Garland Perkins, The Oppenheimer Group
Garland Perkins, The Oppenheimer Group

It’s mid-November, and it feels as if the holidays are already here.

Millennials’ shopping habits will undoubtedly affect the produce department during the holidays, and, with the marketplace being more competitive than ever in retail and foodservice, clever marketing and attractive price points will be necessary to corner the dollars of this sought-after demographic.

According to a 2013 survey by Google, the Internet is unquestionably the most-used resource for holiday shopping, and this is especially true for millenials.

They are predicted to use their smartphones and the Internet more than any other demographic this holiday season, with 40% even researching or purchasing an item while they are still physically in the store.

With this in mind, retailers should strive to use this shopping habit to their advantage. Creative POS materials and promotions via social media can draw attention to multiple items in the produce section such as cheese and fruit pairings or recipes highlighting fall favorites like apples or pumpkin.

In-store signs can be used to advertise the hashtag, corresponding social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as details of the holiday promotion.

Something as simple as a hashtag like #healthyholidayentertaining with a recipe tear pad nearby can initiate purchases of complementary items, thereby increasing sales and giving millennial consumers a reason to pay attention to products or brands with high margins.

Hassle-free shopping is another attractive way to draw millenials away from their digital tendencies and into stores.

For example, retailers should use additional employees hired for the holidays to ensure checkout lanes are efficient and to promptly help customers looking for a unique item they need for a seasonal recipe.

As someone who detests running errands, I will gladly drive five minutes out of my way if I know I can get in and out of a store quickly.

Furthermore, it is important to advertise product availability and promotions via online platforms while later providing a pleasant shopping experience. Particularly during the time of the year when shopping is dreaded the most, a reliable, efficient and enjoyable experience will spur repeat shopping trips throughout the holidays.

In the foodservice arena, providing an entertaining experience can bring in more traffic by having holiday-themed menu items as well as festive events throughout November and December.

Using digital sites such as Living Social or Groupon to advertise can bring Gen-Yers into establishments they wouldn’t have thought of otherwise for a holiday get-together with friends or a place to grab a quick bite while shopping.

Friends of mine joke their social life is dictated by the activities advertised on these websites simply because they are typically unique and appealing ideas — in addition to being a great deal, of course.

Lastly, millennials already purchase prepared foods more often compared to other generations, and the hectic nature of the holidays will likely increase this tendency.

Considering Gen Y’s preference for fresh, healthy and authentic, retailers and foodservice establishments who spell out healthful ingredients, as well as highlighting seasonal varietals or locally grown items in ready-made dishes, can increase the appeal of prepared foods and give millennials something to talk about when they bring their prepared food purchase to a holiday social gathering.

With an openness to purchasing food from several channels including online, via mobile device, through a delivery service and from multiple brick-and-mortar stores, in the end Gen-Yers must be given a reason for physically stepping outside of their digital and convenience-oriented comfort zone and venturing into stores or restaurants.

Garland Perkins writes a monthly column on the produce industry from the millennial perspective. She works in marketing for The Oppenheimer Group in its Los Angeles office. E-mail her at garlandperkins@gmail.com.

What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.