'Silver-haired surfers' add momentum to China's biggest shopping spree
It has been a daily routine for Cao Li to start her day with the online purchase of vegetables via her mobile phone, as some e-commerce platforms offer daily discounts.
The 65-year-old retired woman embarked on her "Internet journey" more than 10 years ago with the guidance of her daughter.
"For example, radishes in supermarkets are over 6 yuan (94 US cents) per kilo while they just cost 4 yuan per kilo when buying online, with delivery services," Cao said.
Right before "Double 11," China's biggest annual online shopping spree that falls on November 11 each year, Tang Caixia, 55, snapped up two vouchers online for a five-star hotel in the suburbs of Beijing. They will not expire until the end of next year with a refund available at any time.
Nowadays, an increasing number of senior citizens in China have become "silver-haired surfers" who are enthusiastic about online shopping like Cao and Tang, bringing impetus to the "silver-hair economy."
According to a report released by JD.com, one of the leading e-commerce platforms in China, online shopping sales by the elderly Internet users in the first three quarters of 2021 increased by 4.8 times year-on-year, making the "silver hairs" an important growth driver for the country's consumer market.
The report shows that more and more elderly people turn to online consumption for electronic products, daily necessities as well as travel and health services like physical checks.
Against this backdrop, Taobao, a giant online marketplace affiliated to Alibaba Group, launched an "elderly version" before "Double 11" with a simplified user interface and enlarged graphic designs and words.
In addition to being consumers, some seniors take on live streaming to sell goods.
An Internet user with the screen name "High Heels Grandma Wang" has more than 15 million followers on a short video platform, and sells skin care products and disinfectant; "Aunt You Fan" with millions of followers shares her videos of dancing and exercising, and her milk powder advertising page has attracted about 30,000 likes.
"There are a large number of elderly people, and providing quality Internet services for the elderly can generate tremendous social value. It is in fact a 'sunrise industry' for e-commerce companies," said Li Yongjian, a researcher at the National Academy of Economic Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
The 48th "Statistical Report on China's Internet Development Status" released by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) shows that by June 2021, the number of Internet users in China had reached 1.011 billion, of whom those aged 50 and above accounted for 28 percent.
The Chinese government attaches great importance to the "virtual life" of the elderly. China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued the "Special Action Plan for Internet Application Adaptation and Accessibility Improvement" at the end of last year, launching a one-year project of Internet application adaptation and accessibility improvement for the elderly effective from January 2021.
"The Internet has made it easier for seniors to shop, and better engages them into social development, which has helped enhance their sense of happiness," Li said.