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The Mom Market Is Tougher Than You Think

by Andrea Barrett  |  
September 5, 2013

Market research suggests that selling to moms is a slam dunk. They make the majority of household decisions, their purchasing power is through the roof, they spend lots of time online and on smartphones, and they love sharing their opinions with friends.

So, if we just make a product that moms will love, they'll rush to buy it and tell all their friends, right? In reality, very few companies are able to find immediate lucrative success in the Mom market.

Why is that? Because contrary to popular belief, moms are the toughest consumer group out there. Let’s get a taste for the typical Mom’s thinking.

She's Distracted

Not only are moms busy, they are multitasking constantly. Over 60% of mom's mobile usage happens in her living room. To catch and keep her attention, you need to make your product simple and easy to consume. Moms have zero patience for delays or errors.

For example, Pinterest allows moms to consume information so easily that they can be interrupted repeatedly and return without missing a beat---which is much less work than reading a blog. Another example, gave mom insight into her spending habits, which previously could only be achieved by weeding through tons of information. Mint gave the answer with virtually no work.

She's Still Learning

Moms move through phases quickly, and they're constantly trying to gauge how they're doing as parents. A lot of time is spent researching, so helping moms understand how they're doing compared to others and what the "norms" are for a phase of parenthood can be very powerful.

Educate in an authentic way to build a loyal following. Don't assume moms know the basics about your product or the social norms. If she believes your product helped improve her "Mom IQ," she'll be back for more!

She's Conflicted

Moms are wired for guilt. There's always a reason to feel guilty about using (or even thinking about using) your product:

Apps: “Too much screen time!”
Toys: “Am I spoiling my kid?”
Organizational tools: “Why can't I keep it together on my own?”
Foods: “Am I making the right choice?”
Childcare: “Should I be with my kid?”

Understand why she might feel guilty using your product and find a way to address it head on.

She's Changing Constantly

Moms will care passionately about something this month, then something entirely different next month (e.g. breastfeeding, finding the right preschool, potty training). It’s important to understand the life stage and age of kids for your target mom. If you can change with her and solve problems as she progresses, you'll stay relevant. Just take a look at BabyCenter for an example of a brand that has nailed the evolution of Mom.

She's Opinionated

Part of a mom's "job" to form opinions and protect her children aggressively, so "Mom-approved" is often used to build trust with a brand.

What you want to avoid at all costs is becoming "Mom-hated.” Moms are apt to share negative experiences about a brand much more passionately than the good experiences. Even worse, most of this is happening offline or in "walled gardens" (moms groups) where you have little insight or control over the conversation happening about your brand.

She's Not in the Tech Scene

For brands in the family technology space, many of us have been trained to consider a write up in Tech Crunch or a press release about funding as "wins"---but these do not have nearly the same or any effect on moms.

Mom is not reading tech blogs, if she's even reading blogs at all! You have to work hard to get her attention, so be creative. One of my "aha moments" in this area came after sponsoring a simple bouncy house at a popular Christmas tree lot in San Francisco—our sign-ups skyrocketed after that more than we had ever seen from our tech press coverage.

She's One of a Kind

Moms categorize themselves in so many ways with acronyms to identify certain philosophies and beliefs. A FTWOH mom (full-time work outside mom) who believes in CIO (cry-it-out) has a very different mindset than a SAHM (stay-at-home mom) who practices AP (attachment parenting). That is where recommendations and collaborative consumption can break down.

Talking to a mom about her needs—as opposed to the needs of moms in general—can be really powerful. Figure out whether you're trying to target one specific type of mom and cater your message to her. Or, at the least, understand the hot-button issues, catch phrases, and labels to avoid accidentally alienating any certain group.

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Andrea Barrett is co-founder and VP of Product of UrbanSitter.

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  • by Courtney Bosch Thu Sep 5, 2013 via blog

    Thanks for sharing your insights into us moms! Although I am the exception to the rule when it comes to the "tech" stuff. :) Great read.

  • by Trep Talks Thu Sep 5, 2013 via blog

    Interesting acronyms. I guess no market is easy. You have to solve a problem and create trust with any group to be successful as a business.

  • by Shanna Reimer Thu Sep 5, 2013 via blog

    I haven't been a mom for all that long, but the only part of this article that seemed worthwhile was the very last statement - "Talking to a mom about her needs - as opposed to the needs of moms in general - can be really powerful." If you spend any time at all on parenting forums, groups, Facebook pages, etc, you will notice that every single article or statement generates a predictable response: lots of people who completely, passionately agree with whatever was said, and another group who completely, passionately disagree. I have found in my short tenure as a mom that it is just as much of a minefield to answer a question about how/when/where my baby sleeps as it is to say whether I am a Democrat or Republican. Treating "Moms" as one big group is a dangerous tactic no matter what you are marketing.

  • by Shahzaib K Mon Sep 9, 2013 via blog

    Andrea, thanks for shedding light on this challenging market. Depending upon their needs, moms are categorized into different groups. I would like to mention here special needs mom, a different mom than a regular mom. Her needs are more geared towards making their children more community-accepting & self care taker. Continuous therapies and nurturing them to get a single achievement is their lifetime job. Even they worry what needs to do now for child after their death. So there is a growing need and high demand for this specific market. These moms are always on the lookout for bringing stuff for their special children. Understanding them and coming up with products to gauge their needs is even tougher. But conversion rates will be higher than regular moms.

  • by Laura Scholes Thu Sep 12, 2013 via blog

    Andrea, great reminders about the diversity—and ever-changingness—of the mom market. A lot of the copywriting work I do for clients is targeted at moms, and even when it's not, it is by default (since they're the ones making most of the buying decisions in a family). It is so important to connect intimately and authentically with this market. They can sniff out a "tactic" from a mile away. Thanks for your insights!

  • by Zeke Wed Sep 18, 2013 via blog

    Fully agreed. Something about parenting for Moms (and a lot of Dads) amplifies the non-linear & irrational aspects of our being. Part of it is altruistic to be sure, but part of it is also utopian pursuit. As a parent of 3, coach of several sports, occasional teacher & volunteer, I've been deeply on both sides of the parenting issue, so I speak from much experience.

    The best way forward - Graciousness, forgiveness (self & others!), and leaving plenty of margin for life's unexpected blessings & problems. Today's overscheduled, overactive, overspent, overly indulgent, over-everything tendencies are not superior to common sense & an ability to enjoy the simpler things in life. Contentment is good, complacency is to be avoided.


  • by Jenny Spring Thu Sep 26, 2013 via blog

    Thanks for not lumping all the Mums together in one box. This will help my clients who sell to 'Mums' to understand how that they are 'one of a kind'.

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