by Cara Wolf
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Millennials, generally defined as those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, are gaining traction when it comes to everything from purchasing power to defining trends.
It’s a wise decision to invest some time and attention into what the millennial generation is interested in as their influence on society and buying habits continues to increase.
“While many millennials may be thought to be self-obsessed, this is also a generation that is seen to care about social justice and about the environment,” says the report. “They also care passionately about authenticity and it is important to them that brands and companies are transparent about their ethical stances. They typically reject traditional advertising and promotions and are instead much more influenced by their peers, or by celebrities and vloggers.”
Millennials eat fewer standard meals and snack more, continues the report. Snacks need to be convenient but also healthy. They are more adventurous with flavours and want excitement and new experiences both when eating out and in packaged food. They also expect value for money. These are all important facts to keep in mind when attracting millennials to your store’s foodservice offerings.
The millennial generation is quite literally the future, but understanding and harnessing their purchasing power can be daunting task, notes the Millennials on Millennials report from Neilsen Canada.
“According to Statistics Canada, those aged 20-39 years old represent roughly 27.5 per cent of the Canadian population, with males at 13.9 per cent and females at 13.7 per cent,” states the report. “As a cohort, millennials spend on average of about $509 per household per month across fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) categories. Millennials are a dominant force, but the bulk of the cohort are not yet the key decision makers within their households. This dynamic is rapidly shifting and that means millennials’ purchasing power will continue to grow in the years to come.”
Millennials are making fewer trips to the store, but they are likely to spend more than other cohorts per occasion, notes the Nielsen report.
“In the last year, millennials have not only contributed to, but have driven trip declines in Canada,” says the report. “Millennials rate of decline in trips per household was approximately twice that of the overall Canadian population. Millennials make 43 fewer trips than the average Canadian household on an annual basis.”
Compared with the total Canadian population and the boomer generation specifically, millennials tend to shop less frequently but spend more per trip.
“Millennials spent just over $7 more per trip than the average Canadian household and close to $11 more than boomer households in the last year,” notes the report.
When it comes to where millennials choose to shop, the report notes that they tend to shop at dollar, drug and convenience stores more than the average consumer.
In-store marketing efforts can also impact on millennials. The Nielsen report noted that millennials consumers are more likely to rely on in-store reminders as a means of completing their shopping list, compared to the average Canadian household.
Many of the items being purchased most frequently by can be found in convenience stores.
“Perhaps not surprisingly, the categories most frequently purchased by millennials are the staple items you’d find in the average Canadian household,” says the Nielsen report. “However, after ranking all categories by purchase frequency, there are a number of categories among the top 20 that stand out. Snack items, such as granola bars and crackers, and easily prepared foods like cereal, pasta and bagged salad, are all examples of categories that millennials buy more frequently than boomers. These insights reinforce that key value items like milk, eggs, produce and bread are integral to all Canadians, including millennial households.”
Millennials also spend more than average on yogurt, infant and baby snacks/foods, and portable snacks of many varieties, says the report. “Millennials are buying quick or ready-to-eat snacks and meals more frequently than the rest of Canada.”
Millennials, who are now the largest age cohort in foodservice, love choice, says Lesya Balych-Cooper, president of the Coffee Association of Canada.
“Specialty, espresso based coffees grew from 13 per cent in 2013 to 23 per cent in 2017 and it’s mostly millennials who are drinking them,” says Balych-Cooper. “Our research shows that millennials are drinking them iced, frozen, or blended much more than those aged 35 and older.”
Millennials are influencing everything that takes place in foodservice today and they are not as brand loyal as older generations, notes Balych-Cooper.
“Brand recognition is important but it’s not going to convince millennials to be loyal at the outset,” she says. “They’re more interested in taste and it has to be convenient. They want choices and when it comes to coffee, the choices have to include decaf.”
The millennial generation is very diverse in how they drink coffee, says Balych-Cooper.
“They may have it brewed hot sometimes but they’ll also have it cold, whatever fits the occasion or mood,” she notes. “I think this could be an opportunity for convenience stores to offer both hot and cold espresso based beverages, whether they’re made in-store or bought ready to drink.”
Convenience & Carwash Canada decided to go to the source and ask some millennials about their retail shopping experiences. Most of those we spoke with were familiar with their local convenience stores.
David of Oshawa, Ontario stops in a convenience store one to three times per week, mostly purchasing items such as pop, gum, lottery tickets and snacks.
“Millennials pay attention to aesthetics,” he notes. “A lot of my friends prefer to go into places that are brands, like Mac’s, 7 Eleven or convenience stores attached to gas stations over independently owned ones that are more run down. Price isn’t as relevant only because we know we are paying an inflated cost by walking in there.”
Quick and efficient customer service is important, he states.
“If I can be in and out quickly with minimal issues, I’m a happy customer,” he says. “Being kind goes a long way. We thrive on relationships so if someone is rude we frankly won’t go back and will tell everyone we know not to go there. Location is also important. If it takes too long to even get to the store, I won’t go. I’ll wait until I reach the next one on my route.”
Having specialty items in stock can attract customers, says David.
“I know people who go to specific convenience stores because they have imported goods or they have smoking paraphernalia,” he comments.
Although Christina of Vaughan, Ontario has two convenience stores near where she lives and one down the street from her workplace, she only tends to shop at convenience stores for beverages and snacks when she’s on a road trip.
“I am most likely to go to convenience stores in the summer as that’s when I usually go for long drives or if I’m craving a cold snack,” she says. “As a millennial, I am very cautious about what I’m spending my money on and where. When I see a convenience store with a two-for-one sale, I am automatically drawn to it. Also, customer service is something that is very important.”
The use of social media is a good way to grab the attention of millennials, says Christina.
“I feel that 7 Eleven does an amazing job marketing their Slurpee Days through social media,” she notes. “If other convenience stores were to follow the trend of specialty days through the use of social media, they would gain more of the millennial demographic as customers.”
Zachary of Toronto, Ontario says he mainly stops at a convenience store to buy last minute supplies on his way home from work or to pick up a greeting card for a party or other event.
“I’d say that having good prices as well as having variety and choices in items is the biggest thing for me, as a customer,” he says.
Alyssa of Brantford, Ontario says she only stops at convenience stores when she is travelling and usually just buys beverages.
“Price is a big deal,” she says. “I don’t think anyone likes overpaying for items if they know they can get them at a more reasonable price somewhere else.”
Brittany of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island says there is a convenience store within a minute’s drive from her house that she frequents on a regular basis when she needs one or two things, such as milk or pop.
“I most likely wouldn’t go so often if it wasn’t located where it is, close to home,” she says.
“Millennials typically reject traditional advertising and promotions and are instead much more influenced by their peers, or by celebrities and vloggers.”