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Retail Netmums Marketing

How the pandemic has re-shaped the family shopping agenda

By Rimi Atwal, Managing Director

August 16, 2021 | 6 min read

As part of The Drum’s Retail Deep Dive, Netmums managing director Rimi Atwal argues that by comparing and contrasting pre and post-pandemic family mindsets, brands can effectively target this demographic.



The pandemic has driven seismic change in virtually all aspects of our daily lives – from workplace norms, to the provision of education; from travel to entertainment, and how, why and when we shop.

At Netmums, we conducted in-depth quantitative and qualitative research into the lives of UK families to mark our 20-year anniversary at the end of 2019.

Although we didn’t know it at the time, our insight captured the priorities for UK families in that key moment immediately preceding the pandemic, and the dramatic impact it would have on our lives and values.

To fully understand the shifts that have taken place for all UK families, Netmums conducted further research in May 2021. We revisited the questions we had posed 18 months previously and were able to track how families’ priorities and lifestyles had changed, and what new factors are shaping how they spend their money and time.

It became immediately apparent that attitudes to shopping and spending have shifted significantly. In our 2021 survey, 34% of parents say, ’since the pandemic I have changed the brands I buy’, 59% agree ’since the pandemic, delivery efficiency and cost is most important to me’, and 65% say now that, ’price is usually my first consideration’.

Digging deeper into our insight, the story is a complex one. Obvious pressure points like cost and convenience come to the fore, but even more striking is the shifting sense of family priorities and concerns - from global to local, outwards-facing to inwards-facing, and from environmental to social.

Global to local

A core 2019 finding was 90% of parents declaring the environment a key consideration in their everyday purchasing decisions.

However, in 2021, the environment has fallen down the pecking order. When asked to rank family priorities:

  • 82% cited equal opportunities for their children

  • 76% said managing screen-time

  • 65% said environment/climate change

By 2021, 66% parents, ‘wish brands and retailers made it easier to purchase sustainably and ethically‘ – down from 75% in 2019. Today, less than half (48%) of parents agree ‘I would be prepared to pay a little bit more if a brand I like demonstrated a real commitment to the environment‘.

In terms of global issues, today, social inequality and mental health emerge more frequently than environmental concerns, probably as a direct result of the way the pandemic has emphasised the impact of social inequalities on health outcomes and underlining the importance of good mental and physical health.

Outward-looking to inward looking

In 2021 family worries about the outside world have been replaced by a focus on improving and investing in self, the family unit and the home. Parents cite ‘family bonding time’ as a key priority and emphasise their desire to invest in special occasions and spend more on family time:

  • 61% are focused on getting fitter

  • 50% are planning to spend on home improvements

  • 68% want to invest in more family events/entertaining

  • 52% want to save money

Greater ambivalence to tech as a positive force

Another emerging trend is a shifting attitude to technology in our lives – just three per cent of parents want to buy more tech in 2021, compared to the 76% of parents in 2019 who enthused technology made their lives easier through time-saving solutions like online shopping and internet banking.

Moreover, 76% of parents cited managing everyone’s screen-time as a major challenge in their lives in 2021, versus the 52% of parents in 2019.

Lessons for retail brands

It’s not surprising that the past two years have shifted the dial on family spending behaviours and priorities. But as we emerge from the third national lockdown, what can retail brands do to connect with UK families and align with their new priorities?

Judging by successful campaigns recently created by Netmums for high profile family brands, it’s clear that marrying brand credentials with what families want right now, is key.

Our recent Quorn campaign is a strong example of a brand who understands the mindset shift. While the campaign maintains its pre-existing focus on sustainability, it also positions the brand as one that easily enables healthy eating and family time. Bringing this concept to life, are family cookalong videos, co-created with Netmums’ editorial team and celebrity chef, Lisa Faulkner, with Netmums users joining virtually from their own kitchens.

Family stalwart brand, Fairy, is another example of a brand demonstrating clear understanding of an evolving customer mindset. The ‘Fairy Cares’ campaign, set to launch in September, will empathise with families’ challenges post-pandemic by offering both practical advice and resources, and emotional support. At the campaign’s heart is a clear commitment from Fairy to support all parents, boost their inner confidence and help celebrate family moments at a time when traditional support systems are reduced and anxiety at an all-time high.

And building out of 2021’s key insight that 98% of parents rank family health and wellbeing as their top priority, Petits Filous’ partnership with Netmums in creating a ‘Happy Healthy Kids’ hub, has been a resounding success. Delivering on parents’ needs for fun and healthy lifestyle ideas for the whole family, from healthy snack recipes to activity ideas, Petit Filous is positioning itself as the brand that will keep kids healthy and happy all year round.

As these brand partnerships show, connecting with a family-focused customer base must be about positioning the brand as the answer to what families need, right here, right now. And the only way to find out what families need, right here, right now, is to ask them and listen to what they say and how they feel.

For more on the reinvention of retail, check out The Drum’s Retail hub, where we explore everything from livestreaming e-commerce to AR shopping and conscious consumerism.

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