Study: How the pandemic impacted family behaviors: from shopping, to viewing habits, to decision-making
The pandemic has transformed the way families live their daily lives. 98% of parents say their lives have been changed by the pandemic, and 6 in 10 say their lives now are completely or very different. They are dealing with financial and social changes from the pandemic and are also spending more time together and trying new hobbies and activities. How families shop and what they buy have changed as well. Brands that want to continue being on shoppers’ lists need different messaging, connection points and shopping experiences in order to authentically connect with post-pandemic families.
To understand how the pandemic is impacting families’ digital and shopping behaviors, Yahoo and Publicis surveyed 1,500 parents of kids 2-17 years old via online discussions, surveys and screen time diaries. Here are 4 key findings and tips to help your brand connect with families.
1. Drastically varying financial impact
The pandemic’s impact further widened the gap between those with economic stability and those already struggling.
A minority of families (15%) report that they are better off financially than they were pre-pandemic, and another 39% report that their finances have not changed – for these families the pandemic provided an opportunity to make home improvements (31%) and pay down debt (25%). Nearly half of parents however, however, say they are financially worse off now than before. A majority of respondents cut back on spending, and a third incurred new debt. Some, particularly those living in rural areas, struggled with job loss, delayed unemployment benefits and significant financial insecurity. And 36% of parents living in urban communities foresee their spending increase in the next 12 months, compared to only 23% in rural communities.
Brand takeaway: Be mindful of the growing economic disparity intensified by the pandemic. While the economy has improved inflation, supply chain issues, and reductions in government support like the Child Tax Credit continue to exert pressure on the finances of lower-income consumers who are still recovering from the pandemic’s financial problems. Brands can be sensitive to increasing financial differences in multiple ways, such as offering flexible payment options (such as “buy now pay later” models) and leveraging data with advanced machine-learning tools for dynamic product ads and creative optimization to highlight value and savings opportunities for struggling consumers. This will help them deliver relevant messages and creative based on audience location (rural vs. urban) and profiles.
2. Screen time, redefined
With parents and children spending more time at home, screen time was a big way for families to cope with the pandemic. Screen time that was seen as largely negative pre-pandemic has now become a useful outlet for families – screens now represent education and connection as well as entertainment. It should come as no surprise that device usage increased considerably. According to those surveyed, 84% purchased a new device due to spending more time at home. A third of parents bought their child a device sooner than they usually would have. And 52% of parents say they are more accepting of screen time for kids since the pandemic, with 41% increasing their kids' screen time allowance
Parents have also seen the positive impacts that screen connections have for their kids and their families. Screens are a key social connection point pandemic kids, 47% of parents say screens helped their kids stay connected with friends (59% among parents of K12-17) and 34% of parents have encouraged their kids to connect with their friends on their devices (44% of K12-17). Families have also used increased screen time to create more opportunities for shared time, 64% are spending more time watching shows together, and 49% are planning movie nights as a family.
“The internet…helped [kids] maintain relationships with peers, and it helped make sure they had an education during the pandemic. But also, it was their best friend, right? It was there for them. Their life would have been so much more lonely without that screen time.” – Mom of 2
Brand takeaway: Time online has been redefined with parents now recognizing its value – educational, bonding time and enabling families to bring the world into their home.Co-viewing, listening and gaming are emerging opportunities for brands to reach parents who are now buying more devices and are more open to family screen time. With omnichannel solutions, advertisers can provide a seamless user experience across every screen a family owns.
3. Sustaining renewed family connections
Families are spending much more time together, which has led to changes in online and offline behavior –and parents want to keep this togetherness and slower pace.. Over half of parents say that they spend more time together than before the pandemic, 61% are cooking/baking together more as a family and 58% are eating more meals together as a family. And 40% in 10 parents have new hobbies they engage in with their children, such as cooking, playing board games, or watching shows – leading to 46% of parents signing up for new streaming services.The family that plays together wins together. We found that 2 in 5 (38%) parents report spending more time playing video games with their children. For millennial parents, that figure increases to 44%.
“We’re doing a lot of things together. We got into gaming together during the pandemic. I’ll play different games depending on which kid I’m playing with – and there are some games we all play together – even their mom. But we all hang out and talk about things while we’re playing. We also started planning Friday night movie nights together, either in the backyard or the living room. And we’re still doing those even as things have gotten busier.” – Dad of 2
Brand takeaway: Brands should tailor their messaging to parents that speak to these new everyday family moments that matter. Families have expanded their connection points across a variety of activities that provide new touchpoints for brands – family movie nights, series marathons, co-gaming sessions, and family dinners have become important social occasions for families to maintain their new deeper connections, and brands can facilitate those opportunities by tailoring offerings to enhance these social moments. By delivering utility and value to parents, brands increase their chances of discoverability.
4. Purchase decisions remixed
In addition to the usual pressure points such as cost and convenience, we also see a changing sense of family priorities and concerns. Parents have reprioritized their time with family and are embracing convenience, online shopping, and local businesses to simplify their shopping lives — a shift that creates opportunities for new brand touchpoints.
Parents report an uptick in behaviors such as:
- Online shopping: 63%
- Using apps to order takeout food and beverages: 52%
- Using store services like drive-up or home delivery: 51%
- Searching for new online stores to try: 41%
- Buying digital gaming rewards/purchases for kids: 31%
Whether online or in-store, families are making more purchasing decisions as a unit due to increased time together and more time on screens and devices. In fact, 60% of parents say that their child has become more involved in family purchasing decisions during the pandemic.
“I think my children have become much more tech-involved since the pandemic, and that’s changed the way they ask for stuff. They didn’t know how to add things to my online shopping carts before the pandemic, but now they do. I don’t see this really changing, and that’s ok with me. It’s easier this way.” – Shayna, Mother of 3
“The kids add what they want to our [online shopping] cart, and then I’ll go through the checkout process and decide what to buy.” – Mom of 1
Takeaway: Brands should speak to parents as a family unit to reflect the new type of purchase decision-making and recognize the breakdown of the top-down purchasing hierarchy. To help achieve this, turn to partners offering innovative formats such DOOH, CTV and 360/AR experiences to increase family-wide visibility.
The pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives. Brands that want to ensure they’re a part of how families live and purchase today must adapt to these changes. We have the means to make that happen. From dynamic product ads and omnichannel solutions to innovative formats and tech, let’s connect to help your brand continue to be a family favorite.
Source: Yahoo x Publicis, “Marketing to Parents in 2022,” February 2022.