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OPINION27 May 2016

How retailers must adapt for digital natives

FMCG North America Opinion Trends Youth

Shopping data shows that the way younger shoppers interact and purchase brands is markedly different from previous generations and brands need to be ready to respond. By Rebecca Brooks

Did you know that 53% of digital native consumers, made up of millennials (aged 18- to 34-years old) and Generation Z (under 17 ), find shopping to be a stress reliever? And we’re talking about CPG grocery shopping! This is 20% higher than their older counterparts.

That’s just one of the insights that was uncovered by analysing data collected over the past six years on shopper journey studies in dozens of categories in multiple countries.

This research has revealed trends, which are reshaping the shopping landscape, highlighting how the Digital Native behaviour is changing shopping  – even in the ‘stable’ CPG grocery category. These trends were uncovered by data collected through the Shopper STAT tool that provides insights based on continuous sampling of shoppers.

Comprised from interviews of 1,000 shoppers per week, the survey deconstructs what they intended to purchase, what they actually purchased, and what happened in between. Because the survey is conducted within 24 hours of purchase, the feedback is nearly instantaneous and doesn’t rely on lengthy recall.

Digital Natives, who now make up more than 50% of the consumer population, are driving significant changes in the way brands need to interact with their audiences. Just some of the behaviours found include:

  • 47% of Digital Natives look for product recommendations and suggestions before buying (vs. 31% of older generations)
  • 57% love to be the first to know about new products (vs. 42% of older generations)
  • 64% like to browse aisles to discover new products (vs. 55% of older generations)

Digital Natives expect a consistent end-to-end consumer experience that bleeds brand identity throughout and makes shopping enjoyable and convenient for them. They are getting this experience through brands like Uber, AirBNB, Amazon, Apple and others and won't tolerate less from any other shopping experience or brand interaction, including grocery. Digital Native grocery shopping statistics showed that:

  • 31% shopped for their most recent grocery purchase at a mass merchandiser (vs.  27% of older generations)
  • 13% use a grocery list app (vs. 6% of older generations)
  • 23% shop almost exclusively online (vs. 10% of older generations)
  • 31% would rather pay full price than deal with inconveniences (vs. 20% of older generations)

By analysing fairly real-time grocery shopping data, brands can help determine how many of their category shoppers are ‘up for grabs’ at the shelf, what triggers can move more people to their brand (as well as what triggers are moving them away), and trends of shopper data over time.

While some rumours persist – such as those that say Millennials ‘don’t spend’ – the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey debunks this belief. In a recent Forbes article, author Micah Solomon says: “Millennial customers are clearly an enormous commercial force to be reckoned with, commanding both trendsetting power and tremendous spending power as well.” Data from the CPG grocery study backs this up.

Reviewing what is driving attitudinal changes toward consumption, and how generational shifts are going to change the shopping experience forever is vital for brands. For most marketers and researchers, this is a familiar concept that has exponentially grown since the dawn of the digital age.

Examining the concept further by exploring the ways the Digital Native shopping habits are affecting brands and other consumer groups based on data will help to advise future approaches to marketing and much more.

Rebecca Brooks is co-founder of Alter Agents

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