5 Truths About How Children Influence What Parents Buy

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How much influence does a kid exert on buying decisions?

To a mother trying to pull a crying child away from the toy store, the answer seems obvious. But the big picture is actually more complicated than it first appears, thanks to a wide range of intervening factors. Here are some things you should understand about the real influence of children on a parent’s wallet.

For most families, the decision-making process is a collaborative one. It’s easy to picture the process as a child asking for something and a parent saying no, but that’s a simplistic generalization. A 2013 report by the US Toy Industry Association found that for 40% of families, the decision to buy a product is a mutual decision between both parent and child—a process they characterize as “families in sync.”

Parents think about more than just cost. As financially capable adults, parents are acutely aware of the cost of the products their children may want them to buy. However, price isn’t the only thing they think about.

The toy industry report narrowed parents’ considerations to four:

·         Affordability. Is the product appropriate for my budget?

·         Age appropriateness. Is the product right for my child’s age and gender?

·         Reason or occasion of purchasing. Why do we need to buy this?

·         Perceived quality or value. Is it worth what I’m going to spend?

The older the child is, the more influence he or she has on the decision. While younger kid simply ask, marketing research shows that older kids use persuasion or negotiation skills to try and get their parents to buy the products they want. This is because they have greater knowledge of products, have a wider understanding of economic concepts, and generally take on the consumer behavior of adults.

Because of this, older children become more influential in buying decisions, as a 2008 Danish study found out in a survey of family purchasing habits for products as diverse as ketchup to cars to even vacations.

The internet plays a key role in how a child can sway a parent’s decision. Unsurprisingly, this increasingly wired generation of kids is using the internet not just to find out about a product, but to tell their parents about it. The Toy Industry Association report found that in 21% of the families they surveyed, the children told their parents about a new toy they wanted by pointing it out in an online site, sending an IM, or setting up an online wishlist.

The parents still have the last word. This is a good reminder for parents to know: Ultimately, it’s you who’s pulling out your wallet and lining up at the cashier. As the Danish study says: “Children are to a greater degree initiators rather than influencers in their family’s purchase decisions.”

This doesn’t discount the power of their role, though: in their role as initiators, they get the ball rolling on a potential family purchase. 

As you can see, a whole host of external factors determine whether a parent says “yes” or “no” to a purchase. Based on your experience, what other insights can you offer when it comes to how much a child can influence a purchase? Sound off in the comments below.