How many coupons did you use when you were young, setting off on your own, and doing all of your own grocery shopping for the first time? Probably not too many. The same is true of today’s young people. It’s not that they don’t like to save, but they’re into other things, like sales, bonus packs and BOGOs.

So if the next generation just isn’t into coupons, does that mean coupons are doomed?

A new study says, relax, those kids will come around eventually. That’s according to “Lost in Transition: Realizing an Untapped Millennial Shopper Opportunity” by the marketing firm Geometry Global. The report suggests that marketers are missing a big opportunity, if they take a one-size-fits-all approach to their promotions, offering coupons to a large portion of the population that just won’t use them.

“When you walk into a Walmart or grocery store, everything is very ‘Mom’ targeted,” said Becky Miller, Geometry Global’s planning and strategy director. “A 19-year-old college male doesn’t shop the same way as a 30-year-old mother of two.”

If you like to clip coupons, scour the sale ads and carefully plan your shopping trips, Millennials’ grocery shopping habits would probably horrify you. Pre-planning, or buying household staples before they run out, is virtually unheard of among the young, Geometry Global says. “I make a trip when I run out,” one young shopper told researchers. “There’s always that day or two that I just don’t have paper towels. It’s not like if I had two left I would go get it. It’s when I run out, I go get it.”

And Millennials typically look for deals only after they get to the store. “They love BOGOs. They love getting 15% more product,” Geometry Global’s chief strategy officer Eric Pakurar told the trade publication MediaPost. “Those are tangible things and you can point to what you’re getting.”


What is somewhat surprising, is that young shoppers aren’t into the newfangled methods of shopping and saving, the way you – and middle-aged marketers – might think.

Millennials are glued to their smartphones – so apps are where it’s at, right? Don’t tell that to Millennials. “Retailer apps are competing with every other app on a Millennial’s phone,” Miller said. “No one should assume that just because Millennials are ‘mobile,’ they will seek out a retailer or a brand app.”

What about online shopping – surely tech-savvy Millennials will embrace that? Not really. Since they tend not to shop until they need something right now, most don’t find it helpful to shop online and then wait around for their items to ship.

Then there are printable and paperless coupons – they’re certainly the wave of the future, we’re told. For Millennial shoppers, though, not so much. They typically don’t visit store websites (or use their apps), where all of the paperless grocery coupons are. Plus, “many don’t have printers, so forget about digital (printable) coupons,” Pakurar said. “They don’t like clipping, and the keychain loyalty cards are outdated.”

But just as you probably started using more coupons as you got older, so will they. “Rather than being viewed as old-fashioned or outdated, coupons and loyalty programs are being readily embraced, but are not yet optimized for this group,” the Geometry Global study finds. Coupons saw the highest usage among older Millennials – so it would appear to be only a matter of time before coupons catch on for a new generation.

That validates the findings of an earlier report, by Valassis, which found that Millennials eventually learn to coupon like a pro – using them to make shopping lists, combining them with store promotions, and reaching for the good old-fashioned newspaper to find them.

Interestingly, that Valassis study also found that Millennials demand higher coupon face values, before they bother to clip or use them. And they prefer to shop at one of the dwindling number of stores that offer double or triple coupons.

So newly-independent Millennials may prefer BOGOs to coupons when they’re just starting out. But as they mature, it seems, they’re learning quite nicely.


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