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Are You Reaching First-time Grocery Shoppers?


It’s that time of year again, when millions of kids will be shipping off to universities and colleges across the United States. In fact, there are currently over 21 million college students, according to El Toro, which pegged their spending power at $50 billion on food alone last year. For many college students, the transition will mark the first time living on their own and shopping for their own groceries. What will be their top priorities when browsing the aisles? Affordability, convenience and health.

While open to a variety of brands, these new shoppers will spend their money at the stores that cater to them the most through relevant content and specialized offers, as well as at grocers' where their friends are shopping.

The following are four ways to reach and resonate with today’s college shoppers to get your share:

Hold a Social Media Contest

According to a survey by Study Breaks College Media, 95 percent of college students use Facebook; 80 percent also use Twitter; and 73 percent use Instagram. Clearly social media is an integral aspect of a college student’s daily routine. Put your brand in the mix. Give students a reason to interact with your brand by hosting a social media contest with store gift cards or other prizes up for grabs for the winners.

Instagram is the perfect platform for a contest because entries are extremely easy to follow with a designated contest hashtag. Create a simple theme for your contest that will encourage students to share their own take on it. Tailgating season? Embolden students to post photos in their favorite university gear and tag your brand’s handle and include the contest hashtag (i.e. #TomThumbsTailgating). For the price of a few prizes, your brand will instantly be shared across every entrant’s network.

Ensure Your Content and In-store Placement is Relevant to Their Needs

If your brand doesn’t have something of value to offer college students, they may have little to do with your store or products. This audience may not know how to shop for full meals like their parents did. Make it easy for them to go grocery shopping on their own by providing recipes and product usage tips that gratify their priorities of convenience and health. Where to provide these recipes? Both in-store and online. Seventy-five percent of college students are most likely to use their smartphones over any other device to access social media. Keep this in mind when promoting your online content. Your recipes and tips should be informative but “snackable” in size to ensure they are easily digestible on mobile phones. Most students do not have the time or means to whip-up 15-step recipes. Having packaged meals or all the items they need to make a meal in the same store area will also strongly resonate with their desire to “grab and go.”

Remember, They're on a Budget

College students love deals. Going to college is often when they buy the majority of their own meals for the first time, so every dollar counts when it comes to managing their budgets. Forty-two percent of students love seeing “good deals,” specials and discounts on their social media feeds. Fuel this sentiment and give them an extra incentive to choose your store over another in town by offering a brand app to help with grocery budgeting and deliver coupons they can easily flash as they are going through the check-out.

The King of Convenience is Delivery

Many students have limited or no access to cars when they live on or near college campuses. This also means trips to the grocery store can be hard to come by. This is why grocery delivery services like Peapod have been gaining major traction because they bring the goods directly to the consumer, rather than them having to make the trek to a brick-and-mortar. Keep this opportunity in mind when marketing to transportation-strained segments.

Resonating with first-time grocery shoppers is key to securing long-term shopping relationships. If your brand is their grocery go-to for affordability, convenience and health while they are in college, that relationship can easily continue while they enter the workforce and well into the future. If you avoid discounting college students as solely proprietors of Ramen wrappers, you have a true case for brand allegiance.


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