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Post-Recession, How Are Millennials Shopping For Groceries?


Last updated on May 26th, 2016 at 08:40 am

Retale, a location-based mobile advertising platform for retailers and brands, released the results of its first “Retale Millennial Grocery Report,” a commissioned study examining grocery shopping preferences among Millennial (18 to 34 years old) consumers. A thousand Millennials across the U.S. were polled for the study May 2-6 this year.

Only 8 percent have cut their grocery spending

According to Nielsen, the Great Recession has “fundamentally changed” consumer shopping and saving habits, and many in the country continue to feel the recession’s effects long after the 2009 bailouts. With this in mind, Retale evaluated recessionary impact on grocery buying, specifically, among survey respondents.

Fifty-seven percent of Millennials polled agreed that they had been personally affected by the recession. Forty-three percent disagreed. When comparing older Millennials to younger Millennials, the older group felt more affected: 64 percent of those 26-34 answered “yes,” while only 46 percent of those 18-25 agreed.

When asked which activity they were most likely to cut spending on as a result of the recession’s impact, 36 percent cited “eating out,” 30 percent said “entertainment” and 21 percent said “buying clothes.” Only 8 percent said they would cut spending on “buying groceries.”

“Like most age groups, Millennial consumers have felt the recession’s impact,” said Pat Dermody, president of Retale. “According to our data, to counteract it and save, they’re dining out less and opting to eat at home more. This is why there hasn’t been a sizable decline in grocery shopping, post-recession. Lost restaurant trips should ultimately benefit grocery retailers.”

When asked how often they shop for groceries, “two to three trips a month” was the most popular choice (34 percent), followed by “once a week” (29 percent); “once a month” (15 percent ); “two to four trips a week” (14 percent); “less than once a month” (6 percent); and “every day” (3 percent). For each trip, on average, 20 percent of Millennials spend $0-$49; 37 percent spend $50-$99; 35 percent spend $100-$200; and only 9 percent spend more than $200.

Thirty-four percent call their grocery shopping style ‘thrifty’

Despite the ways the economy has managed to recover since the recession, consumers are still taking a practical and cost-conscious approach to buying.

When asked to choose the three most likely factors in picking a grocery store, the top response was “lower costs or opportunities to save” (50 percent). “Availability of locally-grown or organic products” (38 percent) was the runner-up, followed by “store is close to my house or workplace” (34 percent); “technology that makes research and shopping easier” (31 percent); and “I shop based on specific recipes I’m interested in making” (28 percent).

Similarly, when asked to describe their “grocery shopping style” in one word, “thrifty” was the most popular choice (34 percent). “Local” (24 percent) and “foodie” (23 percent) rounded out the top three.

“At the end of the day, when it comes to buying groceries, Millennial consumers value cost above all else,” added Dermody. “Local or organic, store proximity or technology for convenience–they all come in second to savings. Grocers need to keep this in mind when considering how to best market and sell to this audience.”

When Millennials were asked when they would be “most likely” to go grocery shopping, practicality and cost were the top reasons. Fifty-seven percent said they were most likely to shop when they “needed to restock on supplies,” and 25 percent said when “deals and discounts are available.” Seventeen percent said they were most likely to shop when they were “planning meals or a recipe.”

Forty-three percent use mobile for clipping and browsing coupons

Today, 92 percent of Millennials own a smartphone. When asked if they used their mobile device before grocery shopping to help with their trip, the majority (52 percent) of Millennials polled said “yes;” 48 percent said “no.” When comparing older millennials, 26-34, vs. younger Millennials, 18-25, older Millennials were more likely to use their mobile device (62 percent), whereas only 36 percent of younger Millennials had used their device before shopping.

Similar to other data points that found Millennials to be cost-conscious buyers, the most popular reason to use a smartphone before they went shopping was to “clip mobile coupons” and “browse weekly ads” (43 percent). Rounding out the top five are: “create and manage shopping lists” (27 percent); “find recipe inspiration” (12 percent); “find store locations and hours” (10 percent); and “look up loyalty account information or my points balance” (7 percent).

Once Millennials entered a grocery store, 58 percent said they use their mobile device while shopping compared to 42 percent who don’t. This was more prevalent among older Millennials, 26-34, 64 percent use their mobile device while shopping, compared to 47 percent of younger Millennials. Forty percent of those who used their mobile device in-store said they used it “to find coupons and compare prices.” Respondents also used mobile in-store to “consult shopping lists” (29 percent); “call or text another member of their household for information or recommendations” (15 percent); or “to find a recipe” (11 percent).

When asked to identify what would most enhance their grocery shopping experience, 41 percent said they would like “offers, like coupons, sent to their smartphone when they enter a store.” Eighteen percent want “more self-serve checkout”; 14 percent want “in-store kiosks that offer product information or coupons”; 12 percent cited “the ability to scan an item on my mobile device to get more information about it”; and 10 percent said “mobile pay options at checkout.”

“Mobile is an integral part of the millennial experience, making smartphones the perfect shopping companion for this group,” added Dermody. “Mobile is especially and increasingly seen as a key tool to drive store savings with each trip. We also saw that older Millennials tended to use their phone more than younger Millennials, perhaps indicating a more concerted effort to save among those most affected by the recession.”

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