The Millennial generation is "completely up for grabs" when it comes to choosing its patterns, including shopping choices, according to a presentation by Jason Dorsey, an author and business executive known as The Gen Y Guy.
Dorsey, who is chief strategy officer at The Center for Generational Kinetics, told the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference that the food industry can make a big impact with these consumers if it adapts to their needs.
"We haven't yet established our loyalty," he said of this generation, which includes him. "We're still sampling. Yet we're the No. 1 group to refer friends to come to you, because our friends don't know what to buy or how to cook. We're also just now establishing families, and have the most pent-up purchasing demand."
Businesses need to understand this generation and be flexible in targeting it, he said.
Among the best strategies are:
• Treat members of this generation as unique and special. "The No. 1 worst thing to do is to treat Gen Y members as numbers."
• Adapt to the fact that Millennials are reticent to ask questions face-to-face. "Because these consumers are uncomfortable asking questions, supply them with a mobile number to text questions to while they are in the store."
• Make sure to engage these shoppers around their birthdays. "A birthday is the most important holiday for this generation. They make it into a birthday month. It's the No. 1 way to engage them. It can be as simple as a quick message: 'Have a happy birthday."'
In a related panel, food industry executives said they are focusing on recruiting and retention methods geared to Millennials.
"Retention is what we all think about," said Tanya Domier, CEO, Advantage Sales & Marketing. "Be very clear in laying out career journeys. Millennials will help architect their careers, which is motivating to them."
Michael Polk, CEO, Newell Rubbermaid, said the company has fostered internal community through formation of a networking council, and has shifted its approach to charitable giving to make it more relevant to Millennials, among other employees.
"We've changed philanthropy work by putting money to work in areas that employees are interested in related to volunteerism."
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