How much of what we wish for is determined by external factors?
Our cognitive and social skills develop throughout the entirety of our lives, as does the knowledge, skills and values we use to make purchasing decisions. Recognition that thinking processes and problem solving abilities of children, adolescents and adults vary dramatically, can provide invaluable consumer insights to retailers and manufacturers this season.
We are consumers from the day we are born. The very young have products bought for them, while older children may be provided with or earn money to make purchases. For children, the key driver for attraction to a product is one which supports their growth and development. Infants are learning to see the world around them, and their vision, colour distinction, depth perception, facial recognition are developing. This means they are attracted to products with high-contrasting colours, interesting textures and lighting, and faces or expressions.
Young children likely see commercials as entertainment rather than advertising, however that is not say that they are not susceptible to their messages. In a study analysing children's letters to Santa, 85 percent of the letters included at least one brand name. When children begin to comprehend that advertising is trying to sell, they are still attracted to well-known licensed or cartoon characters.
As children mature, they move from ego-centricity to an increased awareness of the fact that other people's perspectives will differ from their own. Pretend play is an excellent example of this development: children naturally use toys or objects to introduce potential scenarios. This holiday season, look for products that promote collaboration, conversation and above all, imagination! Toy food, for example immediately introduces a scene: "Who are you cooking for? Is it a special occasion?"
During adolescence, an internal conflict tends to emerge: a need for individualization, coupled with a need for assimilation. Teenagers may distance themselves from their parents, and look to their peers or influential people such as sports players or musicians, for current trends. Attraction to products shifts from supporting development and growth, to fit these needs. Adolescents are also testing the limits in their environment in their quest for independence and are prepared to take risks. This may mean gift requests that are not necessarily financially reasonable or practical. However, wanting to be the same, yet different can draw teenagers to innovative, fashionable products, so consider items like internet-enabled technology and celebrity branded products.
The breadth of those included in adulthood is huge, and is frequently analysed in further sub-categories, such as millennial, baby boomer, etc. When it comes to purchasing decisions, the list of drivers is a long one, and can include price, quality, provenance, performance, and brand perception. However adults primarily purchase products to exercise independence. Unlike adolescents, adults have a lower risk-tolerance and may be attracted to well-reviewed or reputable brands. Notably, this age group is also considered the largest group of early adopters, those who are willing (and have the budget) to try innovative products with cutting edge technologies and trendy new brands.
Maintaining independence is the primary driver for the elderly. New concerns with aging also play a factor in decision-making, including changes in health and the growing need to rely on others. As a result, the products most attractive to the elderly are those that are easy-to-use, familiar and reliable. The elderly also tend to be less prepared to pay a premium price for products than younger generations and they rely on trusted brands when buying new products more than others. This is not to say, that older generations are not attracted to high-tech gadgets. In Japan, which boasts the world's most rapidly ageing society, smartphones featuring larger icons, and tactile features have proved popular with older consumers.
Our level of independence determines our purchasing decisions throughout our lives: children are dependent on their caregivers, teenagers are looking to establish independence, adults are looking to assert their independence, and the elderly are looking to maintain their independence. From competitive analysis of the market to consumer focus groups and benchmarking studies, Intertek can bring you the information you need to make your best product decisions.
Today’s expert blogger is Kathryn Wheatley, who works in Business Development for Intertek Product Intelligence, Europe. Kathryn works with retailers and own-brand companies, to ensure they have the processes in place to achieve their vision of product quality, safety and performance. Kathryn’s background is in arts & design, and she gained an MA in Art Curatorship from the University of Sydney. Interested in extending her knowledge beyond the aesthetic, she is currently completing an MSc in Human Factors, studying the design of objects, systems and environments for human use.