Every generation has a small clique of individuals on the outskirts looking in. A bit too young, or a little too old.

At 37 years old, I fall into that category. I could call myself a Millennial but every time I log into Snapchat I feel too old, and I was only 10 years old when Generation X’s signature album “Nevermind” by Nirvana was released.

But I’m part of a group who remembers a time before the internet when you had giant Rand McNally maps for road trips and telephones hanging on the kitchen wall with 50-foot cords.

Yet we adapted to the internet and its effect on our everyday lives. I was in my teens when the personal computer became an internet machine and in my early 20s when the iPhone was launched.

It’s because of this unique generational crossroads that I’ve always had a fascination with how each generation of consumers reacts to a brand’s messaging.

Of all the various brand segments out there, grocery is one of the most fascinating. Every generation needs a grocery store, yet what’s important to a 20-year-old grocery shopper likely isn’t the same for a 75-year-old customer ““ especially in this fast-paced, digital consumer jungle we find ourselves in.

Grocery brands have to bridge the generational gap to successfully connect with consumers within each generation, and this is a daunting task.

That’s why we partnered with our research team to ask thousands of grocery shoppers across the country from Generation Z to Baby Boomers questions about their grocery shopping habits.

What factors help them decide where to get their week’s groceries?

Do they shop online? If so, why?

Which media outlets do they use for planning their trip?

While there are hundreds of insights, these three learnings have been instrumental to our team when executing marketing campaigns, and I wanted to share them.

1. Baby Boomers will continue to be traditional marketing consumers.

“Price and Item” marketing has always been (and still is) the leading marketing strategy for grocery brands. A weekly ad showcasing items with price sent to consumers via direct mail and newspaper.

Consumers would then gather all these ads together on their kitchen table and plan their week’s grocery shopping based on price and/or coupons for the items they need.

This is still a leading strategy for grocery brands ““ and it should be. Baby Boomer adults (50-64) told us direct mail and newspaper ads are the top sources they use to gather grocery shopping information, but we wondered, would they also begin to utilize additional resources such as social media and online shopping?

Not so much.

Only 3% of the Baby Boomers we surveyed told us they use social media as a resource for info, sales, or coupons. And they were 50% less likely than the average adult to consider online ordering, with pickup a top factor when planning their grocery list.

Baby Boomers are consumer creatures of habit and will continue to be most efficiently reached through a strong price and item message via traditional media with digital marketing used only when specifically targeting Baby Boomers.

2. Customer experience is more important than ever.

While Baby Boomers value price, shoppers under the age of 40 had a different answer.

Generation Z (18-24) and Millennial (25-39) shoppers were less likely to choose low prices or sales as important factors when picking a grocery brand.

They were more likely than older generations to value quality, selection, and convenience. Eighty percent of Millennial shoppers said their primary grocery store is the one most convenient for them. They also placed a much higher value on community support, speed of service, and organic product selection.

In short, younger grocery shoppers of today are willing to spend more if it means a better, frictionless experience, higher-quality foods, and the satisfaction of supporting a brand that values their community.

We talk a lot about the consumer of today valuing experience over price during our LOCALiQ Growth Lab events across the country. And it is a particularly prevalent dynamic for up-and-coming grocery shoppers.

3. Young shoppers are in-depth researchers.

Generation Z and Millennial grocery shoppers are very dynamic grocery shoppers. They use multiple resources and tactics to plan their week’s groceries.

Both young and old generations browse products in store, stock up on sale items, compare prices, and search for coupons, but the younger generation takes it a step further with actions including online research, reading consumer reviews, and being inspired by content.

Younger shoppers are also more likely than other generations to mention online marketing, social media, blogs, reviews, and word of mouth as a source to gather grocery shopping information. For example, what grocery brand is showcasing a dish that could look great on their Instagram feed?

And when it comes to online grocery buying, adoption is being led by grocery shoppers under the age of 40.

Generation Z grocery shoppers are most likely to be utilizing online order with pickup, and their number one reason why? A a friction-free buying experience they fully control.

Millennials, a slightly older audience, are finding great value in the convenience of picking up all their groceries without leaving the confines of the car.

Baby Boomers and even Generation X (40-54) are less likely to be utilizing online order and pickup.

In Summary: It’s Complicated

The marketing landscape for grocery has never been more complex.

As the industry navigates this transition from Baby Boomer to the grocery shoppers of tomorrow, brands will need to optimize their marketing strategies to maintain their price and item marketing to older consumers via traditional media tools while layering in a strong message on quality and convenience to younger consumers across online media outlets.

Younger shoppers are picky, using multiple outlets to plan where they buy groceries while also valuing the customer experience at a much higher level.

As a Strategic Grocery team, we live and breathe grocery industry marketing.

If you would be interested in seeing the full results of our grocery study along with learning about the ways we work every day to provide creative and powerful strategies that bring new shoppers across all generations through the door, email me at aporter2@gannett.com.

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