Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Car seats – combining safety with sales

If you want to sell more effectively to mums (and dads) then you need to identify what it is they want. And that’s not as simple as having the right products on the shelf, especially when those products are going to be used for transporting our precious children around.

A few weeks ago we got into a discussion with some mums about car seats. We were talking about the growing interest in rear-facing car seats. What we noticed is that there is some expert information available but there is also lots of mum opinion and experience out there. We love mum opinion, their honest reviews and insight can create product revolutions, help mums in similar situations and cut through marketing hype. But sometimes it’s important that mum opinion sits alongside expert opinion so that parents get the information they need to keep their children safe.


Car seats is one area where this is absolutely vital. Asking other mums what car seat they have got is great, but not if it’s the wrong seat for your car or you choose something and then have it fitted incorrectly by a retailer.  

There’s information that we need to get out to both retailers and parents before they make choices about car seats.  If you are a car seat manufacturer or retailer then giving this information puts you ahead of the pack, it means you care about more than the sale and that concern creates brand loyalty.

It’s also important we start to dispel some of the myths around car seats and create a culture where parents are informed and aren’t scared when they come across information on parenting websites or in the papers.

So how could you engage parents and find ways to communicate information about car seats that can help them buy the right seat, stay safe and become loyal customers?

Julie from Child Seat Safety wants to get some basic information across to parents before they buy:

  1. 8 out of 10 car seats aren’t fitted correctly. It sounds like a scary statistic but it’s easily preventable if retailers are trained in fitting and communicate this service clearly to parents.
  2. Not every car seat fits every car. Retailers and manufacturers could consider focussing less on the features of the seat and more on asking parents what car they have/whether they move it between cars.
  3. Keeping children and passengers safe takes more than fastening straps. Do you think parents know that unrestrained car seats in a crash can cause catastrophic damage? Do you let them know how to operate the seat (in a clear and concise way) once the child isn’t in it?
  4. Growing children. Are you letting potential customers know when it is appropriate to change car seats (age and weight)? Take it one step further – are you letting them know why you shouldn’t move children to a bigger car seat or booster when they are too young?  Are you asking parents the right questions and identifying gaps in their knowledge?
  5. Long term care. What happens when a child is sick all over the car seat? Do parents know that some cleaning products can damage straps and reduce their effectiveness in a crash? Is this vital information tucked away in a 50 page instruction booklet? Could you offer initial or ongoing training to parents?

Buying a car seat (or car seats over a period of time) is often a process for parents, one where they are bombarded with information and one way to check whether your products and service is hitting the mark is to carry out online research. Start with parents at the beginning of the process – where do they go for information? Who are they asking about car seats? Are they getting the right information at that stage to make informed decisions? The next step would be to observe parents as they walk through the sales process – whether that be instore or online. What affects their purchasing decisions? Are they more concerned about price or safety?

When we have walked mums through this process this is often where tiny nuggets of insight pop up (I liked the colour, I don’t know whether I’m buying the right thing, I don’t know if it will fit my car). As we see more mums purchasing online the scope for making the wrong choice widens. Without expert advice parents may purchase based on price and then find themselves stuck with a car seat that doesn’t fit in their car. This is where retailers have an opportunity to step in an offer a comprehensive and fitting service or make their return guarantees explicit. We often work with companies to marry up messaging on their website with a mums’ experience (does the product description match what I received, could I easily see what I need to do if the product needs returning).  

It’s only by walking parents through each stage of the information gathering/purchase/returns/customer service process that we can start to identify how we could make it better.

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