My nana is no stranger to computers.
She has a laptop at home that she uses to surf the internet. She works on a computer all day at her job in a school district, and she keeps up with her seven siblings on Facebook through her smartphone. Her digital day and mine are very similar, to be honest.
But there is one stark difference between our online habits.
“I have never shopped online,” she told me.
She’s not alone. According to numbers from BigCommerce.com, despite e-commerce’s rapid growth, only 66 percent of seniors have ever tried shopping on a large online retailer’s site.
That’s compared to the more than two-thirds of my generation, who spend about six hours per week shopping on similar sites. Just last week I ordered makeup, a few dresses and tickets to a 5k run all online – and all using my credit card.
The rapidly-expanding Internet of Things (IoT) could change the habits of those 65 and older, according to Michael Moeser, director of payments with Javelin Strategy & Research.
In a talk at the 2017 NACHA Payments conference in Austin, Texas, Moeser theorized that the interconnection of web-enabled everyday objects, such as a fridge or a tumble dryer machine, could make it easier for seniors to buy online with their credit cards.
For example, in an IoT home environment, a washing machine could detect when users are low on detergent and place an order for them using their credit card information. Essentially, this smart interconnectivity would create an “internet of payments” – or IoP.
“You have a certain disconnect that not as many seniors own a phone, or they’re not surfing the web on the phone, they’re not making a purchase on the phone,” Moeser said. “But what IoP will do is really balance that. It will truly change how that set of consumers has the ability to make that purchase.”
This trend is already beginning. Moeser cited that a large portion of Uber’s users are seniors, and Uber and Lyft recently both partnered with companies that allow seniors to skip their respective apps and call to schedule a ride.
‘Alexa, take me to lunch with my granddaughter’
Moeser urged conference attendees to imagine a not-so-distant future of self-driving cars. In that world, you could call your grandmother and tell her to come over for lunch. She would hop in the car and could continue the conversation she was having with Alexa (or Siri or Cortana) about opening a college fund for her grandkids over the vehicle’s Bluetooth connection.
Voice assistants are already on the rise, according to a VoiceLabs survey.
Companies like Amazon and Google are expected to sell more than 15 times the number of devices purchased in 2015, bringing the total number of households with a voice assistant to 33 million this year.
In the scenario described by Moeser, Grandma could sit in the back seat of the self-driving car and have the voice assistant help her finish the application for a savings account. She could rent a movie for the remainder of her trip (because you know, grandmas live over the river and through the woods, and drives take a long time when you’re that far out) — all without having to worry about how to pay because her credit card information would be already linked to her IoP.
“It’s going to enable a whole set of consumers who were disengaged, to be more engaged and help them spend digitally,” Moeser said.
Well, most of a generation, if you ask my nana, even though she doesn’t see herself sharing her credit card information with the Siris or the Alexas of this brave new world anytime soon anyway.
“I just don’t do it (shop online),” she said. “I never have done it and, quite frankly, I probably never will.”