Family Shopping: What about the kids?

Executive Summary

  1. Family Shopping: What about the kids?

Traditionally, the focus of shopper marketing has been mom.  Given that most shopping is done by moms (despite the recent increase in fathers helping out with family shopping), this seems to make sense.  Or, does it?   If you look at the bigger picture, we argue that it’s important to broaden our focus and re-frame our thinking to encompass the larger family, especially the role of kids.

  • Why?  First, it’s estimated that slightly less than half of all US retail spending is either directly or indirectly influenced by kids.1  Second, there are over 50 million kids between the ages of 6 and 11 and the number is expected to grow 4.3% over the next 5 years.2  That’s about 1 million more kids every year.   Furthermore, kids’ influence is widespread.  It’s not just toys and candy.  They also influence a wide array of goods ranging from family vacations to cheese.

The purpose of this white paper is to provide brand marketers with a broader view of the family shop (particularly the role, attitudes and perceptions of children) and insight to optimize their marketing efforts.

As many of us have seen in trade publications, the popular press and corporate policies, it’s clearly becoming more controversial to market to kids.  Driving this controversy are several factors:

  • The cognitive limitations of younger kids: specifically their difficulty in distinguishing the fantasy portrayed in marketing and advertising versus the realities of what a product or service can actually offer
  • The obesity epidemic: Many are linking the proliferation of the food and beverage industry with the number of kids who are overweight (33%) or obese 3
  •  Anti-consumerism: given the economic challenges, many consumers have expressed the desire to pull back on consumption 5

In reaction to the controversy surrounding children’s marketing, many companies have greatly diminished or totally walked away from talking to kids.  Instead, they have turned their focus on “family marketing” where the family is viewed as a singular target.  Unfortunately, this is problematic. The family is not a singular target that functions in complete harmony. Rather it is a collection of individuals with various needs, desires and motivations—all of whom play various roles in purchase decisions. Consequently, in trying to talk to “the family,” all too often marketers end up talking to no one.

Dynamic responses of family to "family marketing".

Furthermore, while many stakeholders have been very vocal in their opposition to children’s marketing, this is not the whole picture. Specifically, when we talk to moms, we find that most acknowledge their children’s influence on many household purchases and even welcome it.  They want their kids to have opinions about products and to express those preferences.

Drawing on years of foundational research by The Marketing Store and KidSay, this paper explores 3 areas:

  1. Children’s influence on household purchases
  2. The shopping experience (from kids’ and moms’ perspective)
  3. The grocery shopping experience (from kids’ and moms’ perspective)

The focus of this paper is on kids 5-11 years old and is based on both quantitative and qualitative research.  The quantitative piece primarily leverages proprietary KidSay Trend Trackers, including those surveying kids 5-15 years old and moms of younger kids (5-7 years old).  The qualitative piece includes in-depth interviews, focus groups as well as shopalongs with kids and moms—conducted by both KidSay and The Marketing Store.

Executive Summary – Family Shopping: What about the kids?

  • Children’s influence on household purchases has grown significantly and is estimated to impact slightly less than half of the US Retail spending.
  • Their influence is driven by a number of factors, such as family demographics, attitudinal/lifestyle changes and economic outlook, and extends well beyond kid-centric categories.
  • Most moms recognize and are open to their children’s purchase influence.
  • Contrary to stereotypes, most kids (81% ages 5-11) like to go shopping. In fact, many (especially girls) like it a lot.
  • Kids enjoy shopping for many reasons, with the two primary ones being:  bonding with others and the simple enjoyment of “looking at stuff.”
  • However, kids do have their complaints about shopping:  it takes too long and often  involves a lot to waiting in lines and walking.
  • While online shopping could address kids’ complaints, only about half (54%) are researching products online and very few (20%) are actually shopping online
  • Interestingly, kids prefer shopping in “real stores” rather than online because of the key benefits it offers such as product trial and experience, sociability  and serendipity.
  • Kids have their favorite things to shop for—mostly things they personally use and exert a high level of influence over.
  • Kids favorite stores:  Walmart, Toys R Us, Target, Justice and GameStop.
  • Key drivers of kids’ favorite stores:  entertainment, hands-on interaction, high sensory ambiance, aspirational product and environment, “good deals,” likable sales people, product variety, novelty and shared passions.
  • Marketing collateral has little impact on kids, unless it follows key principles:  high visual engagement, interactivity, noticeable and understandable and passion-focused.
  • Grocery shopping is largely a “family affair.”   All moms take their children at least some of the time.  In fact, many (55%) take their kids every time or regularly.
  • The main reasons that mom take their kids grocery shopping are convenience, enjoyment and help.  However, most also recognize that when taking kids grocery shopping, it can take longer (83%) or lead to additional money spent (77%).
  • Most moms feel that the grocery store experience should be more family-friendly. At the top of their list are:  “provide better value,” “make it more convenient” and “entertain my kids.”
  • Trader Joe’s is viewed as the “most family-friendly grocery store” because it delivers on most things that moms and kids want.
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