Marketing to Moms: The Mother and Daughter Shopping Experience

March 23, 2011 § 5 Comments

Psychologists and researchers call mother and daughter shopping “consumer socialization”.  We Moms call it “retail therapy”, “girl time”, and “bonding”.

My daughter and I have spent many an hour in malls, shops, browsing catalogs and looking online together.  Women often talk about memories of shopping with their mom in sweet nostalgic terms.   My own mother-daughter experience in small town Texas was vastly different than today, but the same principles still apply.  Women are transferring consumer habits, preferences and experiences across generations.  Grown women still say “I buy this brand because my mother always bought it.” or “That’s the only brand my Mom would let in the house.”

Consumer Socialization

Consumer socialization is the process by which young people acquire skills, knowledge and attitudes relevant to their functioning in the marketplace.  And since moms are responsible for some 80 percent of all buying decisions, it makes since that we are the ones that teach our children how to shop.

There is an emotional bond that plays into mothers and daughters shopping together.  Sometimes the shopping trips can be a ritual, a getaway, entertainment and a special way to build memories.  When I was a teenager, my mom and I would drive to Houston in December just to shop and see the Christmas decorations, go to a movie, and lunch at a special place.  Sometimes our special treat would be roasted cashews from a “nut shop”. Those memories caused me to want to provide similar experiences for my daughter.

Research shows that mothers play a more active role in the consumer education of their children than fathers and co-shop more often with daughters than sons.  It seems we both actively and passively pass along shopping education.  We take our daughters to certain stores, teach them to look for certain qualities in products, only purchase specific brands and even teach shopping frequency.

Reciprocal Coaching.

On the flip side, in a process called “reciprocal coaching”, our daughters teach us new ways and new fashions.  Most of us with teenagers and young adult children have been “edited” in our dress or look, based on their new-found fashion sense.  While we teach our children as they are young, as we grow older, they begin to help us with our shopping.

Implications for Marketing

This type of mother-daughter activity is important for marketers to acknowledge and employ in their retail strategy.  Certain brands will definitely benefit from a focus on the emotional benefits of shopping together.  Mother/daughter relationships have been used in the past by food brands showing the heritage of their products, and their continued relevance for today.  Examples that we see today are Rice Krispies and Bisquick.

One of the important trends today is the relationship between grandmothers and their grand children.  The large number of relatively young grandparents are very involved in the life of their grandchildren, and are teaching the children preferences and habits as well.

Mother’s Day is not the only day to use this strong emotional bond.  It is a lasting cultural connection that will continue to train shoppers of the future.




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