New mothers lead the way when it comes to using smartphones and Facebook as a way to talk to friends, find advice on what to buy and discover the best discounts.
As many as 50% of new mums in the UK own smartphones, according to some retailers, and they are increasingly using them to buy goods after researching, says an exclusive report by BabyCentre, which asked more than 1,000 British women about how they shop.
They are much more reliant on and influenced by the internet and on technology when shopping for groceries, baby clothes and equipment than the general population, says Mike Fogarty, senior vice-president and global publisher at BabyCentre.
“Mums are at the leading edge of the future of shopping. They have an incredible need for information and services in addition to all the other things that a new mum needs. They are using technology to get their jobs done.”
Nearly 90% of new mothers shopped online in the 30 days prior to the research being done and 62% say they would do all of their shopping via the internet if it made sense to.
“Mums are doing everything online. The rate at which they have moved online and use social media as a recommendation engine beats any other segment of the market,” Fogarty claims.
Yet while buying groceries online is something that is clearly popular, Oliver Wilson, customer insight manager at Asda, says its research shows that mothers use going to the supermarket while their children are being looked after by someone else as an escape. “We have seen something different to this research, in relation to grocery shopping. We don’t think it is as high as 62% [who would do all their shopping online],” he claims (see The Frontline, above).
“Online grocery shopping provides a vital service, especially for those who stay at home with their children, but a lot of mothers are saying they want to visit the store because it is a change of scenery, especially if the kids are not in tow.”
Discounts are also very popular in driving online interaction – and not just because of the savings they provide, says Fogarty. As many as 90% subscribe to a daily deals service and 44% regularly print money-off vouchers.
“The reason for this is not just the economy. We found that mums shop ‘for sport’. Getting a deal is great for them personally, but it becomes so much better if they can share it with other mums. Deals are a form of currency for them to say ‘I’ve got a deal, you should have it too’.”
Scanning barcodes for discounts is popular, with 27% of women saying it is worth their time to do this and 55% looking for voucher codes online.
This is making life much more competitive for brands, says Debbie Davies, consultant marketing director at baby website Emma’s Diary.
“The one market that is relatively recession-proof is babies, people will always spend on them. However, the economic climate has made people more savvy and the internet is making products more competitive for mums, so they will shop around particularly for the more expensive items,” she says (see The Frontline, page 23).
It seems the recession hasn’t dampened mothers’ appetites for organic food, with about half of those surveyed saying they read the labels on almost everything they buy and 24% try to buy organic food only.
Fogarty adds: “What comes through very clearly is that mothers think about the health and wellness of their family. That is shown in many ways and not just when we asked about it specifically. When asked how they shop, they often talk about doing what is right for the family, specifically regarding health and wellness.”
This is a trend that convenience retailer Spar is considering, according to its UK head of marketing and management information Adam Margolin. “We are looking at the baby category in quite a lot of detail in terms of what we want to do differently, so I have seen a change in how shoppers generally are behaving. What they want to buy is not necessarily reflected in our current range. That includes looking at [organic baby foods] Organix and Hipp.”
Fogarty at BabyCentre says this desire for healthy or organic produce is something that often starts when a woman is pregnant. “When she is pregnant, she thinks about it for herself and the baby inside her, and after the birth that translates to every aspect of her household life.”
This view is supported by the finding that 20% of new mums say they are more likely to consider hybrid cars than they were before having children, and 50% look for low-chemical paints.
Making shopping more convenient is also crucial for marketers when thinking about mothers, says the study. Seventy per cent of them want helpful salespeople in store, 51% ask for child-friendly shops and 40% look for a seamless interchange between the shop itself and the website.
Asda is looking at how it can make the online and offline experience more connected and is running a trial on ordering groceries via the website and then picking them up in a shop, something which it already offers on Asda Direct for non-food items.
“Multichannel shopping is seen as an ideal solution for mums, especially in integrating mobile and click and collect,” says Jo Newbould, media relations manager at Asda.
Convenience is key, with 48% agreeing they will pay more for products if it saves time and hassle, compared with 37% of the general population.
Fogarty says: “Given the additional hours of parenting a mother does, she has to find ways of getting more done, and that involves multitasking and the use of technology.”
Marketers can also make things easier by letting families know when something is available at a particular price.
“If a family wants to fly somewhere to see the grandparents but is on a tight budget, it will task an airline with telling them when the deal pops up – so when the deal gets to £100, say, they want to be told,” Fogarty gives as an example.
So while this can be a lucrative market for brands, they must use technology and focus on making life easier for mothers to reap the rewards available.
Head of marketing and management information
I am sure mums shopping for a climbing frame or scooter compare prices online, but I don’t think they use comparison sites to research the price of nappies.
What rings true in this research is the healthy eating statistics. Yes, mums read the labels and buy organic. If you look at brands in the baby category, such as Organix and Hipp, they are both extremely successful and growing fast.
Product reviews and social networks are important for mothers, as well as the trend for vouchers, but I think that might be a general trend in the market.
We are looking at what we can do differently in the baby category. I have seen a change in what shoppers want to buy and that is not necessarily reflected in our current range, so we are looking at how we optimise it.
We are trying to incorporate some of the up and coming brands into our range, such as Ella’s Kitchen, and that will mean a sacrifice of some of the older and more staple brands in the baby category.
According to the Convenience Tracking Programme, a mum will generally shop more frequently than average – about four times a week. She spends an average of £9.25 on each visit compared with £5.50 for other shoppers.
Customer insight manager
This study is similar to what our own research has uncovered, especially how women use technology when shopping.
Asda mums are embracing technology. Over half of them own a smartphone, which is higher than the average across the population.
We know how important shopping around for deals online is and 70% of mums look for ways to save money on shopping before they enter a store. They are more open to browsing new products or trying new things.
We agree that online is growing and important, but we don’t think it will ever replace the in store environment.
We also know that healthy eating is a concern but mothers don’t always have time to cook from scratch. There is a perception that healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy food. To get round this, we do things like prepared fruit bags, which are convenient, healthy and tasty.
Our research also found that going to the supermarket without the kids can be a pleasure moment for mothers because it gives them a bit of ‘me time’. As a man, I would perceive that to be something like going to a spa and being pampered, but it can be the really practical routine things – and that was a key insight for us.
Consultant marketing director
The second trimester of pregnancy is when mothers think about what they want to buy for their baby and the purchasing often takes place in the third trimester.
The social side of motherhood has always been there, but the media and technology is allowing them to be in touch with each other much more quickly. About 10% of our audience were looking at Emma’s Diary on a mobile device and that number has doubled in the last 12 months.
They are having major conversations about offers online, so if someone quotes a deal in one supermarket, someone else might point out another. If there is a better offer elsewhere, mums are very quick to critique it. Vouchers work, but they are not interested in 10p off any more, so I agree with the research that they want decent discounts.
We offer mothers Argos vouchers when they register with Emma’s Diary. They are using vouchers more and more, and are looking at how brands can support them in their journey to become parents.
When shopping, mothers trust health professionals before brands, so the key for marketers is to use media where mums are congregating in a neutral way, where they can be more honest about their views.