Baby showers tend to happen on weekend afternoons, and this one was no exception. The event was fairly structured and involved food; quiche and cake were most memorable. It lasted about two hours. Ten female friends of mixed ages attended including neighbors and their moms, and coworkers. Simultaneous to the event, all the neighborhood dads and kids went to a BBQ organized by the dad-to-be. The typical gift value is fifty to a hundred dollars for direct relatives, twenty-five to fifty dollars for close relatives and friends, and ten to twenty-five dollars for family friends and co-workers.
In this ethnographic study, my neighbor and I headed to Super Target to register. Designated computers located at the front of the store for registries. To open a new registry, we followed the prompts; entering names, addresses and event dates. The same machines have options for “wedding”, “baby showers” and “other life events.” After registering basic information at the machine, we were equipped with a hand-held bar code scanner. This tool allows users to scan tags on the store floor and automatically add them to the registry.
If it was that easy to register at Target, I wondered if other national retail chains offered baby registries. A quick internet search revealed baby registry options for the following retailers: Pottery Barn, Wal-Mart, Baby Depot, Babies”R”Us (Toys”R”Us), Linnens’n Things, Burlington Coat Factory, JC Penny, Amanzon.com, Macy’s, Sears, and Saks Fifth Avenue. And then there is MyRegistry. Just like De.licio.us it gives the user a bookmark bar widget that can track any page and send account viewers to that page to buy the product. I included that as my registry for the baby shower.
The shower included two short games and an activity where all attendants wrote a note to the expected child for her birthdays ages 1 through 10. The culmination was the mother-to-be opening all gifts and notes in a circle of all the guests. The party organizer took notes and the event was followed-up with personalized thank-you notes that emphasized the fellowship element of the event, while recognizing the gift.
Many savvy store managers and manufacturers have already tapped into the baby shower niche market. According to Broadbridge and Morgan, the baby care market has shown year on year growth during the 1990s despite a declining birthrate.
Online retailers like http://www.myregistry.com have demonstrated tremendous market reach, expanding out from weddings and baby showers into other consumption rituals. Many day spas and reception halls offer baby shower packages, and caterers are even finding a place in the baby shower. Recently, Denver hosted a Baby Expo. Invitations were distributed through newsletters from boutiques like Motherhood and a Pea in the Pod to expecting mothers in the metro area. The expo featured new products and free samples from vendors, along with seminars on child safety and nutrition.
Yet, there is still room for growth. While baby care product manufacturers have successfully used hospitals to distribute free samples to expecting mothers, they have yet to tap into the social networks involved with baby showers. The value of the hostess as a channel member has yet to be realized. She is a source trusted by the mother-to-be, without the vested interest of being the child’s main caregiver. This gives her the freedom to take more risks involved with selecting or recommending products for the new mother.
Baby showers also provide an ideal forum for pyramid marketing ventures. Portions of the shower could be devoted to grooming or cooking activities featuring exclusive products that could be ordered while attending the party.
There seems to be room for competition for internet registries. http://Www.myregistry.com seems to owe a good deal of its success to its generalization and flexibility. Companies such as Google or Yahoo which have reputations for excellent search engines could potentially expand their offerings to a “gift” category using a similar technology to http://www.myregistry.com.
In closing, baby showers are fascinating and complex consumption rituals. They demonstrate universal principles of celebrating life, while offering a forum for the expecting mother and hostess to express personal style. Any marketing approach to baby showers should be made within the context of respecting the mothe-to-be and celebrating the new life.