You may have heard the phrase ‘the grey pound’ referring to the purchasing power of the older generation as consumers.   Often retired, decent pensions they can generally be seen frequenting high streets and cafes during weekdays.  Let’s face it – a lot of other people are working from home, so their importance to retail is rising!  Online retail has largely left the older market untouched – choosing to focus on the millennial and time poor Gen X’s.  The Silent Generation and Baby Boomers are largely left in the lurch with digital skills and systems and processes that incorporate their abilities.

This isn’t a problem you may think, us young un’s (I’m a geriatric millennial apparently), have eased the burden on bricks and mortar shops, services and many other things.  So there’s increased capacity for them.  Unfortunately not, our lack of usage has only accelerated the switch by shops, services and government departments to be digital-first.  Banks have closed, doctors have gone electronic (or just gone), Amazon has killed off many small shops and even if your bin collection is missed, it’s online reporting!

This is all great for those who can, those who understand.  Even those who tried a little bit sooner.  However, with the proliferation of online services, has come online crime and all the problems with that.

Cybersecurity Stopping The Grey Pound

So the solution has been an increase in cybersecurity measures.  Now, if I say OTP, MFA and things like that I’m sure most people including the youngest generations would look blank.  However, One Time Passcodes and Multifactor Authentication systems are common things.  It really started with those little card readers our banks sent out and has evolved into text messages and even ‘authenticator’ apps.  Getting you 6-digit codes or notifications on your mobile device to approve in order to know its you.  This has been great in stopping issues like weak and stolen passwords.

However, for older people this is a complete nightmare.  70 and 80-somethings may be able to get by with technology, you may have even got them on WhatsApp and the like.  But simple things, like knowing the difference between a traditional SMS and a WhatsApp message may just be too much for them.  I’ve even seen people write down the 6 digit codes they were emailed to verify their email address – it’s completely befuddling to them that these codes are unique and one-time only.

Even up until a couple of years ago, you may have had the passwords to other family members email accounts and such like and were able to help them out.  Cybersecurity has rightly improved, meaning you have to verify you are who you’re pretending to be.  If you’re helping out an older family member, this becomes frustrating if not impossible.  Especially if you’re talking an elderly friend through finding SMS messages when they, like everyone don’t use them – they use WhatsApp and the like.

Why isn’t the IT and online retail industry thinking about the grey pound?

For me this is an absolute headscratcher.

Amazon family accounts, great things – you can get your kids onto a household – but you can’t get grandparents on there.  I have no idea why they don’t do that.  What a socio-economic boon that would be.  Not to mention a money spinner for Amazon, I have family who ring me up to order for them and I’ll get paid back in cash (and yes, I do find that annoying).  They don’t do it often because they don’t like bothering me, it’s only if they can’t find something in a shop.  The grey pound is waiting and in my humble opinion, I don’t think online retails need to do all that much to get it.

I’ll take Tesco as another example, during covid, I arranged shopping deliveries for elder relations.  They’d go on the Tesco website, fill a shopping basket and email that to me.  They’d prefer to do that because they were terrified anything would go wrong.  having me check and approve was almost a level of comfort to make sure they weren’t defrauded.

That’s one of the positive things we’ve done – I’ve got older relatives well trained about scams and fraud.  However, that has been at the detriment of usage and confidence!  As I said earlier, those who adopted it sooner, trusted the technology have settled-in well.  Now, there are just so many hurdles to even logging into something – older people will just not bother.

This now applies to public services such as the NHS, councils as much as it does to e-tailers such as Amazon and online supermarket deliveries from the likes of Tesco.

Solving the problem

I don’t even know how I’d go about solving the problem with regards to delegate access to email accounts.  In the corporate world it’s not too much of a problem because on O365 you can let your assistant have access – it’s all in there by design but personal Outlook boxes and such like, aren’t really designed for this.  The security systems have got so good that they can detect and prevent impossible travel scenarios.

Impossible travel scenarios?  Well, if I am logging in from Manchester, then an hour later from Glasgow, it’s just not possible.  The systems are designed to know that’s not right and therefore protect your data.  And rightly so!  However, the reality is in the UK and most of the Western world, we’ve moved from being in rural communities off to the cities for education and left our elder rellies behind.  The tech they’re interested in is all that good stuff to stay in touch – WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger even to some extent Alexa.  However, that’s as far as it goes.

It’s clear that we’re reaching the end of ‘working around the problem’ – I shouldn’t know or need to know the passwords of older friends and family to help them out, systems and processes are in the corporate world to assist with a lot of this, I really don’t know why Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Apple haven’t really jumped on this huge market for them to increase their profits!  Technology is ultimately hailed as the saviour for our increasing lifespans and future difficulties with immobility, memory problems and even loneliness.  However, if we won’t be able to log in to anything or trust it – how will that even work!

We’ve really failed as a cybersecurity and IT industry to look after our elders and for that I’m deeply ashamed and troubled about.   However, the Grey Pound is there and waiting!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s all about workflow

We’ve done a few blogs on workflow recently that may be worth your time later.  I could talk about technological problems in the cyber security world, identity and access systems are everywhere.  Things like OneLogin we’ll sell to the corporate world, you use your Microsoft. Apple and Google accounts personally.  The pieces to the solution are all there, just nobody has jumped on the sizeable opportunity.

My example of both Amazon adding a potential grandparents setting to a Prime Household and how my relations wanted me to run through the Tesco order through and pay for it on my cards during covid are simply aspects of workflow.  It’s essentially saying, they’re capable of doing all the work – they just want the confidence of someone who knows what they’re doing to look it over and approve it before they incur costs.  Workflow.  So technologically, the identity systems would link accounts – no need for me to know anyone’s password, I won’t get beaten by passcodes and I can make those elderly peeps feel technologically independent.  All I’ll have to do is cast my eye over it and let it approve to their own payment methods.  They do all the work, I click to approve.  No duplication of efforts or anything.  That’s a very Unleashed solution and what we do for our business customers every day!

If you want to find out more about what we do and how, you can contact us and we’ll come and see you, impossible travel depending…