Recently, my not-quite-three-year-old son discovered a magical place that has quickly become his favorite destination—the grocery store. Every day after school (sometimes twice on the weekend), we’re peppered with requests to go grocery shopping, to the point where sometimes we have to say no just because our fridge is about to burst.

bacon

What is it about the grocery store that he finds so fascinating? Sure, he likes the race car shopping cart and the stickers that he gets at checkout—but his fascination is really about the act of shopping itself. And while my son is part of a generation yet to be named, in many ways, he acts like a Millennial, the most mysterious, most sought-after grocery shopper. He’s reminded me of a few important lessons:

Interaction beats packaging gimmicks

My son remembers every spot in the store where he ever received a free sample of anything. I’m always surprised that he’s not sucked in by the endless parade of Elmo/Ninja Turtle/Dory packaging that bombards us as we shop. But no, what sticks with him is the piece of cheese that he got to snack on (or throw at things) while we wheeled up and down the aisles. Those are the products he asks for again and again. You can’t fool him with slick packaging. Real, human interaction with your product is what builds loyalty.

Discounts matter

Seriously, even to a toddler. His second favorite thing to do (after eating free cheese) is handing over our stack of coupons and watching Mommy get happier as our total drops lower. Even cooler is when I hand over my phone so the cashier can scan the discounts that live there alongside Mickey Mouse Clubhouse videos and alphabet games. And while all the talk in recent years has been about how Millennials value quality and authenticity over discounts, turns out they might just like a good coupon as much as me, my mom, and even my grandma.

Lists are good

We start every trip with a list of what we need—sometimes it’s a note on my phone, sometimes it’s a piece of paper, sometimes it’s a mantra we recite to each other as we make our way through the store. My lists help preserve my sanity—but there are other reasons to make them, too. For instance, Millennials are more likely to make lists to make sure they buy the right brands on their shopping trips. For brands and retailers, this means there’s added pressure to offer Millennials the content, services, and experiences that make you list-worthy.

groceryList

In between pulling the price stickers off everything in sight and shouting, “Hi there!” to ALL of our fellow shoppers, my toddler has helped me remember the simple things we can do to engage and inspire Millennials. It’s tough to make it on the list, but once you’re there, you’re likely to stay.