Consumer Insights: Random Rules

When it comes to millennials, c-stores have permission to be weird

Linda Abu-Shalback Zid, Senior Editor

PHOENIX -- Accounting for potentially 82 million people, millennials (often described as people born between 1982 and 2002) are a group that require convenience store attention. And at the CSP 2010 Consumer Insights Forum in Phoenix, Michelle Barry, senior vice president of The Hartman Group Inc., Bellevue, Wash., did just that through by delivering insights into millennial consumers.

She described them as being overrun with choice, viewing brands as increasingly irrelevant, having truly global tastes and desiring new things.

Barry told the story of one millennial [image-nocss] c-store customer who explained how he chose his beverageby grabbing one he didn't get last time. "What a random purchase behavior; that's the extreme opposite of habit," Barry said, adding that there is a lot of randomness with millennials.

And that might be an opportunity for c-stores, according to Barry. "Can you start creating some interesting marketing and some interesting merchandising, where you're leading them to a place where it's not the same thing every time?"

As for branding, she explained that millennials do purchase the iconic brands, but they also like to try new snacks and beverages--particularly with unusual flavor profiles.

"What an awesome opportunity for you to take some of the classic iconic legacy brands that they expect to see in the stores, but partner with your suppliers and start thinking about highlighting some of their new brands there," she said. "And put them side by side so you're not asking them to search out these new things. This is that kind of attract-and-sell mentality."

Barry also spoke about some unusual products that have turned up at c-stores, such as cardamom and sweet corn popsicles, Mystery Flavor Doritos and maple bacon lollipops.

She said that millennials are looking for such products that are playful and "a little funky," and that c-stores have an "amazing opportunity."

She added, "You have permission to be a little weird. Go ahead and be a little funky, and have a sense of humor, for goodness sake. Other retailers are very predictable and safe and corporate. They're not looking for you for that."