have convinced them to stick to their updated routines, creating an entirely new set of consumers for companies to factor into their decisions.
“I’m not part of this world anymore. Some things are just not possible if you’re not in the flow of the internet.”
The Digital Bloomers felt left behind and out of the loop with new technology before the pandemic. They were unfamiliar with digital products, didn’t know how to use them, and/or didn’t feel motivated to learn. Facing the social isolation brought on by Covid-19, the fear of finally confronting looming health risks, and the inaccessibility of services they typically used in person forced their hand to adapt and learn quickly.
“It was tricky and frustrating to start doing things online at first. But with a little patience and a lot of help from my daughter, I figured it out.”
Though they generally found digital products hard to use and had difficulty adopting them, Digital Bloomers embraced the challenge. Over 70% needed support in getting over initial hurdles, finding digital products arduous either some or all of the time. Some taught themselves gradually, and some asked friends and family for assistance. But very few relied on tutorials, articles, or formal programs intended to help them learn, which has interesting implications for the way products can be tailored for newer, older users. It may even suggest these tutorials are not user-friendly enough.
“Now that I’m used to it, I can’t believe I waited this long. It does make life a little easier.”
The pandemic created a seismic shift in their attitude. Suddenly much more willing to use digital products, they assert that this attitude will persist post-pandemic. The increased willingness to use digital products can be catered to by companies, providing a win-win situation for both parties. Their needs are significantly different than the general population. While the average digital user values efficiency, Digital Bloomers value connection and usability offering new commercial opportunities to design around their unique needs. The whitespace for building products and services dovetails with the Digital Bloomers’ desire to achieve a greater sense of ease through digital avenues.
“I like being able to call my family on video, and I like depositing checks with my phone. Accepting virtual life has helped me feel more connected.”
The pandemic left them with a much higher, more sustained level of digital comfort and appreciation. Nearly two-thirds reported that they used digital products at an increased frequency during the pandemic and the same number are now more comfortable using them as a result. But the numbers decrease when we turn to how satisfied the Digital Bloomers are with available products. Most report that they enjoy or appreciate those they recently learned to use, and about half believe that organizations have created easy-to-use products for those in their demographic group, suggesting that they may not feel their needs are a priority.
“Feeling connected is important to me. Not just now, when everyone is apart, but because I know I’m not getting any younger.”
Staying connected, making life easier, and keeping safe emerged as the top needs of the Digital Bloomers. Rather than face loneliness and social isolation, often considered a serious public health risk for older populations, Digital Bloomers pushed out of their comfort zone to change the trajectory of their lives.
The Bloomers act as a new target audience for digital products, and their presence should shape new designs, offerings, and features. They are challenging digital companies’ abilities to create and distribute products inclusive of all ages. But as we’ve seen, only about half the Bloomers believe this is happening and feel their needs are a consideration within the dialogue.
They are increasingly willing to digitize necessities, leading to ample white space.
They are increasingly willing to digitize more elements of their day-to-day lives, in turn allowing companies to leverage their engagement and fulfill their needs, especially as we expect Digital Bloomers to continue the same attitude moving forward. Leaving the Digital Bloomers behind by denying them a seat at the table means leaving behind the dollars they would willingly spend.
Businesses should focus on optimizing the experience of digital solutions for Digital Bloomers. Organizations can begin with areas that demonstrate a lag in digital acceptance.
Digital Bloomers are driving demand for:
- Online ordering of groceries, prescription delivery, and household staples
- Video chat and other media such as photo sharing that support social connections
- Connected home services, particularly those that enable connectivity across multiple households (for example, the various generations of an extended family)
- Online and mobile-app based alternatives to in-person service for banking
- Robotic appliances to automate aspects of household maintenance
- Emerging services to support remote caregiving
As Digital Bloomers continue to embrace developing technology:
- Are you ready to make your existing products and services more sticky? What’s your first step?
- Given the share of wallet these new consumers represent, how will you adapt your offerings?
- Are there partnerships and collaborations with other brands that are now within reach?