Understanding Children’s Influence on Parents’ Purchase Decisions

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03.03.2021 research

Did you know that over 4 in 5 parents say that they involve children in shopping decisions more frequently than their own parents did with them (1)? In fact, children’s influence on parents’ purchase decisions, even including where they go shopping, is constantly growing. But what does this mean for grocery retailers?

Let’s take a closer look at some consumer insights to explore why and how grocery retailers should consider speaking to families as a whole, and not only to parents. Although the parents are the final buyers, children do have an influence on their purchase decisions.


The relationship between consumers and brands: A family affair

As you can imagine, parents’ affinity for brands has an intergenerational influence on their children (2). Parents influence children regarding brand preferences, thereby transmitting consumption values and purchasing habits. As a study in the Journal of Consumer Research (3) pointed out, children develop brand loyalty that they carry over into their adult lives and it does not change easily. When children develop an affinity for a brand or product, they are more likely to remain emotionally attached and loyal to them as they grow up.

There is more! Another study conducted in 2000 by a former toy-marketing specialist, Griffin Bacal, found that 2–5-year-olds demonstrate brand knowledge and influence similar to that displayed by older children in past decades. However, what resonates with children the most are the positive experiences with a brand, not the product itself.


The power of children in families’ purchase decisions

Even though children do not always expect to be involved in shopping decisions, 85% of parents find it important to ask for their opinion regarding purchases for the family or household. Notably, parents particularly do so while on their way to purchase as well as when inside the store, right before the purchase.

As Wouter Aalberse, Commercial Director, UNGA, explains, “Families form a significant consumer segment. Even though parents are the main decision makers, children hold buying power as well. So, meeting families’ expectations now means meeting both parents’ and children’s expectations.”

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Families’ purchase decisions and the customer of tomorrow

Although children are, indeed, said to be the customers of tomorrow, they are already customers today. Nearly 9 in 10 parents say that their children influence at least some aspect of their purchases (1). This statistic shared by the National Retail Foundation says a lot about how children are responsible for a fundamental shift in the way families make purchase decisions. It is, therefore, important for brands and retailers to understand how to communicate with families as a whole, since they are the final buyers, and not just the parents.

“Kids are the shoppers of today and tomorrow. Creating a strong connection with them today is the best investment to build a future-proof loyalty to your brand,” says Hong Liem, UNGA Co-CEO.


Translating children’s influence on parents’ purchase decisions to retail loyalty

Families are an important customer segment within the grocery retail industry and should be at the focus of retailers’ marketing strategy. Further, since 41% of parents say that their children influence the choice of the specific retailers they consider, retailers should always keep all family members in mind, adults and children. So, how can you take children’s influence on purchase decisions into account when planning your marketing activities? And how can you build customer loyalty when your customers belong to different age groups?

The answer to these questions is simple: family loyalty campaigns – also known as supermarket collectible promotions. Loyalty campaigns have the power to build an emotional connection between grocery retailers and customers. And emotion is crucial in connecting with families as a whole; it leads to the most profitable behavior by influencing customer expenditure, loyalty, advocacy, and customer lifetime value. On other words, emotion is what helps win families’ loyalty and establish long-lasting relationships with the customers of tomorrow.

Loyalty campaigns resonate with children and families by giving them positive experiences that they won’t forget. Just like the Woolworths Discovery Garden 2 campaign invited families and children to garden together, or Magnit’s Have Fun With Hasbro Games campaign introduced quality time with board games to Russian families, you can find a place where you can also bring value to families through loyalty campaigns. UNGA’s campaigns can help you connect with families through the power of play.


Sources: (1) National Retail Congress. (2019), (2) Psychology Research and Behaviour Management 2018; 11:91-102, (3) Paul M. Connell, Merrie Brucks, and Jesper H. Nielsen. (2014). How Childhood Advertising Exposure Can Create Biased Product Evaluations That Persist into Adulthood. Journal of Consumer Research.

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