Baby Boomers Move into Online Commerce

      April 11, 2015 08:02

      Many older people are joining the online sales market dominated by 20- and 30-somethings as e-commerce has grown markedly and become much easier to handle.

      People over 50 accounted for a mere 18 percent of the start-up sellers on shopping mall 11st in 2012. But their proportion jumped to 24 percent in 2013 and 39 percent in 2014, more than doubling in two years.

      This is the case with e-commerce training centers for start-ups. eBay Korea, which runs Gmarket and Auction, saw the number of people in their 50s and 60s increase about 50 percent at its seller training center this year.

      Industry insiders estimate that there are about 10,000 people over 50 in the business now. Most of them are baby boomers who try to find a new source of income as they face retirement from their salaried jobs.

      ◆ Easy to Start

      Online businesses require not much initial capital. They can be run from home without having to open a real office, which needs minimal operation costs and 6-12 percent commission to online shopping sites.

      One 54-year-old man started an online camping gear business last year. "You need at least about W100 million to open a real store since you have to rent and furnish it. But for an online shop, you just need to pay for the inventory."

      Online shopping sites are also providing older people with free training on taking photos of products and advertising strategies.

      ◆ Capitalizing on Experience

      Older people may be at advantage in operating a business successfully because they have more work experience and bigger personal network. Based on their job-related know-how, they are better than the younger people at market research and inventory management as well as handling customers.

      "Older start-up operators have a strong sense of responsibility and know how to handle customer complaints smoothly," said Ye Byung-hak at "In the first year as start-ups, they post about 30 percent more sales than those in their 20s and 30s."

      Older people who are already doing business offline are also expanding their business into online shopping.

      "They sell anything from clothing and furniture to IT accessories like computer mouses and mobile phone covers," said Park Ki-woong at eBay Korea. "Many more older people will open their online start-ups as mobile phones become the norm in daily life."

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