Speaking at ITV’s ‘The Mum Factor’ event, Mintel’s Senior Trends Consultant Richard Cope reveals new research which crowns mum as the key consumer in Britain’s households. Mintel’s research shows that mums make a clean sweep of being more likely to influence purchasing decisions than their partners across all consumer categories, from holidays to finance and technology.

Proving that mum holds the purse strings, over four in five (84%) mums say they typically have influence when it comes to making financial decisions for the family, compared to 49% who say their partner has influence. When looking outside of the home, the research shows mums are the destination decider, with 86% saying they influence where they go on holiday, compared to 53% who say their partners have influence. What’s more, almost three quarters (71%) of mums say they have influence over purchasing technology or electronics for family use, whilst 59% say their partners have influence.

And whilst mum is leading technology purchasing decisions, the research shows that technology is changing the face of parenting in a whole host of ways. Indeed, storytime is no exception with over one in 10 (12%) mums finding apps better than traditional books for educating their children at home. And while there is much debate on the effects of screen time on children, two in five (42%) mums admit to using a tablet, smartphone or laptop to entertain their children at least once a week or more often.

84% of mums say they typically have influence when it comes to making financial decisions for the family

Speaking at ITV’s ‘The Mum Factor’ event Richard Cope, Senior Trends Consultant at Mintel, said:

“Quite simply mums are Queens and Kings of the household, not only taking the lead in parenting and household tasks, but as consumers and decision makers. Mums – more than partners, more than children – are influencing every facet of modern consumer life. Whilst it may not surprise us that they are the lead decision maker when it comes to clothing, children, or choosing what goes on the dinner table, the reality is that they are also the lead decision makers in finance, holidays and technology purchases. We believe their lead role in the latter is a direct result of the time they spend playing on, or learning from, devices with their children.”

Indeed, even in terms of health, the research shows how the nation’s parents are willing to turn to technology to assist with family fitness, with more than one 10 (13%) mums saying they would be interested in using a wearable device to track the activity or fitness levels of their children.

Away from home, highlighting ongoing safety concerns, nearly three in 10 (29%) parents say they would be interested in using a wearable device to track the whereabouts of their children. Meanwhile, technological developments mean children are now never too far away from home, as nearly one in 10 (8%) mums say they communicate with their children via video calls on a regular basis.

Around one in five (22%) mums play online games on a smartphone, whilst nearly three in 10 mums (27%) say that they learn about technology from their children.

Technology has become integral to parenting and, educationally, it acts as a two-way-street, with mums using devices to teach children about the world, whilst this process – or even children themselves – teaches mums about new innovations. This is doubtless the reason why it’s mums who are more likely to be key influencers in technology purchases than their partners.” Richard continues.

Further highlighting the importance of technology in today’s families, the top five activities mums do with their youngest child in a typical week include – watching TV programmes (77%), reading books or ebooks (57%), researching or doing homework online (38%), watching online videos or programmes (28%) and playing video games (24%).

“Whilst watching TV, in either its traditional or modern online forms, remains the top tech activity between mother and child, ebooks, search engines and gaming apps are being used alongside traditional storytelling, research and playtime tools. Technology plays a dual role as an active educator and as a digital babysitter, with more than four in 10 mums saying that they use a tablet or smartphone or laptop to entertain their child at least once a week.” Richard continues.

Mintel’s research also reveals how social media and online communities have a positive outcome for brands. Some 38% of mums having liked or followed brands, while 17% of mums claim to have sent positive feedback to companies and brands on social media or online communities – compared to just 7% who have sent negative feedback. Furthermore, some 29% have found new products via social media and online communities, a quarter (25%) have watched adverts, one in five (21%) have got product recommendations and 15% have posted product reviews.

Overall, 76% of mums have been involved with social media and the website community. Despite the importance of technology, however, some 84% of mums agree spending time as a family without using technology is important to them.

“Connectivity has a counter trend in the form of ‘switching off’ in a bid to achieve a better quality of life, focus or a chance to de-stress and recharge. Whilst we find all consumer demographics express a need to do this, mums are especially passionate on this subject, with no less than eight in 10 agreeing that ‘spending time as a family without using technology is important to me’ and 40% strongly so. This is creating new opportunities in the leisure sector for analogue experiences where devices can be checked in to a tech creche.” Richard continues.

What’s more, the research shows that mums concerns over unrealistic media body images begins when children are at a young age. Over half (52%) of the nation’s mums believe unrealistic stereotypes – such as unrealistic body proportions in toys – have a negative effect on children, with 16% agreeing strongly. Those in the West Midlands are most likely to be concerned about this – with 64% agreeing. And it is not just body image that parents believe is distorted by the media, today, almost two thirds (62%) of the nation’s mums agree the way parents are portrayed in advertising and media is unrealistic, with one in five (19%) agreeing strongly. Additionally, as many as one in five (21%) mums would wish for campaigns not targeted for a specific gender for example pink for girls, blue for boys.

“Whilst marketers may be wise to the power of the mother as the key consumer, they also need to pay heed to a more politicised and ethically minded sensibility. Outside of parenting, we’re seeing a wider trend towards more representative and more open and inclusive advertising – that integrates and celebrates same sex families or models with disabilities. For mums, these same themes are being manifested in a desire for advertising that eschews gender stereotyping and targeting of products to a specific gender and more unisex clothing. In what amounts to a direct threat to the traditional dolls over half of mums ‘think unrealistic stereotypes in toys have a negative effect on children’.” Richard continues.

Moreover, mums beware, the smug mum is alive and kicking, as the research reveals nearly half (45%) of Britain’s mums admit they felt they are doing a better job at raising their children than the majority of other parents, with just 8% disagreeing. In terms of region, those living in the West Midlands (51%) and London (49%) are the most confident about their parenting skills.

But while confidence levels appear high, a number of mums are looking for additional support, as around one in seven (15%) mums say they have asked other parents for advice on social media or online communities. Meanwhile, one in 10 (11%) mums admit they have watched parenting videos. Nevertheless, advice can prove challenging for some as over half (52%) of mums say they find a lot of parenting advice today confusing or conflicting, with over one in 10 (11%) agreeing strongly.

However, the world we are parenting in is changing, a massive three quarters (74%) of all mums agree that there are more pressures on today’s parents compared with the previous generation. Just a quarter (25%) of Britain’s mums think that their children are growing up in a better world than they did.

Finally, proving that family comes first, as many as 82% of the nation’s mums believe that raising their children is more important to them than a career outside the home, with almost half (47%) strongly agreeing with this. Meanwhile, a significant proportion (85%) of mums say their needs come second to those of their family and children.

“Mums desire to put children first is borne out by the fact that 30% of them are employed part time, working less than 30 hours a week, as they seek to achieve some balance between parenting and earning for their household. What is more, it seems that mums are receiving minimal help, with just 1% agreeing that their partner ‘does most of the parenting or household tasks’.” Richard concludes.

Press review copies of the research and interviews with Senior Trends Consultant Richard Cope are available on request from the press office.

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