New research by online parenting resource and community EUMom.ie offers fascinating insight into the typical Irish family in the 21st century – insight that may prove valuable for brands and retailers alike. Doug Whelan investigates
22 April 2016
“When was the last time you visited a restaurant without reading the menu on your smartphone first?”
This rhetorical question asked of me by eumom director Olive Fogarty took me by surprise, because it prompted me to take a step back and consider, momentarily, the ubiquity of the smartphone in everyday life in 2016. The reason she put it to me was to illustrate in part the veritable goldmine of research recently published by eumom in its project The Great Irish Reset, in which the organisation explored through its members what new and existing cultural trends in Ireland define the modern family, and specifically motherhood. People are reassessing what’s important to them, eumom asserts, and making decisions based on that.
Eumom.ie has been around for 15 years, Fogarty says, and was one of the first parenting sites of its time. In a working relationship with maternity hospitals across the country, the organisation provides maternity information packs to expectant mothers. “We are in contact with mums from their first hospital visit around the 12 week mark,” Fogarty explains, “which is when she gets her pregnancy information pack. It’s somewhere for all the hospital data to be kept together, important information and her pregnancy diary.”
Months later, when baby is born, eumom then arranges for a maternity gift pack to be presented to all new mothers. “We distribute around 50,000 per year,” Fogarty says proudly, “with the help of SuperValu who are our partners in the ongoing project.”
“It’s based entirely on trust,” she says of the ongoing project between eumom and the maternity hospital network, “which ties in with our ethos and with theirs. It’s a partnership based on the way we all approach pregnancy and parenting.” That said, there’s no denying that the organisation has huge reach towards new mums, something that FMCG and personal care brands are very interested in. “The decisions that mums make in that area, at that time of their life, is often one that sticks for the rest of their family’s life,” Fogarty adds. “It’s a critical moment for brands, and we have a unique way of engaging with those mothers.”
Eumom’s research is based on the notion of exploring what Fogarty calls “the beating heart of Irish families.” The project originated with marketing agency Ogilvy, which was conducting research into the effect of the boom/bust era on Irish psyches. When Fogarty became aware of it, she suggested eumom conduct similar research through the “prism” of young families.
Ogilvy’s research identified seven trends that manifested as long-term effects of Ireland’s changing fortunes in recent years and have become a permanent part of Ireland’s psyche. “We asked questions around these seven trends,” Fogarty says, “to see how they played with families.”
The results, as broken down and discussed by Fogarty in conversation below, provide interesting insight into the modern family in Ireland, in terms of income and expenditure, interpersonal relationships, child-rearing, advertising and marketing and health. All these elements come together to offer a portrait of a modern mum. What’s more, there is no denying this typical mother’s spending power and influence; if brands and retailers can understand and harness this influence, the opportunities are endless.
Eumom’s research was carried out in two waves of quantitative surveys, with 3,374 respondents via the website. The profile of respondents was between 30 and 40, based across Ireland, with a majority married, a majority working and a majority with one or two children.
One of the overarching facts presented in the research is that young Irish families (those with children under the age of 10) control a massive 70% of consumer spending in Ireland. “If you consider that piece of information,” Fogarty explains, “then consider that mums in general are the main decision makers in the family, you realise that they are key drivers of all decisions surrounding budgeting and finances”.
We put it to her that this belief might be rooted in a traditional, stereotypical view of the family, where the father goes out to work and the mother stays at home with the children. She does not disagree, but suggests that notion is outdated. “That is probably part of it,” she says, “there’s a habitual, societal element to it, almost human nature.
“But,” Fogarty adds, “to reduce that to a mum who just buys nappies and decides what baked beans to purchase is understating the importance of the mum’s every decision: the bank, the cars, the loans, the utility bills, the list goes on. Especially in recent years, where they have become incredibly savvy on the back of the recession.”
The results of the survey reveal the facts and figures behind this notion that mums are sophisticated managers of household resources:
- 58% have switched electricity providers in the past year
- 55% have switched car insurance
- 48% have switched broadband provider
Meanwhile, in broader terms:
- 41% feel that they are prepared for the future in terms of their financial resources
- 35% say they watch their finances “like a hawk”
And in the more specific area of grocery shopping, the research offers similarly revealing facts about shopping and spending patterns:
- 55% visit two supermarkets each week
- 53% shop around more than they did a year ago
- 29% visit three supermarkets each week
And in a very interesting statistic:
- Only 5% buy on impulse
Irish mothers’ spending power and influence is not restricted to within the household either. Fogarty notes that mothers are among the great networkers also. “You see this at the school gate, for example,” she says. “There is an ability to bond immediately over the shared experiences of motherhood, and to create support networks.”
These support networks take the form of practical support, such as picking up the kids from school and other tasks, and also emotional support, such as offering advice to one another on parenting, and there’s no mistaking that is a very wide range of topics.
“These types of relationships have existed for decades,” Fogarty continues, “they’d have been in the local neighbourhood in our parents’ time, but now those experiences and relationships have migrated to the internet and communities like eumom .
“We’re seeing relationships that are just as strong as those our own mothers might have had with their next-door neighbours,” she says, “with the very same dynamic – just a 21st century iteration of it.”
So then, with these relationships in mind, eumom’s research reveals an even wider sphere of influence given their role as networkers – especially with mums’ penchant for adopting to new technology.
“Mums are on the go all day,” Fogarty says. “They use their phone all the time, aiding in every decision in their life to help them manage their day. They share their activities on social networks, which has a sort of amplifying effect, like a megaphone.”
It is at this point that Fogarty offers her restaurant menu analogy to ShelfLife illustrating nicely just how habitual smartphone usage is for everyone, not just mums. But it’s clear in this case that the influence a mother has on her kids, her family, her social network and her peers is bolstered by smartphone usage. According to the survey results, 91% of mothers read reviews of products, hotels restaurants and more online.
“So,” Fogarty concludes, “if you can get mum in your corner, she’ll do half the work for you! She’ll tell her network what she’s buying, what she’s using, where she’s shopping and everything else.
“It has been said a woman doubles the size of her friendship network after having a baby, and in the social media age they’re all super-connected, so the ability to amplify is huge.”
The Great Irish Reset: eumom’s findings
- 68% feel “I can make a difference to the world around me through the choices I make and the actions I take”
- 65% believe “women in Ireland need to stand up and be counted”
- 60% believe in the “untapped potential of women in Ireland can change society for the better”
- 56% report that employers do not provide favourable working conditions for working moms
- 96% have friends and relatives they can count on in times of trouble [compared to OECD average of 88%]
- 84% said they have less time for old friends since having children
- 44% said they have more time for friends made through their children
- 90% agree that it is important to be “present in the moment”
- 85% participate in DIY
- 49% garden or grow their own fruit and veg
- 42% are baking more in the past year
- 70% use their smartphone to check store locations
- 67% use it to check product availability
- 37% find product reviews online to be “very important”
- 85% use local businesses such as butchers, bakeries and convenience stores
- 33% use parks and playgrounds more than last year
- 70% feel liberated by getting rid of unwanted household items
- 50% regularly do so
- 40% feel that there is not enough vegetables in their children’s diet
- 34% feel that there is not enough fish in their children’s diet
- 34% feel there is too much sugar in their diet
- 33% feel they do not drink enough water
- 86% limit their children’s screen time
- 45% believe technology makes their life easier
- 44% believe technology damages our ability to communicate
- 10% admit to being “addicted” to their smartphone
For a complete breakdown of the survey’s results, visit greatirishreset.ie.