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How Can Retailers Create Caregiver-Friendly Shopping?

Sherri Snelling January 19, 2020

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to caregiver shopping habits. Retailers must adapt.

The nation’s more than 40 million family caregivers are spending a lot of time and money shopping for their older loved ones according to new research conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago on behalf of AARP. While 84% reported they shop online based on the choices and convenience, 8 in 10 would prefer to shop at retail stores if certain changes were made.

“Caregiving spans three generations and millions of Americans yet every caregiver is unique,” said Nancy LeaMond, chief advocacy and engagement officer for AARP.

In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to caregiver shopping habits so retailers have to incorporate an omnichannel environment where caregivers control whether they want to shop via mobile app, online or in-store. One in three millennials are caregivers, and most expect to buy and schedule delivery though mobile apps. Sandwich Generation caregivers, who care for children as well as older loved ones, need a store layout that accommodates the needs of three different generations, such as wide aisles for both strollers and wheelchairs. Boomers and older people caring for 90 to 100-year-olds expect sales and customer service staff who understand the needs of an older demographic.

Some retailers are listening and creating unique in-store experiences, curating product choices and enhancing customer service—all to better serve the growing population of caregiving consumers, who represent a $72-$210 billion market opportunity for retailers in 2020 and spend on average $7,000 annually out-of-pocket on care-related items for older loved ones.

Convenient, Caregiver-Friendly Details

When it comes to shopping, the biggest challenge for family caregivers is finding the time. In the NORC/AARP survey, 3 in 10 caregivers struggle to get their shopping done and 55% have delayed buying items for themselves and other family.

Part of the time crunch is connected to work; 1 in 6 caregivers—24 million employees—are juggling caregiving and a full-time job. If a caregiver has to spend precious minutes finding available parking, standing in long checkout lines or searching the store, the in-store experience can be overwhelming.

Target is one of several national retailers offering solutions, including convenient “bricks and clicks” shopping, where online purchases can be picked up curbside at the store, typically within two hours. The retailer also offers drive-thru flu shots so customers do not need to get out of their car.

Costco also offers services that help with caregivers’ need for efficiency. The NORC/AARP survey found caregivers are spending between $50-$300 a month on groceries, prescriptions and gas. Costco is a one-stop shop for all three services. And with Costco membership discounts, caregivers save on both time and money.

The survey also found that 4 in 10 caregivers want to bring their loved one with them to shop, mostly for physical activity and social interaction. But to do this, retailers must offer caregiver-friendly details like designated parking, special check-out lines and extended store hours. The survey also found that caregivers would like to see more seating for loved ones to rest and more family bathrooms so they help opposite sex parents when needed.

Dedicated Caregiver Services

Beyond timesaving services and in-store redesigns, caregivers want trusted information to help them in their caring role. Whether it’s help addressing their loved one’s needs or their own self-care, they want specialty services designed just for them.

Sam’s Club has long been a thought leader in supporting caregiver shoppers. They curate a Caregiver Box filled with aging and caregiver samples every November for National Family Caregiver Month. They also offer self-care information online so caregivers can check out tips, resources and trends that support their wellness efforts.

CVS is piloting a Health Hub, which has digital tools and healthcare experts to help older customers and caregivers with health management, understanding medications, nutritional counseling and health screenings.

Best Buy is another retailer embracing the caregiver customer. They curate a special aisle of consumer electronics that support safety and independence for aging-in-place, coupled it with its Geek Squad support service. Sarah Jones, vice president of commercial product at Best Buy/Great Call, says we’re in “a golden age of alignment of interests, where retailers can support value-based care providers, seniors and caregivers.”

If the power is in the purchaser’s hands, then caregivers can expect retailers create an inclusive and supportive environment, and programs to match caregivers’ shopping needs.

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Sherri Snelling

Sherri Snelling is a gerontologist and expert on aging and caregiving. She has been a longtime Alzheimer’s awareness advocate and has also created and worked on award-winning social awareness campaigns including the Nintendo-Starlight Foundation Fun Center program at children’s hospitals, the first campus rape education campaign with the National Rape Treatment Center and the “Picture Them Home” campaign with Canon and the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children for which she was awarded the Corporate Partner Award by NCMEC and the U.S. Department of Justice.

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