Baby love brings out the social media in mums

New research suggests that mums-to-be these days are digital savvy and are changing the way they source information and connect with brands.

Babies can mean big business for brands. This month, Tesco launched its Tesco Loves Baby club and Morrison’s Kiddicare is rolling out its first big marketing push by sponsoring ITV2 show Up All Night - all in the aim of fostering favouritism in parents.

But brands may have to reassess how they attract parents’ attention. According to new research by parenting club Bounty, mothers-to-be are changing the types of media they use before becoming pregnant and Bounty commercial director Ed Axon says new mums are likely to be digital ‘natives’. “The average age of a mum is 29, so from the start new mums tend to be digital savvy”.

They are also more likely to use social networking sites - nearly 80 per cent of respondents do so compared to 51 per cent for the average person. Similarly, they are more likely to have a smartphone, with 78 per cent of mums owning one compared to the UK average of 39 per cent.

Click return

The research comes at a time when consumers are expected to spend more than £87bn online this year. As much as £1 in every £8 spent online comes via mobile or tablet devices, according to the latest IMRG Capgemini e-retail sales index.

Brands are also realising that advertising online provides an opportunity for highly targeted campaigns. In a six-figure deal earlier this month, Morrisons became the first brand to use an advertising platform devised by parenting website Netmums, which allows for quick changes in messaging.

The platform enables brands to adapt their marketing on Netmums’ pages in response to real-time feedback from site users, including popular topics or discussions on the forum, instead of having a single, preplanned message.

Netmums founder Siobhan Freegard says that brands “know they are at a point where they have to build a relationship with mums.”

The platform also works closely with Kellogg’s in an annual plan broken down by week. “Kellogg’s advertising has been thought out by teams of people that are looking at what mums are facing, the issues, problems and fun stuff they want to do. That’s where you get that interaction and where the brand becomes part of the community,” claims Freegard.

Although online and mobile channels are popular, television still ranks higher with 96 per cent of the 2,000 women questioned in Bounty’s research having watched TV in the past month. However, Axon believes that this is more likely to be due to their children having the TV on in the background rather than actively watching it.

Bite-size

Axon adds that mums want three things, delivered in bite-sized snippets that fit around their lives: to learn about the best products for them and their families, to share with others, and to make their money go further.

The bite-size aspect of mums’ lives relates to the amount of time they have in a day and could explain the move away from longer forms of media, for example reading magazines and newspapers. On average, 71 per cent of people have read a printed paper in the past month but that reduces to 60 per cent for new mothers.

In addition, evenings are the time when they are online and focused, particularly after 8pm. This also changes in comparison to what stage they are in from pregnancy to having a young family (see charts, below).

“As a mum you rarely think ‘I’ll just sit down and watch this programme that I like’,” says Freegard. “You’re more likely to go online when the baby is asleep and spend 10 minutes saying hello to a few people and see what’s going on. It’s the ability to dip in and out depending on what is happening with your children.”

Likeability

The mothers in the research also like an average of 8.5 brands on Facebook and two-thirds say the reason is to get discount codes and vouchers. Half ‘like’ brands to enter a prize draw. But few want to contact brands in this way: 4 per cent want to chat with or contact a brand and 3 per cent want to chat to other people who like the brand (see charts below).

“It tends to be a one-way relationship. As long as that brand is giving them an offer or competition that’s as far as it goes,” says Axon. “There is almost a degree of annoyance if that company then tries to interact on a different level. It should be about tapping into what mums want and being part of that solution.”

Kiddicare’s sponsorship of Up All Night - a sitcom about a new mum trying to juggle a baby, husband and career - also includes Q&As via social media. It recently ran a ‘sleep surgery’ with a family sleep expert who was on hand to offer tips and advice while the programme aired.

Kiddicare chief marketing officer Alison Lancaster says: “You have to be very careful not to make your social media too commercial. It has to be there as a facilitator of conversation between mums. I think it’s far more about brand advocacy, influencing and getting mums talking to each other rather than a hard sell.”

Mothercare also hosts expert Q&A sessions on Facebook and launched its first Twitter ‘party’, where participants follow and add to conversation using a selected hashtag, during Channel 4’s One Born Every Minute, of which it is an official partner.

Mothercare group brand and marketing director Jude Bridge says: “Twitter parties are great fun and enable a dialogue with mums. Social media means we can listen and communicate to mums and ensure they feel part of a community.”

Despite the dominance of online within this group, the research also highlights the role of the printed word, although these types of traditional media feature lower down on the list of media consumed by mums.

“We are not saying throw all your money at digital because we feel there is a significant role for the printed word,” says Axon.”Rather, marketers should aim to understand how mums are consuming media and what they are looking for from the brand, and then adapt the media mix to fulfil those needs.”

The Frontline

We ask marketers whether our ‘trends’ research matches their experience on the ground

Alison Lancaster
Chief marketing officer
Kiddicare

Brands are realising how important online is to mothers and everyone knows that to reach them you have to be online. The one thing most mums are these days is time-pressed. So whether they are stay-at-home or working mums, the web really is their window to the world.

Recent research from Google, which suggests that Google is ‘the new mum’, backs up this Bounty research. A generation ago, people would go to their mothers for advice when they became pregnant. Google’s research shows that the first place they go now is online. This shows the importance of the role the internet plays for mums.

The research is quietly reassuring as we spend the majority of our marketing money online and on TV and we think the two channels are complementary. We then use other media to drive footfall to our stores and create local awareness as we open new stores.

The reason we have gone into multichannel retailing and are opening stores is because mothers want to use all channels, and although their information ‘journey’ starts and ends online with research and checking prices, they also want to touch and feel the products.

Siobhan Freegard
Founder
Netmums

Deals and discounts are important, and mums are less brand loyal than they used to be: they will change brands for a better offer. Brands have to work harder to keep a relationship with mums so they don’t switch.

TV, radio and magazines are about pushing messaging at mums while the internet is about having a conversational style and getting into details of the brand, product or service and building a relationship around this. They are the successful campaigns. Some brands are doing it really well and some are stuck in the old media. Television is important for brand awareness and online is more about the detail, it’s more one-on-one and interactive.

A third of our traffic is coming from mobile but it is not split evenly across the types of places visited on the site. It’s mostly forums; people are chatting and getting involved in conversations, so while they are out they get alerts on their mobiles to say someone has replied. It’s very much social rather than content based. The site is also localised to different parts of the country so mums use the site to find a child-friendly restaurant or play centre with their mobiles.

Jude Bridge
Group brand and marketing director
Mothercare

Mums are tech-savvy. They are looking at price comparison sites, product reviews and scanning products in-store to check prices against other retailers.

We all know mums are busy multi-taskers and use multiple devices. Online shopping is growing because mums can browse, compare prices, shop out of traditional shopping hours and read reviews at their convenience.

The growth of the mobile and tablet market means that three out of four mums use a smartphone with 30 per cent of Mothercare customers visiting us online via a mobile device. Our Mothercare app has 60,000 downloads to date and we find that push notifications are a good way to target customers.

Social media is a good way to build brand advocacy. We have communities on Facebook and Twitter with customers using these channels to engage, share stories and photos, discuss products and find expert advice.

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