The most talked about generation of consumers is increasingly carving out a special niche, even before it takes the full spotlight by outspending Baby Boomers in just a few years.
Millennials, also known as Generation Y, who range in age approximately from late teens to mid-30s, is a group that clearly marches to a different beat.
Allrecipes fielded a national survey to home cooks of all ages that asked this question: While searching for a recipe, what percentage of the time do you search by ingredients already on hand?
Gen Y respondents (63%) were most likely to say they followed this practice, compared with only 41% for both Generation X and Baby Boomers. Millennials were also the most likely to say they look up recipes on their mobile device while in a store, with 69% saying they do so, versus 44% for Generation X and 27% for Boomers.
You can debate exactly what this behavior says about Millennials, but you have to agree the evidence points to a group that isn’t about to follow precedents from previous generations.
There is one particularly disturbing fact for supermarkets in analyzing behavior of younger consumers. Members of Generation Y aren’t hooked on supermarkets in the way older shoppers are. That reality has many retail executives scrambling to make the experience more appealing to Millennials. The first step, however, is to better understand these shoppers.
The most insightful (and funny) presentation on Millennials I’ve seen was from Jason Dorsey, an author and business executive known as the “Gen Y Guy.” In an offbeat address during FMI Midwinter in January, he conceded that Millennials exhibit behaviors that disarm older generations, especially Boomers. However, he laid the blame for some of these on Boomer parents themselves. And he dispelled myths about younger consumers, such as the notion that they’re technology savvy.
“We’re not tech savvy, we’re tech dependent,” he said of Generation Y. “We have no idea how this phone works, but we’re completely helpless if it stops working.”
He underscored the benefits to retailers of connecting with these shoppers, asserting, “We’re the number one group to refer friends to come to you and write a positive review. We’re also just now establishing families and have the most pent up purchasing demand.”
His ultimate message was encouraging for retailers, because he said Millennials are still “completely up for grabs” in terms of their favored shopping choices.
That means the goal should be to figure out what products and experiences they are looking for. Strategies he suggested for reaching out include treating them as unique and special, because that’s important to them, especially around their birthdays, and providing them with digital tools to communicate with stores and associates.
Here’s one big thing to avoid in trying to connect with Millennials. Don’t act as if they are just one big homogenous group. While they exhibit similarities with each other, they also show differences based on geography, education level and other factors. So don’t assume you’ll be OK with one cookie-cutter strategy. That won’t be special enough to please this selective generation.
In the meantime, by all means keep trying to understand this group.And you'll be in good company, because a ton of people on social media and elsewhere are trying to do the same thing.