Companies have been trying to understand Millennials for years, ever since they started becoming old enough to make their own purchasing decisions. However, they may not be as complex as marketers have been led to believe. Specialty stores and small format retailers may not be the most important to Millennials, rather low prices and convenience may be the ultimate drivers of their purchases.
Research by InfoScout shows that Walmart is more popular among those under age 24 than Target, Costco, Kroger, Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, and Target and Walmart rank above the others with shoppers aged 25 to 34. How could that be? Millennials are supposed to prefer specialty products from small, unique stores. Well, marketers may be underestimating the value of price and time to young consumers. Mass merchandisers, especially Walmart, offer a lot of items in one place, generally for prices lower than other retailers. Many Millennials are either grappling with student debt, struggling to find a job, or starting a family, and price and convenience may trump any interest they have in unique products. Walmart Chief Marketing Officer Stephen Quinn also believes its popularity is due to its investments in online and mobile technology, and the fact that Millennials have grown up with Walmart as a dominant retailer.
Quinn may be correct in assuming that technology plays a large part in winning over young customers, in retail and in restaurants. Half of Millennials say digital-loyalty offerings are important at limited- and full-service restaurants, according to Technomic. Millennials also care more about free Wi-Fi, online or mobile ordering, and mobile payment, than the rest of the overall population. Colleen Rothman, manager of consumer insights for Technomic, says technology is increasingly important to all consumers, but "to Millennials and Generation Z customers, it's essential."
Some companies have gone even further than the plethora of studies about Millennials to understand this diverse customer base. Taco Bell introduced the "Millennial Word of the Week" at its headquarters in California. It developed a list of words, selected by a group of employees in their 20s, and sends them out to workers weekly, as well as displaying them around the office. The goal is to stay in touch with the chain's largest consumer group in order to really understand what they want from food companies.