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    Enriching Relationships with Fresh Influence

    New research finds Millennials? digital literacy beneficial to building relationships, sales.

    As I know well from watching my 26-year-old daughter, the Millennial generation is the most digitally connected generation to come of age. Findings in ?Outlook on the Millennial Consumer 2014,? a syndicated study conducted by The Hartman Group and sponsored by Produce Marketing Association (PMA), demonstrate how supermarket retailers can take advantage of this generation?s digital literacy ? and ensure their supply partners do the same ? to reach Millennials on all things mobile, social and digital. Following are four areas of insight uncovered by the research.

    First, however, it?s important to understand the potential of this consumer segment. Born between 1980 and 2000, Millennial represent 27 percent of the U.S. population. They?re larger than the Baby Boomer generation and three times the size of Generation X. According to Nielsen, Millennial represent a $200 billion opportunity and will have even more spending power in the coming years. Further, as this massive generation transitions into adulthood, they?re driving many current consumer trends.

    Take the Right Approach

    Individuality and diversity are two of the most important characteristics of Millennials. As a result, there?s no one-size-fits-all strategy for targeting them, but there are common ties that bind Millennials together:

    • ? Millennials? concept of happiness is contingent on the ability to live life on their own terms, direct their own careers and experience new adventures.
    • ? Millennials love a good story that allows them to personally connect with a brand or product. They also tend to be skeptical of claims, so authenticity and transparency are paramount when trying to connect with them. Millennials are passionate about social and environmental issues, and more likely to splurge on an item from a socially responsible or environmentally friendly company.

    Get Mobile Ready

    Mobile media is taking center stage, and the Millennial generation is driving its usage:

    • ? More than one-quarter of Millennials purchase products on a mobile device ? up 11 points from 2011 ? making this an increasingly important media of the future.
    • ? When it comes to the tool most used for gathering product information, Millennials are shifting away from computers toward mobile. Today, 34 percent cite using a web-enabled phone to gather product information, an eight-point increase from 2011.

    Be Accessible Online

    Overall, Millennials use online sources of information more than older generations do when making purchase decisions. That?s why ensuring that your company information is easy to find will allow not only this generation of consumers, but also other generations, to be readily introduced to and find information. Nevertheless, the research also points out that personal recommendations matter most for actually influencing purchases.

    ?Internet search engine? is identified most often, by 41 percent of Millennials, as a way they?re regularly exposed to product information. ?Posts on social media,? ?Internet advertising? and ?Recommendations/family? all tie at 30 percent, edged out slightly by ?Radio/TV advertising? (33 percent) and ?Coupons? (31 percent). ?Internet review sites? came in ninth out of 10, cited by 26 percent. In total, Internet sources account for 40 percent of Millennials? product information resources.

    When it comes to what is most likely to influence their decision to purchase, ?Internet search engine,? and ?Recommendations/family? tie for first, each cited by 21 percent of Millennials surveyed. ?Internet review sites? and ?Recommendations/friends? are the second and third most popular, identified by 20 percent and 18 percent, respectively; ?Posts on social media? (9 percent) and ?Company?s website? (8 percent) place last.

    Understand the Influence of Social Circles

    The new research finds that even the input of strangers plays an important role in Millennials? purchase decisions. User-generated content in online forums and blogs provides Millennials with trusted information about products and services from people who have direct experience with those products and services:

    • ? While ?Immediate family,? ?Friends? and ?Relatives? carry the most sway among consumers from all generations, ?Online forums or blogs? are cited by 20 percent of Millennials as being among the top categories of people who have the most influence on which products and services they choose to use, compared with just 6 percent of Baby Boomers.
    • ? Nearly all generations share their experiences, but Millennials do so at a higher rate. Ninety-three percent share experiences at least some of the time, versus only 85 percent of Baby Boomers. Overall, positive experiences are shared by a greater percent of consumers than are negative experiences.

    Supermarket retailers can capitalize on these aspects of social media by putting consumer opinions front and center as part of a social media strategy for reaching Millennials. It?s important to note, however, that Millennials don?t take this information at face value. Instead, they use number of reviews, recency of reviews and a variety of other indicators to determine credibility and usefulness of content when making a decision as to what to buy.

    Friend or Foe?

    While these findings certainly confirm digital?s foothold in Millennials? lives, Hartman?s research also reveals that Millennials don?t unconditionally love everything digital. In fact, many report trying to limit the amount of time they spend behind digital surfaces and set clear boundaries between virtual and real worlds. Many say they?d rather spend their free time with fewer people in person than with a bunch of less important people online.

    Therein lies the key takeaway underlying this research: It?s relationships that Millennials value most, and their use of technology reflects their desire to build relationships that enrich all aspects of their lives, whether with family and friends, likeminded individuals, places, brands or companies. In other words, it?s personal.

    By looking at this new research for insights on digital technology and social media with an eye toward building better relationships with this generation, supermarket retailers can create valuable digital platforms that fuel the authenticity and transparency that Millennials adore ? and increase sales and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables in the process.

    Millennial? use of technology reflects their desire to build relationships that enrich all aspects of their lives, whether with family and friends, likeminded individuals, places, brands or companies.

    PMA members told us they wanted more consumer trend information, so to help provide insights, PMA sponsored a syndicated study from the Hartman Research Group. Bellevue, Wash.-based Hartman will provide three trend reports to members, including ?Outlook on the Millennial Consumer 2014,? now available on PMA?s website. Members can expect two additional reports from Hartman this summer: ?Organic and Natural? and ?Digital Lives.?

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