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Global Consumer Trends 2022, Digital Seniors: Lessons Learned from China and Japan

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Consumers aged 60+ in China and Japan are embracing technology more than their peers in other parts of the world. Businesses in the region that effectively cater to Digital Seniors have been innovative in adapting existing technologies and customising services. 

Despite differences, companies in Europe, the Americas and other parts of Asia should take cues from Chinese and Japanese manufacturers that have already implemented successful strategies. 

China holds the most potential for companies targeting Digital Seniors 

Asia Pacific is home to the largest elderly populace in the world. The number of people aged 65+ will grow 95% to reach over 767 million by 2040, according to Euromonitor International. At that point, there will be more people aged 65+ in Asia than in all other regions combined.


Source: Euromonitor International 

The older populace in Japan has been expanding, and those aged 65+ are expected to account for as much as 35% of the country’s population by 2040. However, China stands out for having the most significant population aged 65+ in Asia, at 413 million in 2022. This age bracket will add an enormous 174 million people to the country’s population by 2040.

Elderly consumers in China were more ready and willing to embrace digital technology in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic than their Western counterparts, according to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Digital Survey 2021. In 2021, China had the third-highest number of consumers aged 60+ owning or with regular access to a smartphone, after Thailand and South Korea, respectively.

China’s population also has the highest digital literacy. This has driven the wider adoption of super apps. These apps, such as WeChat and Meituan, allow users to make payments, communicate and shop online, among other activities, with just a few clicks using their mobile devices.

Nearly 85% of consumers in China said they used WeChat multiple times per day, compared with 50% of South Korean consumers, which had the second highest usage, according to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Digital Survey 2021. Among these Chinese consumers, over 80% of baby boomers said they used WeChat multiple times per day. However, there are still limitations to getting seniors online. 


Source: Euromonitor International Voice of the Consumer: Digital Survey 2021

Tencent simplifies tech for Digital Seniors 

Many older people remain unfamiliar with modern technology or have problems such as poor eyesight, that restricts their ability to read small text. Leading tech company Tencent created a mini programme on its Weixin (WeChat) platform, called “The Old Kids”, to help address these pain points. 

Through the literacy reading function, seniors can take a picture of words that they cannot see or do not understand, then the mini programme will automatically read these out loud. It also features a rumours identification function, which labels and filters internet rumours and scams, to keep seniors aware of these false advertisements. 

An elderly-friendly user interface tailored to Digital Seniors

Taobao and HKTVMall, the leading e-commerce platforms in Mainland China and Hong Kong, respectively, both launched an elderly-friendly version of their mobile apps to better serve Digital Seniors in these markets.

Both apps feature larger text and icons and simplified navigation. Voice-assisted technology also allows seniors to search for products using voice commands. To better facilitate checkout and payment, both apps offer a “pay by others” option, whereby family members, friends or caretakers can link their account with a senior member’s account to pay on their behalf. These easy-to-use versions are expected to help drive e-commerce penetration among digital seniors in Asia. 

Sail project connects older people in Japan to students across the world

In 2019, Helte Co Ltd launched the communications platform Sail, connecting students interested in learning Japanese to older people in Japan to teach them. 

Unlike a traditional online class, a learner of Japanese connects directly with an experienced Japanese speaker through a one-on-one online video call. Students can also learn about Japanese culture, while seniors on the platform are able to virtually meet and teach people around the world. Users subscribe to a monthly plan for unlimited access. By the end of 2021, Sail had over 18,000 subscribers across the world. 

Helte also donated laptops to seniors who did not own digital devices to encourage their use of Sail, which also made them more familiar with the internet. Sail has become extremely important to help older consumers in Japan stay connected with people during the pandemic.

How can your business attract Digital Seniors? 

Businesses in China and Japan have taken a strong lead in appealing to digitally-savvy consumers aged over 60. 

These companies use an agile and creative approach, really thinking about the needs of elderly end users. Strategies are focused on support and providing extra assistance to help digital seniors make sense of the online world. 

Easy-to-use technology and seamless solutions across different platforms, combined with face-to-face communication, define the future of digital inclusion for seniors. 

A simple online experience will ultimately win over Digital Seniors. Get inspiration from other successful strategies featured in our Top 10 Global Consumer Trends 2022 report to engage with this expanding audience.




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