When it Comes to Household Purchases, Kids are Calling the Shots Now

How brand experiences can reach and influence family purchases

Parents like to think they’re the ones in charge of every aspect of the home, and while that is certainly true in a legal sense, the numbers are telling a different story. It turns out kids have more to do with household purchasing decisions than you might think. 

We took a deep dive into research giant Mintel’s new 2022 study,Kid’s Impact on Household Decisions, to find not only where kids are throwing their weight around, but how parents feel about their kids’ financial influence.

Won’t Someone Think of the Parents

Not only have kids’ influence on purchasing decisions increased steadily over the years, the pandemic may have caused parents to relinquish even more control.

In the Mintel survey, parents were asked if they agreed with the statement “I give in to my child’s requests more easily now than before the pandemic.” Only 22% of respondents disagreed with the statement, and the remaining 78% agreed to varying degrees. 

That is a huge swing. This shows that most parents are drawing a direct line between the pandemic and a dramatic change in their own parenting habits. The interesting question, of course, is why? 

The survey provides some possible answers. When asked what parents perceive the main challenges for their kids are right now, the most popular answer was “anxiety.” 

Above food allergies, medical conditions, injuries, and illness, “anxiety” ranked as parents’ primary concern. The changes and difficulties of the lockdown era, the pandemic itself, and parents’ and the media’s reactions to all of those complicated stressors are making kids nervous and afraid.

How do you make a kid feel better, and how do parents do it in the way that makes parents feel better too? How do you make anyone feel better? Well, buying and eating stuff, traditionally. We’re simple creatures.

The actual act of spending money, often called “retail therapy,” has been proven to restore a sense of control and to trigger the production of dopamine. Whether you’re buying things or services for yourself or others, it still feels great.

Eating, of course, has long been a source of comfort for many people, but even the act of giving someone else food creates a similar rewarding feeling.

So, in essence, kids are anxious, parents are anxious about their kids being anxious, and buying kids the stuff they want makes everybody feel better.  

Kids’ Influence on Household Purchases

Now that we know why kids have more influence on household purchases, we can take a look at where their influence seems to count the most. 

Parents had the least influence on snack foods and movie choices. For both categories, only 18% of parents said they make the full decision with zero feedback from the kids. At a close third were purchasing decisions on the shoes the kids wear, with only 19% of parents saying they make that decision without influence.

Parents had the most influence on deciding where to vacation. A full 32% of parents said they make the entire decision on vacation location. It’s not terribly surprising that a parent would have the most power there, but it is a little bit surprising that the number isn’t higher.

“Food for family meals at home” (29%) and “beverage choice”  rounded out the 2nd and 3rd most parent-controlled purchasing decisions. 

Kids have the most sole influence on choosing the TV shows and movies they watch themselves. A solid 18% of parents said their kids choose what they watch with no input or influence from mom and dad. This makes a lot of sense: most parents will tell you that kids are great at finding the oddest TV shows and movies on streaming or YouTube that you’ve never heard of. 

The second most popular decision they make with zero influence is what shoes they wear, and the third most popular was their clothing. Again, considering this survey covered any kids under 18, tweens and teens are becoming more fashion-aware and weighing that number down.

For buying decisions that are evenly split between parental and kid choices, the movies watched at home, weekend outings, and the movies watched in theaters all rank at the top.

What is Influencing Kids (and Parents) to Buy?

According to Mintel’s data, parents are being influenced to buy stuff for their kids from their friends who are also parents, recommendations from medical professionals, and their parents and relatives. Those are the top three.

We know kids are having a greater voice in what the family buys, but where is their influence coming from?

The survey found that for children, their primary source of purchasing influence came from “in-person influences.” Now that is an interesting statement. Not from online influencers (which ranked second), and not from their friends (tied for third), like you might expect. In fact, “social media advertisements” and “catalogs” ranked the lowest for where children are being influenced to spend. 

In-person experience is the most influential. Basically, kids are gaining more say in how their parents spend money, and their learning about and being drawn to products they experience first-hand. 

For brands looking to sell to families, the data is showing that their best strategy might be to target the real decision makers: the kids. And, marketers’ best avenue to reach and influence those kids is in-person experiences with their brand. 

To get help creating an effective, family-friendly experiential marketing event that’ll get families buying, reach out to Inspira Marketing right now.

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