Despite Changes In American Demographics & Economy, When It Comes To Playtime Purchases For Their Kids, Parents Basic Motivations Remain Unchanged

PORT WASHINGTON, NEW YORK, July 25, 2013 – In its latest report, The Evolution of Play, global information company The NPD Group examines attitudes towards toys and technology; specifically, the report focuses on how parents approach shopping for their child, and how they think about their child’s play time. Although play options for kids tend to change from one generation to the next, the research suggests that the basic motivations of parents remain unchanged over time.

The report identified five distinct segments of parents with a child in the 2-12 age range. Revenue refers to parent’s reported spend on traditional toys such as dolls and action figures, as well as electronic toys such as apps, videogames, and hardware for the child.

NPD Play Segments: % of Parents and % Revenue…

“It’s no shock that the indulgent parent lives on, but we may be surprised that there aren’t more of them,” said Russ Crupnick, senior vice president of industry analysis at The NPD Group. “In fact, there are many more parents who are relatively conservative, whether it comes to permitting the use of technology, setting budgets, or shopping preferences.”

The “More Is Better” segment consists of the highest spending, most tech-forward parents; however, the interest in electronics is well balanced with expenditures on traditional toys, including games. “On the surface, this is the easiest parent to market to, as they believe in the power of play, and they shop frequently, said Crupnick. But there’s a battle for mindshare for both retailers and manufacturers in the sense that they shop at many different stores, and since they plan purchases, a marketer needs to get on their shopping list quite early.”

“Child Pleasers” is a segment that wants their kids to have more than they did growing up; this aspiration creates impulse shopping even when the family might not have the disposable income. According to NPD, there are opportunities to capture more revenue from this segment, especially if retailers can create a compelling presentation in the store aisles to take advantage of that impulse potential.

“Parents Know Best” are perhaps the most selective of all segments. They have clear beliefs about what’s good for their children. They favor educational experiences, are less influenced by advertising or what kids ask for, and if the child does use electronics, the parents are limiting the time spent on those devices.  “Despite being the strictest parents, this group has a lot of potential for traditional toy manufacturers to promote education and family involvement in play; they aren’t afraid to spend money on toys when they see the value in the play experience, and are immune to the ‘nag’ factor,” said Crupnick. “The trick is getting them to see that value more frequently.”

The “Passives” segment is the polar opposite, letting the children make the decisions. This low involvement group tends to be older, with older children. It’s not that they don’t spend on toys and play, but the experience tends to be more planned around holidays and birthdays as contrasted to impulse shopping that might be more typical of younger families.  The “Minimalists” is a large group for whom electronics and technology haven’t had an impact on the family or children, and for whom toy spending is considerably less. The NPD Group report pointed out that this was a difficult group to market to as traditional advertising and promotion tools were not as effective, and spending was below average despite reasonably healthy household income levels.

“There are lessons in looking at how parents approach the commerce of play,” said Crupnick. “Clearly, there are segments that carefully plan and budget their purchases, making it important for retailers and brands to be at the top of the shopping list. For others, impulse shopping drives revenues, making retail presentation paramount. For categories where technology and tradition compete, there’s an opportunity to sway some parents based on educational messages. Whatever the case, knowing the customer better holds a key to unlocking their revenue potential.”

An online consumer survey was fielded from April 18 to May 29, 2013, to members of NPD’s online panel, a U.S. representative sample of male and female adults age 18+ with a child age 2-12 in the household. Each respondent (parent) was asked to focus on one child for the purposes of the research. If the respondent had multiple children in the 2-12 age range, one child was selected at random. The variables used to segment the panelists were responses to a block of attitudinal and behavioral questions. Each segment is unique, meaning each respondent can only belong to one segment. The study is based on 2,336 completed surveys

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