Attitude is more important than income when it comes to families’ spending habits

By solely focusing on demographics or socioeconomic status, brands could be ignoring key consumers willing to part with their cash.

families money

Brands should not target consumers based on their demographic or economic status but consider their decision making processes around purchases instead, new research suggests.

The study, which was conducted by creative communications agency Krow in partnership with YouGov, aims to unearth new insights into how families make purchasing decisions.

Using qualitative and quantitative research, YouGov interviewed 4,024 parents of children aged four or over and segmented them into four clear family types. These are not based on demographic or economic profiles, but on their different attitudes to the decision making process with purchases.

The study finds these decisions are influenced more by attitudes towards parenting and household management than by income, geography, family make-up or age.

“We thought money was going to be at the heart of people’s decision making, but what actually came out was more their attitude towards how they want to run their lives, bring up their children and the relationships they want to have,” Aileen Ross, planning director at Krow, tells Marketing Week.

The four family groups are: ‘conscious nurturers’, ‘control seekers’, ‘practical planners’ and ‘plate spinners’. While their attitudes to decision making differ, the data suggest each group has a fairly similar split when it comes to household income.

Some 32% of respondents – the largest proportion – fall into the ‘conscious nurturers’ category. They believe it’s really important for children’s development to be included in the decision making when it comes to purchases. Preferred brands include Skoda, Pret A Manger, Simple and Waterstones.

‘Control seekers’, the second biggest group (28%), plan their spending in advance. They believe they know what’s best for their children and that parents have a responsibility to make decisions on behalf of their household. Four in 10 agree that well-known brands are better than own label and they are more likely to opt for brands including Volvo, Argos, H&M and Superdrug.

A quarter of respondents (25%) are classed as ‘practical planners’. Their decisions are based on practical criteria, so different members of their household contribute to decisions according to their area of expertise. They opt for brands including Nationwide, Lakeland, The Co-operative and TGI Friday’s.

Accounting for 14% of respondents, ‘plate spinners’ are the smallest group. They are just about managing or struggling to keep up with bills and have no formal rules in the household regarding how decisions are made. They choose brands such as New Look, Halfords, Nando’s and Radox.

The importance of budgeting

‘Practical planners’ adhere to budgets in a very strict manner compared to all other families, meaning if brands want to be part of their consideration process they will need to start communicating with this group early on.

Nine in 10 (89%) plan their holidays versus 64% among all families, while 82% plan big ticket purchases compared to 58% of all families. Unsurprisingly, they are more likely to be up-to-date with bills and credit commitments (53%) compared to other respondents (47%).

‘Conscious nurturers’, meanwhile, are less likely to budget for day-to-day purchases (65%) versus other families (69%), as they are typically more affluent. A quarter (24%) of the families within the group earn over £60,000 versus 19% of all other families.

The smallest group, ‘plate spinners’, tend to work full-time or part-time, and are just managing or struggling to pay the bills. They tend not to experiment or stray away from their regular choices. As an example, nearly two-thirds (60%) always buy the same frozen food as part of their weekly shop.

A third have authorised overdrafts, 50% use a credit card for purchases and one in five have taken out a personal loan.

With this group, there is a greater chance of big ticket items not being purchased (15%) compared to all families (7%).

While there is a greater chance they won’t buy big ticket items, ‘plate spinners’ do allow their families occasional treats, with two-thirds buying concert tickets and 79% treating themselves to food they know isn’t good for them.

READ MORE: The shrinking and emerging demographics marketers need to know

The study also revealed some broader insights into British families’ purchasing decisions and financial situations.

While almost half (47%) of all families in each segment keep up with their financial obligations and have money to spare, one in 10 (11%) are struggling. Another 42% of families are just about managing to keep up with bills and credit commitments but have no money left over.

Among all families, almost half (48%) of all day-to-day purchase decisions are made entirely by parents. For a quarter of families, children put forward opinions from the outset. Incidentally, families who are forced to stick to a strict budget are even more likely to have decisions made solely by parents (55%).

Ross concludes: “As a starting point into identifying the best way to communicate with families, it’s good to have an appreciation of their decision making process in terms of how and why they go about their spending.”

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