It’s been 12 years since I spent my weekend walking up and down the aisles of Mothercare, with my arms full of baby gear. But having popped in to my local store in Romford to buy a present for a friend. I couldn’t quite believe how deserted it was. With the exception of a few people in the Costa Coffee café inside.
And it got me thinking why this brilliant bricks and mortar brand, created in 1961 was in trouble? Why my ‘go to place’ for baby supplies was in intensive care? Why millennial mums and dads were no longer spending their weekend walking up and down the aisles?
There are three big factors
1. Millennial mums are massively mobile
Unlike 12 years ago, when I would flip open my Nokia, to text home, to find out which size nappies we needed. The millennial mum has always been a digital native. In April 2014, Kantar Media reported that 49.9% of mothers with kids aged 0-5 used the internet with their mobile every day.
And research by the baby centre found that in a typical day, millennial internet mums spent over 3 hours with their smartphone and tablet devices. Shopping, keeping informed, working and staying connected to friends.
So for a brand like Mothercare this should be a walk in the park. Right? I mean we have a high interest category ‘babies’ And we have the means to talk about them. And this certainly seem to be the case on social media. The brand have a pretty engaged audience, with great content like their #2am Club which connects parents with each other at 2am.
So why is this not translating to online sales? Well for a start online deliveries can take between 2-4 days. And are only available Monday to Friday. If you can’t wait that long, you can pay £4.95 for next day delivery, but you have to place your order before 6pm. Which is probably when you have your hands full of nappies and baby formula.
For me the brand shouldn’t just blame their decline in sales on the fact that they didn’t discount before Christmas. Because even if they had, there would have still been easier ways for millennial parents to order the stuff they need and get it delivered the same day. So why bother going to Mothercare for it?
2. Millennial mums are redefining work
Secondly millennial mums have better things to do with their time these days, than physical shopping. Like running their own businesses. In the last 10 years we have seen a huge shift in the aspirations of the UK workforce and women with young children under 5 are at the forefront of it.
In a UK study by Nominet 8% of women with children under 4 had already set up their own businesses, instead of going back to work after maternity. And 10% said they were expecting to set up a business in the next 6 months.
This drive for flexibility is a key motivation of mums who want a work life balance. So it’s hardly surprising that they aren’t spending their time at Mothercare, when they have a home business to run between sleeps.
3. And then there is the Amazon effect?
Amazon has made no secret of its desire to move into clothes and food. According to the book The ‘Everything Store’, Jeff Bezos told Amazon employees back in 2007 that “in order to be a two-hundred-billion-dollar company, we’ve got to learn how to sell clothes and food”.
That’s not good news for Mothercare. Unless they decide to follow Wholefoods, and sell the brand to Amazon. Which they may end up doing.
In the past year alone, Amazon have already rolled out their own clothing range, they have struck a partnership with Calvin Klein and even Nike are selling shoes on their site.
With such a large amount of money being spent on children up to the age of 5, it’s hardly surprising that Amazon have turned their attention to millennial parents. Last year they offered expectant parents a Free Baby Box worth £40 when they spent £20. Complete with Nemo.
This was a really smart play by Amazon, because not did expectant parents raise their hands, but it also means they now have the data to retarget them with relevant offers throughout the baby’s life.
What’s more if you are a Prime Customer you can also place an order for selected baby products with the Prime Now App and get it delivered within 2 hours.
Which is roughly the time it takes to pack the baby bag, get the little one ready and drive to Mothercare.
So what can Mothercare do to turn it around?
Stand for something.
Firstly this fantastic brand needs to stand for something again and create a role in peoples lives. It needs to put the ‘care’ back into Mothercare.
To do this, they need to become a brand that millennial parents are interested in again, by reinventing themselves and looking at every single thing they do, through the eyes of millennial parents. What do they really need and how can we help them.
The brand has a fantastic heritage and front of mind awareness, but unless they can create a distinctive purpose and build a stronger emotional connection they are going to leave the door wide open for Amazon.
This week Public Health England launched a new ‘breast feeding friend’ with Amazon, giving new mums support, day or night on Alexa.
Why can’t Mothercare show that they care, by playing this role for millennial mums?
The brand need to make the experience frictionless
Amazon’s huge success comes from putting the customer at the heart of everything they do, delivering stuff that people want, at a low price and with fast delivery. It’s frictionless.
Mothercare should take a leaf out of Amazons book and take a similar ‘frictionless approach’ to win over millennial parents.
They should think about all ways they can get their baby products into their hands quickly and easily. And create a better customer experience at every stage of the journey.
If it’s now possible to order something as simple as Pizza from Domino’s over Alexa, with an Emoji or via a fridge magnet, then why can’t Mothercare do the same with nappies or baby formula? Why can’t they have an emergency button, that automatically places an order when the nappies are getting low.
Or why can’t Mothercare create a new partnership with deliveroo to bring baby food too? I can see the logo now.
Mothercare need to create a platform for their product and service
Some of the most successful brands have built platforms that allow them to interact with their customers, interpret data and deliver even more of what a customer loves.
Take Netflix for example. They now know what people watch, when they watch it and can predict what people will like with incredible accuracy. So much so, they are commissioning more and more of their own original series.
Mothercare could do the same here and build real trust with parents, by delivering products and services unique to their needs. Helping them at every stage of a babies development. This is something that worked very well when I worked on the Global Pampers Brand.
In doing so the brand can really put their data to great use and properly connect it to their marketing plan, driving even more efficiency in their media selection. Which in turn will free up money to spend on richer more engaging experiences and content.
As a brand that cares, they can really own this space far more easily that Amazon.
So what would I do if you were Mothercare?
In a world of rapid technology driven change, Mothercare really only have two options if they want to survive.
They can either take on Amazon at their own game, by being totally customer centric. Making the customer experience frictionless. Building a direct relationship with millennial parents and investing in the brand at every touch point. From mobile, through to physical experiences.
Or, they could move their shop onto Amazon’s platform, let them become the interface with their customer. Give them their data. And cross their fingers that Amazon don’t decide to launch a product, just like theirs in the future.
For me I hope it is the former. I hope this fantastic brand with amazing brand equity, finds it’s purpose again and reinvents itself for tomorrows mums and dads. I would love to see them back on top and I’d love to help them do it.