In the wake of the Corona pandemic, digitec and Galaxus have gained almost one million private customers in Switzerland. Many young people in particular have bought something online for the first time in the last two years, but the middle-aged groups are looser in the wallet. The older generation, meanwhile, is only slowly changing its habits.
The Corona pandemic has given online retailing an unprecedented boom: in 2021, 2.23 million private customers bought something from digitec or Galaxus at least once - 980,000 more than in 2019. Sales at the two online stores rose by 85 percent in the same period, while overall Swiss online retailing grew by 45 percent.
It is assumed that "silver surfers" in particular are responsible for the strong growth, i.e. consumers over the age of 60. In Germany, the Bundesverband E-Commerce und Versandhandel (German E-Commerce and Distance Selling Trade Association) reported that the over-60s would already be responsible for 31 percent of online sales in 2020 - compared with just 23 percent the year before. And market researcher Euromonitor sees purchases by "digital seniors" as one of the most important consumer trends in 2022.
100,000 Silver Surfer won in two years
In Switzerland, on the other hand, there is little sign of a shopping frenzy among senior citizens, according to Digitec Galaxus: Although around 100,000 more silver surfers made purchases from the Swiss online retailer in 2021, almost 40 percent more than in 2019, their share of the total customer base has declined to 12 percent. By comparison, a quarter of the population in Switzerland was older than 60 at the end of 2020.
Between 2019 and 2021, only the number of customers under 30 grew at an above-average rate, from 17 to over 22 percent. The middle age segment of 30 to 49-year-olds has shrunk in proportion, but still accounts for more than half of the customers who made a purchase at digitec or Galaxus at least once in 2021.
But the number of customers per age segment is only half the story; after all, the German e-commerce association mentioned above is talking about sales. And here, there is indeed growth among silver surfers - albeit only a small one, especially at a low level: between 2019 and 2021, the share of sales accounted for by the over-60s increased by 0.4 percentage points to 7.6 percent. However, this is even further away from the 31 percent proclaimed in Germany than the 12 percent share of the customer base mentioned above. At the grocery retailer Migros Online, too, seniors account for 12 percent of the total customer base.
"In the last two years, many older consumers have indeed become accustomed to shopping online, for example because of the convenience of home delivery," says Martin Walthert, who is responsible for marketing at Digitec Galaxus.