True Views: The baby care & parenting sector.
Inevitably stressful for new parents; the parenting and baby care space is also very exciting and dynamic. It’s rapidly evolving as technology provides new solutions to the age-old challenges of starting a family. In 2017 alone, startups in the sector in North America and Europe raised more than $214m in early funding, forcing more established names to innovate to remain competitive. It is also a diverse ecosystem, with sub-sectors including apparel, educational products, baby monitoring and digital learning to name but a few. There’s a lot of tech out there that tries to help new parents make sense of what is a dramatic change in their lives; but not all these technologies will be successful. Here we dive into some of the key technology trends emerging in this sub sector.
Social networking is an increasingly important part of raising kids, particularly for new mothers – one survey suggested they spend as much as eight hours on the internet per day in the UK. The largest share of those eight hours is spent on smartphones, during the rare and short breaks parents can find themselves in while the child is asleep – time possibly spent looking for answers when worrying or confused about new parental tasks.
New parent-focused networking sites and apps are perfectly placed to provide vital support, community and advice. This change has largely been driven by the verticalisation of social media, lowering the barriers for parents to connect and ensuring that content discovery remains focused and relevant. A trend within the broader social network sector is that some people are wanting to keep some aspects of their lives more private than other parts and instead will engage with a more focused audience for these more guarded areas of their lives. This has been a key driver for continued growth of social networking for parents.
Netmums and Mumsnet, both founded in 2000, were the market pioneers for this sub-sector, but have since been joined by a host of other websites and apps offering ways to connect with fellow parents. The natural progression to monetising the user-base for each of these platforms is challenging – Facebook itself went through a few iterations in attempts to find the right formula for several years. This challenge is made harder by the specificity of the focal communities. The optimum business model varies depending on whether the network is web or app-based, given the differences in data collection and receptivity to branded content. Monetisation requires careful and well-curated content management and powerful back-end infrastructure to analyse and streamline user data. On the other hand, for mobile apps, increased e-commerce integrations may allow such networks to remain relevant and continue to grow.
Aiming for Uber Convenience.
Together with the demands of parenting, comes the need for babysitters. This sub-sector represents a £1.5bn industry in the UK alone. The popularity of online sitters continues to grow, linked with a rise in the number of parents working full-time and the expanding familiarity of users with online vetted service providers. The emotional value of safe, accredited and credible-looking babysitter services is vast.
The market however is somewhat crowded and can be sorted into on-demand (Bubble) and subscription (UrbanSitter) marketplaces; web-based (Sitters) and app-based (Babysits) listing platforms; as well as own fleet models, such as KoruKids. The Uber-model for services has had an effect even on an area as sensitive as babysitting. An on-demand app that allows parents to browse the babysitter’s profile and pricing, hire them instantly and has proper trust and safety functionality, has become the preferred choice for many families over agencies or simple listing platforms.
Trust Wins Out.
Analysis of the social network scene for parents highlights the importance of a strategic approach to monetising the user base, one that reflects the nature of the platform. Meanwhile, for the babysitting sub-sector, the growing popularity of Uber-like apps among parents can’t be ignored. Those startups that can strategically and authentically monetise an intrinsic emotional value are the ones that look like winners in this market. When it comes to picking winners in this sector, it’s the genuinely trustworthy and credible platforms that will eventually turn into the serious players.