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Millennials a key focus at National Grocers Show

Retailers continue to hone marketing strategies for milennial demographic

Independent grocery retailers sometimes need to be pushed—kicking and screaming occasionally—into the future. This year’s National Grocers Association Show in Las Vegas was a great example this phenomenon.

The annual gathering, which was the largest in NGA history with about 4,000 retailers, wholesalers and industry partners in attendance, featured more than 40 sessions covering nearly every aspect of retailing.

But the best attended and most insightful educational lectures focused on marketing to millennial consumers and digital communications (the session titled Marketing to Millennial Shoppers and Beyond actually had to turn away people wanting to attend).

While it is well documented that millennial consumers have a completely different approach to shopping, cooking and eating than Gen X or baby boomers, the strategies that retailers can deploy to capture that market aren’t fully formed.

The behaviours and attitudes of this demographic goffer both challenges and opportunities for independent retailers, many if whom are changing their approach to the shopping experience in order to attract and keep the i-generation.

“Millennials are almost solely focused on the digital platform, so retailers need to make sure that the content they are delivering is formatted to engage that specific customer,” said Laura Malisani, co-owner, Gary and Leo’s IGA, a retailer in Havre, Montana.

“They are on their phones and tablets all day, so that’s where we have to communicate with them. Plus we need to have the right content to make our offers relevant.”

James Messer, vice-president of merchandising at Merchants Distributors, a wholesaler servicing stores in North Carolina and neighbouring states, gave an example of how a recent digital program saw a 30% conversion rate from the promotion and a 15% redemption rate for the related coupon. He said these numbers are considerably higher than similar print campaigns.

Millennials don’t follow any rules, whether it be their buying behavior or the way they shop.

For instance, millennials will connect with store employees who are passionate and conversely are turned off by non-engaged employees.

“Eyeball-to-eyeball is important. They don’t just connect on social media—there are connections going on all the time, and they’ll go back to a store where they had a fun interaction with someone they liked," said Stephanie Steiner, sales director for Unified Grocers, Los Angeles.

On the exhibit floor, dozens of companies were hawking the very latest shopper engagement technology covering everything from loyalty to cause marketing.

One new exhibitor, Birdzi, offered the example of County Market, a division of Quincy, Illinois-based Niemann Foods, which implemented the tech company’s platform in all of its stores to provide personalized digital savings and increased customer engagement for its shoppers.

County Market is using Birdzi’s platform to deliver personalized offers, location-specific coupons, in-store maps, sharable shopping lists and more to shoppers, creating an entirely new shopping experience for its customers.

County Market has seen 15% to 20% growth week over week in shopper engagement, and hundreds of new downloads each day.

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