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The shopper of the future: 4 key trends to attract young shoppers to new products

by James Llewellyn , 23.06.2015

With so many options for today’s consumers, how do brands succeed in understanding and influencing their shopping choices? Our research shows that when it comes to where shoppers aged 16-21 go to discover new grocery and personal care products, and how they say they are made aware of them, their use of media is more traditional than you might think. This contradicts the view that younger shoppers are impossible to influence or pin down. Rather it shows the nuances and subtle differences in their behaviors, and the importance of adapting strategies and tactics in response. In our Global Young Shopper Survey we uncovered four ways to really get brands noticed by young shoppers.

Trend 1: Young shoppers are highly influenced by advertising

Although raised as an internet generation, our survey shows that young shoppers are primarily influenced by marketing messages from brands and retailers. This is particularly true in the grocery and personal care categories where 40% and 36% of young people respectively say they are a source of discovery.

Browsing in store is also important as a way for young shoppers to discover new products: almost one in four (39%) find out about grocery products in this way and more than one third (36%) take the same approach to shopping for personal care items.

In contrast, newer marketing techniques such as email marketing fail to gain much traction – fewer than one in ten young people say they have discovered products in these two categories in this way. These results underscore the importance for manufacturers and retailers to continue to invest in traditional media and physical stores in order to capture young shoppers’ attention.

Trend 2: Search engines are the “go to” online

Young shoppers are a generation that has been brought up on Google as the “go to” resource for information. Not surprisingly therefore, Google and other search engines are a frequent port of call for youngsters as they seek out new products. One third (34%) of shoppers aged 16-21 use search engines to find grocery and personal care products.

Youngsters are significantly more likely to turn to a search engine rather than browse a store online or consult a manufacturer’s website. Around one quarter browse individual stores online, and less than one in five will browse a manufacturer’s website within the grocery and personal care categories. Although young shoppers are more likely to seek out products in store than online, their enduring affinity with search engines such as Google means that retailers need to ensure that their online presence is as powerful as their flagship stores on the high street.

This also highlights a potential challenge from the search engines and technology companies to brands and retailers. As these players increasingly own part of the retail experience, for instance through their own payment mechanisms or part in the purchase journey (such as “Google Shop”, “Google Wallet” and “Apple Pay”), retailers will find it harder to achieve repeat purchases as search engines like Google aggregate and therefore control the choices presented to consumers.

Trend 3: Print media continues to hold authority

Readership of print media may be in decline, but according to our survey, it still holds a significant amount of influence over young shoppers. 22% of young shoppers have used newspapers or magazines to help them discover grocery products and 18% for personal care items. Furthermore, product reviews/tests in print media are relatively popular – 17% of 16-21 year olds consult print reviews when discovering grocery and personal care items. While newspapers and magazines do not hold as much influence over young shoppers as other channels, their role is not insignificant and these figures advocate strongly for the continued need to include print media in the marketing mix when targeting young shoppers.

Trend 4: Earned media both online and offline offers rich pickings

As a generation of digital natives, young shoppers are fully versed in social media, user generated content and peer to peer recommendations. Consequently, earned media offers one of the most lucrative ways to influence these fledgling consumers.

Around one in five used social media sites such as Facebook to inform their shopping choices, making it a channel that retailers ignore at their peril. Consumer reviews on the web attract a similar amount of attention, with one quarter (25%) of young shoppers becoming aware of personal care products through online reviews from other consumers. With earned media growing in importance and increasingly influential amongst the younger demographics, brands would do well to encourage people to create and share user generated content, and engage with shoppers via social media.

While young shoppers do take to the web to share experiences and look for recommendations through social media, they are more likely to seek recommendations offline and quiz family and friends on their experiences of a product, particularly in the grocery and personal care categories (31% and 30% respectively). Whether online or offline, earned media offers one of the biggest paybacks for brands who get it right.


The traditional marketing tools of advertising, the store environment, print and word of mouth continue to be important for younger shoppers, and retailers shouldn’t underestimate their importance in favor of focusing purely or mostly on online marketing. The challenge is to understand the consumer better and customize marketing efforts to secure young shoppers’ attention, both now and for the years ahead.

For more information please contact James Llewellyn at james.llewellyn@gfk.com.