When Moms Shop, They're Highly Digitized -- and Not Just for Pencils and Wipes

Busy Mothers Play to Win, Using New Technology to the Hilt, Buying School Supplies or a Family Car

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Motherhood triggers big changes in how women spend their time, how they consume media. And how they shop.

In younger days, shopping meant getting together with girlfriends to indulge in shoes, party dresses and fun conversation. Motherhood puts an end to that , fast. Suddenly life's all about buying school supplies and diapers in bulk, and then rushing home to the family.

Just how do moms shop? BabyCenter US wanted to find out. We also wanted to know how their shopping habits compare to the general internet-using population. Working with comScore, we produced the report, "2011 Shopping Rituals of the American Mom." As the year closes down -- along with the seemingly endless holiday shopping season -- it seems apropos to look at the study's striking results.

PS: Marketers take note: this isn't just about moms. They're the leading indicator for shopping behaviors -- what they're doing today, every consumer will be doing tomorrow.

It's true, as Matt Carmichael wrote in a recent post, "Kids Take All the Fun out of Shopping," moms are often stressed-out, rushed, overwhelmed, cost-obsessed. But that 's far from the whole story. Here's the rest of it.

The final report in the Ad Age Insights' Shopper Marketing quarterly series includes five case studies illustrating shopper marketing in action. In this report, you'll learn:

  • How Kimberly-Clark and Starbucks used shopper marketing tactics to launch a new product
  • How Taco Bell figured out how to get consumers to reconsider its brand
  • How Frito-Lay figured out how to use social networking and an online contest to drive sales in Walmart Stores
  • They play to win.
    Our study, based on surveys of more than 8,000 online moms visiting the BabyCenter US site in summer 2011, shows that moms treat shopping as a sport. After all, many elements are the same: developing strategies, rising to challenges, outperforming the competition, reveling in the big score. No wonder that 84% of moms in our study agreed with the statement that : "When I save money on a shopping trip by using coupons, sales or other deals, I feel like 'I won.' "

    Moms who shop use every available resource to gain an edge. Almost two-thirds have a bar code scanner app on their mobile device to help them zero in on deals -- 30% more than the general population. Three in five moms belong to at least one group buying service.

    They're hardly alone.
    Moms may not shop in packs, but that doesn't mean they're on their own. Instead of calling a girlfriend into the changing room for a second opinion, moms reach for the smartphone: 34% have texted a picture of a product before buying it (compared with 10% of the general internet population). And when they hit the retail trail, they take the entire social graph with them: 44% share deals and discount codes through social media, and 62% post online reviews. Shopping can be one of the most socially engaged parts of a mom's day.

    Their partner's helping.
    Even savvy marketers can fall into the trap of thinking of household shopping as strictly a mom's job. Groceries, nursery supplies, kids' clothes, school supplies -- the poor woman, how does she get it all done? With help from her partner. One in four moms say their partner is somewhat or highly involved in the purchase of baby items; a similar number say that their spouse plays an equal or greater role in purchasing household groceries.

    They're not just buying small stuff.
    Moms aren't just buying wipes and pencils. They have influence over a wider range of categories than ever before, spending more than twice as much online on video games as the general internet population, and nearly as much on hardware and software. They're 47% more likely to anticipate a major financial services purchase in the next 12 months and 25% more likely to purchase airfare or hotels. A full 99% of moms are involved in deciding on a vehicle purchase. Still, nearly 3 in 5 moms feel uncomfortable at auto dealerships, mainly because the dealer falsely assumes that they have little knowledge and a limited role in the buying decision.

    They'll pay for convenience.
    Moms reward brands and retailers that simplify their lives, even if it costs a bit more. Nearly two in five moms are willing to pay for online shipping to save time and effort, and more than one in three agree that simplicity, multi-use and convenience are the biggest priorities in their technology purchases. Moms also demand a more seamless shopping experience, such as the ability to buy online and return in-store without a lot of extra hassle. Free shipping to the store makes moms feel rewarded, which is good news for big-box retailers in particular: 64% of moms will purchase household items and 46% will buy snacks when in the store.

    At the end of the day, moms are masters at tallying their savings and bragging to their social graph about the day's biggest scores. How many ways does she love to shop? Let me count the ways . . .

    Tina Sharkey is global president and chairman for BabyCenter.
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