Changes to family structures and the proliferation of online and social shopping have combined to transform the way families shop today.

Changes to family structures and the proliferation of online and social shopping have combined to transform the way families shop today. To stay ahead and influence their journey, retailers must consider the implications and respond accordingly.

One of the more recent developments has been the impact of the recession and the hike in living costs. These have meant that parents are working longer hours, are time pressured and low on cash, so they look for convenience and value as well as compelling reason to buy, simply and quickly.

Despite families suffering financially, they aren’t necessarily looking to buy the cheapest, but seek better value and will buy less overall to compensate.

Based on our work with family focus groups and other research, ‘valuenomics’ is the buzz word when it comes to families in 2012, and there are some key questions that retailers should consider: Can I bundle products together to offer better value and do my products and services that cost a little extra have a benefit worth spending on? Multi-use products and longer shelf life are also important.

Risk is another key consideration for mothers. For example, they might weigh up how much they are prepared to spend on a new meal for their kids with the likelihood of them actually eating it. So trial prices work well for this audience.

The large increase in the number of mums going back to work has meant more dads are stepping in to the childcare breach and have increased their role in family life. There has been a 200% increase in the amount of time that fathers are actively spending with their children, and to stay in touch, retailers should consider dad and the role he plays. Messages shouldn’t be solely female-focused – fathers may well be doing the weekly shop while mothers work late.

The internet plays a central role in how families shop. It is a key influencer, particularly in the early ‘fact-finding’ stages – second only to seeking advice from family and friends - with 63% of mums going online for detailed information.

In response, high street retailers should look to strengthen their in-store experience, creating a space that families want to shop. They should ensure that all of the ‘practical parenting’ boxes are ticked and that the environment is friendly and stress-free.  Shopping with children in tow can be difficult, so stores with queues, no toilet and narrow aisles, for example, are bound to turn families off.

Mobile shopping is particularly prevalent among mums, as most work, are time poor, information hungry and constantly multitasking, so mobile devices provide convenient access to knowledge.

The line between sales channels is blurring. High street retailers can no longer charge a premium as people can touch products, speak to staff - get the benefits of a store – but then buy from a competitor online. Retailers develop competitive pricing or price-matching and take advantage of technology and media-rich POS, for example linking with educational videos or independent reviews online.

The changing shape of families can have a huge effect on shopper behaviour, and anything retailers can do to reflect this and make a parent’s life easier will help them connect with this elusive market.