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Putting New Mums in the Driving Seat

Insight • By ELLIE GAUCI • 12 September 2016

The automotive industry is missing out by overlooking female customers.

When 38% of women identify themselves as the main breadwinner in their family, and many more claim a huge say over how the family’s income is spent, nobody should be underestimating women’s spending power. But one particular sector isn’t checking this blind spot . . . the automotive industry.

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Leaving mums by the wayside 

Buying a car today is a dual decision, based on practicality and emotion; but few car brands talk to both men and women. I found this out first-hand. A simple oversight can really impact sales when new mums are looking to upgrade their car to fit a new baby (or two, in my case!). More than a quarter of new parents upsize their vehicle in preparation for their first child, spending an average of £5,298.

PSONA research has highlighted women’s influence on family purchasing decisions. However, as I recently experienced, nothing seems to have changed. We recently visited three dealerships in our local area to look at MPVs in the flesh – Volkswagen, Ford and Seat. The sales people immediately spoke to my husband while I was barely acknowledged. I felt as though they assumed it was my husband’s domain and I was only there to offer approval of whatever he chose. Missed opportunity? Check.

Lessons from the Fiat approach

When it comes to new mums, Fiat's 'The Motherhood' video really hit the mark. The ad used a tongue-in-cheek rap that showed a mother of three trying to hold onto her identity while surrounded by nappies and toys.

The advert perfectly captures my experience as a new mum, but doesn’t properly showcase the features of the Fiat 500L which can simplify the life of new parents. A good attempt, but with room to improve.

Don’t be a backseat driver – see things from a parent’s perspective

Perspective is everything. In fact, a lack of perspective can skew strategies and result in marketing campaigns falling on deaf ears. From my experience, car companies are failing to cater to the needs of new parents by not truly understanding the investment decision from their point of view.

Purchasing your first family car means you’re still unsure of what features to look out for. We need a bit of hand holding. It’d be great if brands and salespeople could show us how the car is going to add safety and save on space. For example, I would rather know the size of the boot by which buggies it can easily fit, rather than its litre capacity.

After all, the stereotypical family car is – in essence – a metaphor for prioritising practicalities like space and safety over style and personality. That being said, as a new mum, I’m still on the lookout for a car that does two things:

1) accommodate my practical needs, and

2) still give me the chance to express my identity as individual. 

Slam the brakes on payments

Car companies’ approach to the payment process needs to change as well. Parents caring for a child under one don’t have the time to sort out varying monthly payments for a car while trying to balance other expenses. That only leads to headaches!

Automotive brands need to create a finance package that shows awareness of these pressures. To offer something a bit different, brands could produce a range of family-specific finance packages, such as a payment holiday for your first three months or interest-free payments until your baby’s first birthday.

Create a kid-friendly environment

Another key part of attracting customers to your car brand is the dealership experience. As I mentioned, this currently leaves a lot to be desired. Accommodating families can be achieved with a few simple changes that could really provide a boost for profits. Small touches like a kids’ play area, baby/child car seats ready for demonstration, or a pram to show off the spacious boot will go a long way in persuading new parents to buy.

Become part of the family 

Car brands need to work on engaging this consumer group. The potential value of recognising the unique needs of new parents will reap rewards far beyond this first purchase.

PSONA’s research shows that mums develop intense emotional loyalty for certain brands that are a big part of raising their child. If you capture the attention of parents from the outset, they are less likely to switch to a competitor.

The result? Parents will return to your brand again and again, even as their family expands and their needs change.