Seven Keys to Understanding the Parent/Child Shopping Dynamic

Filed Under: Shopper, Youth & Family


Terrie Wendricks

Kids can have an influence and play a significant role in the purchase decision for kid-oriented products. Because of this, it is important for brands to consider the influence that kids can have on their parents. Just how big of an influence do kids really have on their parents’ purchase decisions though? We conducted a study to answer exactly that! Using data from our YouthBeat syndicated report and from our own hybrid research study using an online community and quantitative survey, we found seven themes that describe the dynamic between parents and their kids while shopping.

The Acrobatics of Team Shopping

There is a push-pull relationship between parents and their kids when it comes to shopping and the influence that kids can have over purchase decisions. According to our YouthBeat data, many kids believe they have a lot of influence over their parents’ choices. For example, 40% of kids said they have a lot of influence over the cereal that is bought and 43% over their shoes. Part of the reason they believe they have this influence is because they are present while their parents are shopping. Mass merchandise stores (65%) and grocery/stores supermarkets (41%) are the top stores that moms said they shopped at with their kids in the past month.

Walking the Tightrope

Even though kids can have an influence on what their parents decide to purchase, ultimately their parents are the ones making the final decision. That is why ‘mom appeal’ is essential. In some cases, parents really will consider the child’s preference; but in others, they’ll have no influence at all. And it’s not just kids nagging their parents. Sometimes parents are asking for their kids’ opinions; but, again, sometimes this is just so that they can keep their kids’ preferences in mind while shopping. So, in your marketing efforts, realize that parents are going to be the ones making the final decision on what to buy in the end; so, appealing to them is vital.

Elephants Never Forget

Like most, parents are nostalgic. They have their own strong memories of favorite brands and products from their childhood which can be a strong motivator when it comes to purchasing something with their children in mind. Moms even told us that they think about feelings of connection to their own childhood when shopping for their children. And when purchasing fast food, 49% of moms think about childhood somewhere along the path to purchase. So, as a brand, it would be beneficial to help parents relive the excitement and enjoyment of products they knew as a child to help foster brand loyalty.

The Emotional Roller Coaster

Every brand ultimately goes through highs and lows. We’ve found the key is to ensure you ride those peaks for as long as you can and then minimize the lows. The in-store shopping experience can trigger a roller coaster of emotions from parents (and can even change just depending on their mood or the day!) – ranging from feeling confident to being overwhelmed. Brands need to be activate and communicate with parents both in and out of the store to help them feel confident in their decisions.

Send in the Clowns

A brand needs to truly understand the style of the moms who are shopping for their products. In our qualitative research, we found that there are three different orientations for moms when it comes to purchase decisions: the good mom, the smart mom, and the fun mom. We based this off of the importance they placed on nurturing, budgeting or simply delighting their children. Once you figure out the style of your mom, make sure your marketing materials deliver against it.

Getting on the Right Ride

The parent/child dynamic differs for every category, so it is important for your brand to understand what it is for your category, and then leverage it in your favor. Our YouthBeat data shows varying levels of influence by category, ranging from the child asking for a specific brand, to parents asking their child, to no child influence.

Winning the Big Prize

In order to give yourself the best chance of landing in mom’s shopping cart – provide products and services that result in meaningful payoffs for her. This is the best way to cement brand loyalty with parents. Does the service or product provide the essentials for survival? Does it serve as a teaching moment? Does it promote mom-as-hero? Or accommodate parent/child bonding? As a brand, you want to try and win in one of these four areas (survival, teaching, heroism, or bonding); so, play up these aspects in your marketing materials.

In sum, to ensure your brand success, it is important to keep in mind some of these main themes: kids can influence and play a significant role in the purchase decision for kid-oriented products whether they are asking for a particular brand, or their parents are keeping in mind their preferences. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the parent-child dynamic for your category or brand, and then leverage it in your favor.

explore featured
Case studies

Hey, get our newsletter

join 5,000+ market research professionals
who “emerge smarter” with our insights