While attending the recent Social Media & Play Conference (SMAP) in Chicago, I was privileged to hear Vanessa Van Petten speak on the changing dynamic in how families make purchasing decisions. I was so impressed that I asked her if she would share her insights with the Global Toy News readers. Vanessa is one of the nation's youngest experts, or 'youthologists' on adolescents, youth and family. She now runs her popular website, RadicalParenting.com, which she writes with 120 other teenage writers to answer questions from parents and adults. Her approach has been featured by CNN, Fox News, and Wall Street Journal. She was also on the Real Housewives of Orange County helping the housewives with troubled teens. Her latest book, "Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I'm Grounded?" with Penguin/Plume USA, won the Moms Choice Award 2012.
What happens when the modern family wants to make a new purchase? Who does the hunting, perusing and adopting of new trends? The last ten years of technological development have greatly changed family buying patterns. I work with many teens and families and love to talk to both parents and kids about their big purchases and how family dynamics interplay with buying.
Below I have listed three different family purchases and how technology has changed the traditional buying process.
1. Buying a Family Car
Today, the process often starts with Mom complaining about her old minivan, demanding something more eco-friendly and easier to park. Of course, teen son and tween daughter agree wholeheartedly and are excited for the day they do not have to be embarrassed to drive up to school in the old minivan. Teenage son does research online; he takes into account YouTube video speed tests and looks at reviews from the online version of Auto Trader. Tween daughter gets to vote on color and Mom demands the mini-screens in the backseats like she saw on a recent TV show.
2. Buying a Home Computer
Today, teenage son looks for positive and negative Amazon and CNET reviews. He might ask his friends on Facebook for suggestions before him and Dad surf the net together and order the computer online. Stores like Best Buy are slowly leaving the buying process as more and more electronics purchases are done completely online.
3. Buying Holiday Gifts
Today, tween daughter and teen son scan right through the commercials on TV and instead get ideas for holiday gifts from chatting with their friends online, having a Skype playdate with their cousin across the country and skimming the top gift lists on Amazon and Twitter. By the way, many holiday gifts are no longer handwritten, they are emailed because they have links, pictures and YouTube video demos just in case Mom and Dad can’t figure out which version/color/capacity they want. They are also asking for gifts that cannot necessarily be bought in a store—iTunes credits, a premium membership on Club Penguin, access to a new level on Addicting Games
Overall, buying patterns have become much more democratic and crowd-sourced. Kids have a greater say in family purchases and both kids and parents check websites to see user reviews before buying. Even if potential buyers see a product on a TV commercial, that is still only one step of the process. They will post about it on Facebook to see what their friends think, look up reviews and watch YouTube videos of other buyers to see if the product really is as cool as it looks.
Of course, every family and region is different, but our family buying patterns are rapidly changing. What is it like in your family?