Retale, a location-based mobile advertising platform for retailers and brands, announced the results of its first annual “Retale Millennial Grocery Report,” a commissioned study examining grocery shopping preferences among Millennial (18-34 years old) consumers. The study polled 1,000 Millennials across the United States between May 2-6.

Cuting 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.

In fact, 57% of Millennials polled agreed that they had been personally affected by the recession, while 43% disagreed. When comparing older Millennials to younger ones, the older group felt more affected—64% of those 26-34 answered “yes,” while only 46% 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% cited “eating out,” 30% said “entertainment” and 21% said “buying clothes.” Only 8% said they would cut spending on “buying groceries.”

“Like most age groups, Millennial consumers have felt the recession’s impact,” says Pat Dermody, president of Retale, Chicago. “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, “2-3 trips a month” was the most popular choice (34%), followed by “once a week” (29%); “once a month” (15%); “2-4 trips a week” (14%); “less than once a month” (6%); and “every day” (3%). For each trip, on average, 20% of Millennials spend $0-49; 37% spend $50-99; 35% spend $100-200 and only 9% spend more than $200. 

Why today's grocery shopping style is“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%). “Availability of locally-grown or organic products” (38%) was the runner-up, followed by “store is close to my house or workplace” (34%); “technology that makes research and shopping easier” (31%); and “I shop based on specific recipes I’m interested in making” (28%).

Similarly, when asked to describe their “grocery shopping style” in one word, “thrifty” was the most popular choice (34%), with “Local” (24%) and “foodie” (23%) rounding out the Top 3. 

“At the end of the day, when it comes to buying groceries, Millennial consumers value cost above all else,” adds 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—57% said they were most likely to shop when they “needed to re-stock on supplies,” 25% said when “deals and discounts are available” and 17% said they were most likely to shop when they were “planning meals or a recipe.”

Mobile use for clipping and browsing coupons
When asked if they used their mobile device before grocery shopping to help with their trip, the majority (52%) of Millennials polled said “yes.” When comparing older Millennials, 26-34, vs younger ones, 18-25, older Millennials were more likely to use their mobile device (62%), whereas only 36% 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%). Rounding out the Top 5 are “create and manage shopping lists” (27%); “find recipe inspiration” (12%); “find store locations and hours” (10%); and “look up loyalty account information or my points balance” (7%).

Once Millennials entered a grocery store, 58% said they use their mobile device while shopping compared to 42% who don’t. This was more prevalent among older Millennials, 26-34, where 64% use their mobile device while shopping, compared to 47% 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%); “call or text another member of their household for information or recommendations” (15%); or “to find a recipe” (11%).

When asked to identify what would most enhance their grocery shopping experience, 41% said they would like “offers, like coupons, sent to their smartphone when they enter a store,” while 18% want “more self-serve checkout”; 14% want “in-store kiosks that offer product information or coupons”; 12% cited “the ability to scan an item on my mobile device to get more information about it”; and 10% said “mobile pay options at checkout.”

“Mobile is an integral part of the Millennial experience, making smartphones the perfect shopping companion for this group,” adds 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.”