Using Data to Understand Today’s Customers


The term ‘millennial’ has become synonymous with success in today’s foodservice landscape. While most of us think of this cohort as being a function of modern-day marketing strategy, the term was actually first coined more than 30 years ago by academics following a major surge in birth rates in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, the millennial cohort makes up only 27 per cent of Canada’s population, yet it has become an important target for brands across the entire retail spectrum.

Not surprisingly, millennials are receptive to market trends and can be influenced by engaging marketing campaigns — especially through mediums such as social, digital and mobile. But how can you tailor a campaign to appeal to this target demographic? The first step is to understand its needs and preferences. Recent research by The NPD Group suggests that millennials are focused on maintaining a social lifestyle; food consumption needs to fit into the structure of their day-to-day lives while meeting their demand for portability and convenience. By contrast, baby boomers — who make up 28 per cent of Canada’s population — tend to have a different set of needs. Being a health-conscious group, food decisions are based more on what is good for the body and the functional needs of their intake than their millennial counterparts. Boomers also tend to be more traditional, and will return to what they are familiar with.

Given their personality traits and values, it’s no surprise the two demographics are influenced by different visit drivers. For example, millennials are more likely to be influenced by outside factors — notably advertisements — when selecting which restaurants to eat at, whereas baby boomers tend to make more functional decisions based on familiarity, quality and variety. The chart above indicates the top visit drivers listed by both millennials and baby boomers in NPD’s recent Eating Patterns in Canada (EPIC) Report.

One finding that stands out is that millennials did not list convenience as a top visit driver, whereas baby boomers did. Another important observation is that health and wellness appears to be a trend that appeals to both demographics. However, when we delve deeper into this notion, it becomes clear that millennials are more likely to follow contemporary health trends, while boomers look to avoid items linked to age-related health issues. Regardless, updating menu offerings to appeal to preferences such as organic, locally grown items and healthy alternatives is a great way to drive traffic from both key demographics.

The main takeaway is that boomers and millennials are distinctly different demographics influenced in different ways and who value different things. As operators, your job is to deepen your understanding of these two key demographics so you can craft marketing strategies and overall offerings, which appeal to consumers and drive traffic. Although this may seem daunting, there is a vast amount of research available to help educate and inform you when it comes to understanding and engaging with these two demographics. So go ahead and delve into the data — your bottom line will thank you.

Volume 50, Number 3 
Written by Robert Carter

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