By CLAIRE WANG

Groceries-2

Michelle Lim, 21, knew that lugging a box of 500 strawberries around her neighborhood was going to be a hefty challenge for a 105-pound, five-foot-three Korean girl. So she enlisted help, in the form of a smartphone application.

A junior at New York University, Lim leads the fundraising raising branch of her business fraternity, Phi Chi Theta. On Valentine’s Day, one of the year’s ripest opportunities to reap profits, she planned to deliver bags of chocolate-covered strawberries to students around campus.

“It was probably our biggest venture yet,” she explained, “so we needed the freshest strawberries delivered as quickly as possible.”

Luckily, Lim has a monthly subscription at FreshDirect, a grocery delivery service from Long Island that carries high quality products. A carton of 500 strawberries was delivered to the lobby of NYU’s Stern School of Business within an hour after Lim placed the order on her phone.

Since the turn of the decade, millennials have been redefining consumer-purchasing habits, forcing major grocery outlets to update their marketing strategies. Now, many millennials have shifted their attention to online channels, and big brands—Amazon, Whole Foods, and Instacart—are quick to catch on, with Google as the latest tech giant to launch a
delivery service.

The social media generation make purchasing decisions based on price, convenience, and personal recommendations, according to Food Shopping in America, a new study conducted by MSLGROUP and The Hartman Group. While millennials, with lower annual incomes, are more budget-conscious than their parents and grandparents, they are also much more active and tech-savvy. The report finds that about 70 percent of millennial shoppers use their phones while shopping to consult shopping lists, find recipes, search for coupons, or contact family members. And 35 percent said that they look for recommendations or product reviews prior to purchasing items.

Discount promotions lure Well-marketed discounts for new users are an effective way to attract millennials shoppers, most of whom want a balance between affordability with and quality. NYU junior Aria Lu, 21, said she started using FreshDirect a few weeks ago to take advantage of a promotion—a $50 discount for new customers on their first two orders over $125.

A frequent shopper at Trader Joe’s, Lu said that FreshDirect’s fruits and meats are “not necessarily cheaper” but “fresher,” adding that she will continue using the service after her coupon expires due to “its convenience, freshness, huge variety of the groceries, and reasonable prices.”

Ann Grover, a customer service representative at FreshDirect, said that although social media promotions draw millennials to the company, it is combination of superior quality and convenience that brings them back. “Young people are both time-challenged and health-conscious,” she explained, “and that’s what makes delivery services like FreshDirect so compelling—you’re paying a little bit more for much fresher produce and faster delivery than you’ll get from most supermarkets.”

NYU junior Anny Liu heard about Instacart through a friend’s Facebook recommendation. While FreshDirect sells and delivers its own produce, Instacart allows users to buy fresh groceries from major companies like Costco and Whole Foods, and then delivers.

Liu, 20, took advantage of the app’s free delivery special for first-time users to order bread and eggs during the blizzard in January. “The weather made it impossible for me to commute to Trader Joe’s or Wholefoods,” she said. “And the prices on their delivery service seemed like they were the same as in-store so I thought I’d do it.”

Although Liu admitted that online-shopping is less exhausting and more time-efficient than in-store shopping, she said that she probably will not order from Instacart because of again due to the delivery cost, which can go as high as $6.which ranges from $3.99 to $5.99 per order. “I’d rather just make the trip to save some money,” she said.

For others the delivery fee is a welcome tradeoff, saving time and energy. Parsons student Ashley Zimmerman, 22, buys groceries through the Whole Foods express delivery system for their speedy service and array of vegan options. Zimmerman, who lives in the Financial District but does most of her shopping in Union Square, uses the application more frequently during the winter months when it gets too cold to travel uptown. “I buy groceries in bulk for convenience, and it is such a pain to carry so much stuff around,” she said, adding that searching for ingredients and comparing prices is much faster online than in-store.

Jodi Kahn, the chief consumer officer at FreshDirect, said in an interview with Fierce Retail that online food commerce market has enormous potential for growth, with only 3 percent of the population buying groceries online in a $600 billion business. “Mobile is growing at a gigantic pace, so we’re putting a lot of effort into mobile opportunities,” she explained. “It’s the fastest world to shop in and it’s addictive, which we like.”

“Fastest” is exactly what over-scheduled college students are looking for, with time a more valuable commodity than money. As Lim said, “It’s easier to just click on things instead of wandering down aisles and waiting in ridiculously long lines.”