Stat of the Day: 68% of Millennials Ask Friends Before Choosing a Restaurant

How Do You Begin to Understand Shopping Habits of a Generation That Can't Make Up Its Own Mind?

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They shop with friends, are in love with the deli section and are just as likely to do their grocery shopping at Target or Walmart as Kroger and Safeway.

Millennials, the 80 million people now aged 16 to 34, have buying and brand preferences that in many cases diverge sharply from their parents. But millennials need help from friends and family in making just about any decision, including which restaurant to eat at. They'll use technology (social and mobile) to gather opinions. Sixty-eight percent won't make a major decision without running it by their network first. How do you begin to understand the shopping habits of a generation that has never had to make up its own mind about anything?

You start with lots of surveys.

AdAgeStat got an exclusive look at some early findings from a new report by Barkley in partnership with Boston Consulting Group and Service Management Group. The report had one of the larger samples of millennials that we've seen outside of Pew reports, coupled with a sizable sample of older consumers to provide some content. Some of the findings confirm things we already suspect: high adoption rates of technology, hugely more likely to have active online profiles with lots of updated content, etc. Let's focus on some trends that are sure to get the attention of marketers still figuring out how to win over this new crowd.

For one, the report gives more evidence that supercenters are here to stay. Mass retailers like Target and Walmart are preferred by 32% of millennials, about the same score as traditional grocery chains, such as Kroger and Safeway (34%). Compare that with older generations (those 35 and up) for which the traditional chains still rule, by a margin of 44% to 27%.

Millennials Shop a different mix of                                                                  grocery formats

Millennials also apparently don't like to go to the store alone, with the report noting that they "prefer to be with others when shopping and often to so with family, spouses and partners, or friends." But this is not a predictable group, with their shopping habits more "need-based and experimental than older generations," the report states. Millennials also want a "wide variety of deli foods," with nearly 60% rating it as a key criteria compared to less than 50% for older generations. Millennials are also looking for exotic foods, child-friendly stores, samples of new foods to try, creative menu ideas and online ordering systems.

In this second issue in our quarterly series, Ad Age Insights explores how marketers can employ search, social and mobile marketing in shopper marketing efforts.

One caveat with most of the millennial and other generational data coming out these days: It's hard to tell how balanced issues of life-stage vs. issues of actual differences between millennials in their 20s, gen-Xers in their 20s, boomers in their 20s are.

Some other quick findings:

  • Millennials were more in tune with retail brands such as Walmart Supercenter, Kroger, SuperTarget, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Costco. Non-millennials were more tied to big grocery chains like Publix and Aldi, and interestingly, where millennials tend to be a better fit with Costco, non-millennials tend toward Sam's Club.
  • All generations are using Facebook these days, but millennials tend to have more friends
  • Millennials, who are often characterized as having flexible loyalties at best, love them some reward and loyalty programs.
  • Millennials prefer brands with a well-developed social- and mobile-media presence.

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