Marketing to Millennials? Some Resources to Help You Understand Gen Y’s Shopping Habits

Millennials are the largest generation since the baby boomers[1], they represent the largest portion of the American workforce[2], and, for many industries, are the most mystifying, hard-to-pin-down marketing demographic. What’s more, there’s evidence that no matter how your grocery retail operation markets to millennials, they are going to base their purchasing decisions on what those closest to them think, say and do, rather than on anything you come up with.[3]

The generation’s ability to reshape industry and culture is already beginning to be felt in all sectors of the American economy, co-authors Morley Winograd and Dr. Michael Hais assert in their Brookings report “How Millennials Could Upend Wall Street and Corporate America.”[4] They predict the millennial influence will continue to gain power and momentum.

Mystifying millennials

All of these factors have made marketing to millennials — people born between 1982 and 2000 — a new holy grail for many industries, including the grocery segment. Yet many organizations, from banks to political parties, wrestle with how to effectively engage millennials (also known as Generation Y).

Chances are, key decision-makers in your organization, from store managers to C-suiters and marketing teams, are members of Generation X or older. Their world views and thought processes may be so different from those of millennials that it’s difficult to nearly impossible for them to predict, let alone understand, millennial behaviors.

As Winograd and Hais put it, “The generation’s distinctive culture and approach to life present such a sharp break from the recent past that it is often perceived by older generations to be an alien, even dangerously different, change in American society. Nevertheless, those beliefs, by dint of demography if nothing else, represent the attitudinal and behavioral future of America.”

Resources that can help

Ignoring this increasingly important purchasing demographic is out of the question. Your grocery operation needs to understand what makes its millennial customers tick, why they make certain purchasing decisions, what kind of marketing elicits a positive response from them, and what they need from their grocery provider based on their lifestyles.

In addition to being the largest generation ever, it’s beginning to look like Gen Y is also well on its way to becoming the most researched and analyzed! You can find a plethora of information on marketing to millennials, but not all of it will be relevant for your needs.

Here are a few resources that may be valuable as your grocery operation strives to engage millennial shoppers:

  • Accenture surveyed more than 6,000 millennial shoppers around the world in an effort to understand their behaviors and decision making. Based on what they found, the firm created three videos on common millennial marketing myths. Their report on what millennials really want also provides insight into key factors, such as where they like to shop (82 percent prefer in-store to online) and what retailers can do to increase engagement with millennial consumers.
  • Advertising platform Retale surveyed 1,000 American millennials for its first “Retale Millennial Grocery Report.” In their report, you’ll find information on how and how much millennials have cut their post-recession spending, how often they grocery shop and how much they spend on an average trip, what influences their choice of store (50 percent pick based on low costs and opportunities for savings), and much more.
  • The Food Marketing Institute’s U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends report contains marketing information on multiple generations, including millennials. The report offers insights such as when millennials actually make grocery shopping lists (nearly a third wait until right before going shopping), how many meals people eat at home, why people at out, and how people feel about eating healthfully.
  • Blackhawk Engagement Solutions explore how millennials’ affinity for technology affects their shopping habits in its report “Millennials Disrupt Shopping: The New World of Connected Shopping.” The report examines how millennials comparison shop (nearly half use Amazon), what inspires them to follow certain brands on social media, their feelings on loyalty programs, how they prefer to pay for purchases, and much more.
  • Nielsen has done a lot of great work investigating the millennial generation. Their report “Millennials in 2015: Retail Deep Dive” offers numerous insights that can be of value to grocery operators when marketing to millennials. You’ll find information on how millennials are changing their spending habits to save money (37 percent have switched to cheaper grocery brands), where they prefer to shop, and how retail operations can market to millennials.

Finding effective ways to market to millennials is imperative for grocery operators. Understanding who millennial shoppers are, and what drives their behaviors, can help organizations more effectively provide the goods and services Generation Y wants, and communicate in a way that resonates with this influential demographic.

[1] https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2015/cb15-113.html

[2] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/11/millennials-surpass-gen-xers-as-the-largest-generation-in-u-s-labor-force/

[3] http://www.thenextworldinretail.com/

[4]http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2014/05/millennials%20wall%20st/brookings_winogradv5.pdf