Parents are People too – Surprising Facts about This Key Consumer Segment

parents are people too

In my last article “Parents are people too” I discussed why some marketers think that now that you are a parent that you have stopped being interested in anything other than kids’ stuff and why they may be missing a trick here.  

In this article I’m going to reveal some facts about parents as consumers, some of these may surprise you. 

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Some Surprising Facts about a key consumer segment: parents

As I wrote for the Irish Times and Dentsu Inside Marketing last year, parents are people too. 

Many marketers tend to think about consumer segments in a very specific way – by age, life stage or interest. It is too often assumed that once people have children, the only thing they are interested in is buying for their kids. In fact, most parents really don’t like being targeted as such by marketers.

Just because you have had a child doesn’t make you lose interest in products or experiences for yourself!

categories that parents buy in

Our experience with many marketers is that they only think of parents in terms of buying in very narrow product or service categories. For example:

  • Nappies
  • Toys
  • Kids clothes and shoes
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Lunchbox snacks for kids

But consider an average family household and what its household budget is spent on. Parents are making decisions on and buying in many household categories from electricity to food to insurance to entertainment.

BSM Media research shows that mothers manage 80 percent of household spending, while according to The Female Economy from Harvard Business Review, women and by extension, mothers, make the decision in the purchases of

  • 94% of home furnishings
  • 92% of vacations
  • 91% of homes
  • 60% of automobiles
  • 51% of consumer electronics

They decide on buying for the family and for themselves in all categories from Food, Fitness, Beauty, Apparel, Financial Services to Health Services.

According to Statista, 81% of buying decisions on daily consumer goods are made by  women.

Parents and Influence

500 parents answered questions, actively shared their opinions and gave detailed commentary on how parents and how they approach giving and receiving recommendations on products and services, and what influences them to try new products. 

Download our free mini Insights report about Parents and Influence.

The Value of Parent Purchases

Parents influence and purchasing extends to all aspects of family life from insurance to cars, financial services to telecoms, entertainment to holidays and gardens to home decor.

A recent report on millenial parents calls these younger parents a “spending powerhouse” wielding an estimated average of $1.3 trillion in annual spending power.

It points out that their unique approach to parenthood means brands need to understand their preferences, their struggles, and the trends they’re in touch with in order to reach and activate them.

Parents and their network

Parents are really the gatekeepers to family life. They don’t just make purchasing decisions for themselves but are key influencers and decision makers for their children, their own parents and extended family. They have to have a strong level of trust in the brands they buy from. And they will freely recommend brands they trust to their peers and network.

Because of the age that parents are typically at (between 25 and 55 say) these are consumers who have built up a network across time. Consider who is in a typical parent’s network:

  • Immediate family e.g. parents, siblings
  • Wider family members 
  • Pre- parent friends (e.g. school/college)
  • Post-parent friends
  • Creche/school parentsthey know
  • Neighbours
  • Contacts from the classes/clubs their children attend
  • Contacts from the classes/clubs they attend themselves
  • Work colleagues (now+past)
  • Professional associations
  • Social Media

We did some research recently where we asked parents to guesstimate the amount of people in their network. The average number in a parent’s network was 560, the highest was over 1,000!

Think of the power of a parent recommending a product or service into that network.

Parents as Influencers

When it comes to influence and parents, we found out just how likely parents are to recommend products and services to their network of family and friends, and that they really prefer to make the recommendation in person.

Parents really are passionate about sharing good, and bad, experiences of products or services.

Our research showed that the majority of parents will recommend products and services they like, with 61% of parents saying they love telling their close network about things they like and over one third saying they sometimes tell people about products or services if they really like them.

91% of parents said that they preferred to recommend in person with just over two thirds (68%) sharing via text or messaging such as Whatsapp.

Over half the parents (56%) said they had recommended something within the last month, a further 41% said they had recommended something this year.

Ultimately word of mouth marketing is the best form of marketing, so understanding how to tap into how parents recommend to each other and to their network is key.

One parent says:

“Good product or service, I’d inform my whole network via WhatsApp – social, gym, work colleagues etc. If a bad experience would tell less or only those who it’s relevant to.”

Influences on Parents

We have found that parents are happy to give feedback on all aspects of their lives and what influences them.

They want to be involved with improving products and services for themselves as well as their family, and they definitely are interested in so much more than kids’ stuff.

Influencing this valuable segment requires a different approach these days, one that reflects the diversity, behaviour and network that parents represent.

Online access to information to research, reviews to read, forums to join and chat with has changed how people research before purchase.

Consistently across all the insights we do with parents, reviews and recommendations are key to their buying decisions. Here are some facts our research uncovered:

  • When it comes to listening to recommendations from others, half of parents (51%) said they had had a recommendation from someone they trust last week, 35% in the last month.
  • Just under half (46%) said they would check out recommendations from family and friends straight away with 43% saying they would make a note of it and go look for it in store or online.
  • When asked about Influencers advertising products, it seems views are mixed with just over 1 in 5 parents (22%) saying they like seeing them review products/services, while 38% said they are not influenced or don’t really care about influencers.
  • Of those who did say they had purchased a product from seeing it advertised by an influencer, many parents said they had to trust the influencer first before thinking about buying something they recommended. This ties in with previous research carried out by ParentsandBrands (Sep ‘21) that showed that influencer sponsored posts came 11th on a ranking of types of ads that would encourage parents to go find out more or even seek the product in store.

What Brands and Businesses Can Do

Here are 3 simple starting points to change your approach to parents as a consumer segment:

1. Get under the hood of what parents are thinking

This will help you to understand not only what will resonate but also how you can leverage their network and word of mouth. What are parents thinking about your brand, product or service? Where are they finding out about you? What is their network telling them and what are they telling their network? What would activate them?

2. Sense check your communications regularly

Checking in with parents across the year before you spend that precious marketing budget is vital. Talk to them, find out what will resonate, what will activate them, and move away from a push to a listen-learn-tweak-test model. This will ensure you maximise your marketing spend, that your brand resonates with key consumers and they become the word-of-mouth advocates you dream of.

3. Don’t make the kids’ stuff assumption

Instead of thinking of parents as only interested in kids’ products think of them as a key segment to market to. Why wouldn’t a parent want to buy your product? If you sell luxury gifts aimed at adults, remember that parents are adults, they have birthdays, they buy for others. Unless you hae a very niche product or service aimed at very young and/or childless people, then stop thinking of parents as only child-focused consumers. Parents are people too! 

And if you would like our help to talk to this valuable consumer segment, we’re here to help. We work with companies and brands, large and small, in a variety of sectors to help bring them in depth feedback and actionable insight to grow their business and engage with and more importantly, activate parents. 

grow your business with consumer insights

Would you like business-transforming insights for your brand? Use our tailored panels of engaged parents and our dedicated private platform to gather critical insights to help your decision making and activate customers.  Contact us now to find how we can help.

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