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Supermarkets Rethink How to Capture Millennials

Supermarkets are feeling distant from some of their most important shoppers.

Many grocers are most at home with their Baby Boomer customers, but they’re too often disconnected from the needs of younger shoppers, in particular the all-important Millennials, who range roughly from their mid-to-late-teens to mid-30s and represent a lot of future growth.

That topic was aired in the past few weeks at two industry conferences, signaling a willingness by retailers to concede the problem and discuss solutions.

“We’ve all been paying attention to the Baby Boomer generation because that’s where all the wealth is,” Judy Spires, CEO, AG Supermarket Holdings, said during a panel at the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference in Orlando.

“But there’s a tremendous opportunity with Generation Y, this 20- to 34-year-old.”

Spires said it’s important to help educate these consumers on cooking and food preparation, and she noted her company has started putting QR codes in circulars with recipes. “Studies are telling us they want to be like their grandparents but they don’t know how,” she said.

A crucial challenge is to convince Millennials that supermarkets are relevant to their needs, contended Leo Braido, director of retail, Riesbeck’s Food Markets, during a session at The NGA Show in Las Vegas. 

“Baby Boomers and older have more of an appreciation for our offering based on service and quality than the younger generation,” he said. “We’ve got to do a better job of telling our story,” particularly to shoppers in their 20s, he added.

That story includes relaying the value of independent grocers versus others, such as discount-oriented formats, he said. “We need to get the message out that it will cost you a little bit more, but then it will be worth more than the difference.”

By 2017 Millennials will have more spending power than any other generation, according to a new study by Bazaarvoice in partnership with The Center for Generation Kinetics and Kelton Research. This study highlighted Millennial buying patterns, such as their preference for making decisions based on user-generated content from strangers.

This is the kind of insights retailers will need as they revisit the buying patterns of a generation they still don’t understand, but desperately want to. Expect to hear a lot more industry discussion on this topic as the perception of urgency increases.

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