One of the big retail stories of 2017 will be how shoppers – and most particularly, Millennial food shoppers – respond to the rollout of 365 By Whole Foods. The initiative, launched during 2016 in select locations, seeks to hit Millennials in their sweet spots by tailoring how Whole Foods delivers on its well-established brand identity as a seller of healthy, eco-friendly edibles. “New stores will be popping up all over the place in 2017 and beyond,” the “365” website promises.
Here are some of the key changes that could hold a special appeal for Millennials:
Technology Matters: Price labels will be digital only, and iPad-like devices will let shoppers place takeout food orders that will be waiting for them at checkout.
- This taps into a signature preference of Millennials, for whom tapping smartphones to access information and carry out the tasks of daily life is second nature.
- And that extends perhaps even more to the younger Gen Z that’s beginning to come of grocery-shopping age.
Speed Matters: Technology and standardized store design aim to accelerate the shopping experience.
- Millennials are accustomed to going from experience to experience rapidly in the mobile realm.
- Some say that’s a sign of short attention spans – but it also underscores the fast, multitasker’s pace at which Millennials are accustomed to getting things done, shopping included.
- Today’s grocery retailers have to compete with online shopping and food-delivery options that Millennials also favor. So delays can’t be part of the in-store experience.
Thrift Matters: A core proposition for 365 By Whole Foods is lower pricing attained through operating efficiencies, and a standardized, utilitarian, no-frills store design.
- As the generation that came up during and after the Great Recession, Millennials are well aware of economic challenges and seek ways to adapt or overcome.
- A generation that doesn’t see big screen monitors, powerful stereos, landline telephones and cable or satellite TV subscriptions as necessities could be a natural audience for minimalist-chic store design and other features that underscore unpretentiousness and cost-savings through technology and efficiency.
Social Interaction Matters: Whole Foods invites local boutique restaurants and vendors to take up residence inside its “365” stores – hoping they will become social hangouts.
- It’s often noted that many Millennials like hanging out face-to-face in groups; social media isn’t the only way they keep in contact with friends.
- A grocery that’s technologized and standardized for efficiency-optimization, combined with opportunities for human-to-human, distinctly local hanging out seems like a bid to appeal to different sides of complex Millennial mindsets.
Whole Foods’ interesting bet on a Millennial-tailored grocery chain resonates with the idea that the realm of mobile technology is not something alien to in-person consumer experiences. It’s an early example of how the physical world of commerce will adapt to smartphones by recognizing how much Millennials' intimate connection to their phones shapes their lives -- including their lives as consumers.
In the case of 365 By Whole Foods, a decades-old grocery chain rooted in a regard for nature is adapting to align itself with both the firm realities and stylistic sensibilities of the smartphone era – that is, it’s adapting to the rise of the Millennials and the even more tech-native generation coming up behind them. The best way to understand what young consumers think about 365 By Whole Foods -- or any other product or service -- is to ask them.