Shopping with kids. It’s one of those things you have to experience to truly understand. While a childless person may wonder how something as simple as a trip to the store to buy milk could devolve into a 2-hour ordeal of screaming and bodily fluids, moms know firsthand what’s at stake.
Of course, total shopping breakdown isn’t the norm for most parents; it’s simply the worst-case scenario. Moms know what to pack, when to go and most importantly, the family un-friendly stores to avoid in order to ensure smooth and uneventful shopping trips.
My company recently undertook a research project called “American Young Families,” a study of mothers aged 28 to 45 aimed at helping brands better understand Millennial moms. What we found is that most really enjoy shopping—under the right conditions.
The problem is, for all their efforts, the mothers of young children often feel they are left with few options for truly rewarding, kid-centric shopping experiences. Our research reveals that the majority of these parents think retail experiences could be a lot more accommodating to families, and that very few major retailers are empathetic to their needs.
Nearly 70 percent of today’s moms work as well as take care of their families. And stay-at-home moms are under a lot of pressure themselves, with kids keeping them busy with school responsibilities and extracurriculars. These moms need and deserve a little extra help from the retailers they spend their money with.
Here are the Top 5 things moms in our study said would make their shopping experience better. Retailers, are you listening?
Kids’ snacks and handouts
Family friendly restaurants have long made parent’s lives easier by handing out crayons and coloring sheets, or some kid-approved appetizers on the house. Even banks give out lollipops. So why have so few retailers adopted this strategy? Giving kids a little something to distract them, no matter how small, can go a long way towards transforming the experience from an errand, into something families look forward to doing.
Kids’ play spaces
Sure, figuring out the space and staffing for a kid’s play space can seem daunting. But even a simple area, such as the book-filled kid’s corners you see in some Whole Foods, can be a huge help to parents who need their kids to unwind for a few minutes in a space of their own. These don’t need to include crazy playgrounds or hard to maintain ball pits. Instead, they can be a highly strategic marketing tool filled with toys, books and movies sold within the store.
Child-friendly shopping carts
Parents are usually faced with two choices when shopping—use a cold, hard metal shopping cart that provides no entertainment to their child, or put the kids in a garish, racing car-themed monstrosity that makes navigating the store aisles all but impossible (never mind the embarrassment of pushing the thing around). Surely there must be a middle ground, an easily navigable, comfortable cart with a little something up front to distract that grabby toddler.
Family bathrooms and nursing lounges
Nursing and bathroom emergencies are two crucial factors that can absolutely ruin a shopping trip. Dealing with an accident or a screaming infant in public can wreck a person’s whole day, and ruin their feelings about a store. (Memories of that time your kid peed in the shampoo aisle can be hard to shake.) Knowing that a brand understands your needs, and is happy to accommodate, can take all the stress out of the situation for a busy mom and build all-important goodwill at the same time.
Everyone loves the convenience of curbside pickup, but few people actually need it more than busy moms. Getting the kids in and out of the car—twice—to grab a few items can be a struggle, especially for families with multiples, special needs kids or just a napping infant. Offering a service like this can make a huge difference for retailers who may not even know how much business they are losing just because moms don’t want to handle the hassle of getting in and out of the store.
So many major retailers are trying to be all things to all people, but they are still not grasping the challenges busy families face when shopping. By getting a better sense of their needs, and making a real effort to support them, retailers can make their stores a fun, welcoming place where moms and kids look forward to spending time.
Malinda Sanna (@spark_in_nyc) is founder & CEO of Spark Ideas, a consumer insights and technology company.