Who really decides what to buy at the shops?
Research exploring how children are becoming more sophisticated in using 'pester power' is to be published in a forthcoming issue of 'Young Consumers', concluding that children are becoming increasingly influential in parents' purchasing decisions. This, the journal suggests, raises some interesting questions about how food brands can ethically market to children at a time when childhood obesity is on the increase.
Shopping behaviour and food habits are closely related - but only a limited number of studies have examined the behaviour and the strategies of children and parents during shopping. In the study by global academic publisher, Emerald Group Publishing, researchers found that children constantly influence their parents purchasing decisions. The findings observe that children do this both directly and indirectly, by displaying various behaviours in the grocery store.
For an article entitled 'Strategies of Children and Parents during Shopping for Groceries', researchers surveyed families on grocery shopping trips over a three month period, observing behaviour and interactions during each trip. They found that, as demographic and social structures within families are increasingly changing, the traditional power relation within the family is altering, leading to a significant change in family buying behaviour.
As children are increasingly acting as initiators, idea generators and influencers - they are deploying ever more sophisticated influencing strategies to get their own way.
Interestingly, the research found that parents were more likely to deny children's requests when the product was aggressively advertised - even though these products proved highly popular among children. Of the requests that were granted, the majority were adapted by the parent to fit their own values and needs.
Lead author of the study, Vanessa Haselhoff of the University of Applied Management Unna, Germany, noted: "In today's changing family situations in industrialised countries, and with an overload of offered products, family decision making needs to be analysed to enable us to market healthy food effectively. By learning about the joint decision making process, companies - as well as public policy makers - will be able to address this issue more successfully".