What role can service design play in supporting new parents?

Photo by Andreas Wohlfahrt on Pexels.

As service designers, we are constantly trying to empathise or understand the needs and mindsets of customers, users or stakeholders. We’ve recently been taking a closer look into parenthood and what role digital can play in supporting new parents. So we thought we’d share some insights and trends we’ve gleaned from our research.

Millennials are either on the road to parenthood or now raising kids of their own. According to Barkley, 40% of Millennials, a cohort of around 80 million, are parents today. We also know that raising one child costs an average of £250k and nearly half of parents think that over the last two years, it has become financially more difficult to raise a family. With this in mind, what role can digital play in supporting new parents? It is said that years 0 to 3 are a child’s formative years and this is most likely the time that new parents need the most support.

69% of parents say that if they knew more positive parenting strategies they would use them, and from personal experience we know that the isolation (and boredom!) of maternity leave can be very difficult. So the invention of new platforms such as Peanut and Mush for “new mums” (can we say Parents already?!) could help people in the early months.

Modern day parenting also means that Dads deserve way more credit. According to a recent parent survey in the US, 63% of dads agree that they do not get enough credit for their involvement in raising and caring for young children and 64% of mums also agreed with this statement. They are clearly more than just a babysitter. Yet despite this, many products are seemingly still targeted only at mum’s as the sole carer. Whilst this may be true in many cases, connecting with dads’ needs should always be a part of a product’s vision especially since another 63% of dads would consider their childcare arrangements before they take a new job or promotion. Anecdotally, we’ve seen dads feel out of place or unsure of attending baby groups. It makes us wonder if we could do more with our own product, Go Jauntly to connect parents together for outdoor fun, especially as the health and wellness benefits of nature connection are clear.

Parents exploring nature and the outdoors via the Go Jauntly walking app.

There are increasing pressures on work and home life for parents too. Only one in five families said they have got the right balance between time (to spend with family) and money (earning or having enough income) to see their family thrive. More than a third say they haven’t got enough time or money. When we think about balancing commuting, cooking, laundry, cleaning, homework and childcare, it starts to make our head spin. What new tools can we create to take the weight off of that? Robot babysitters and iPads on cots? Maybe not.

Organisations such as the Honest Company are looking to tailor shopping and brand experiences for privileged Millennial parents. We enjoyed this interview with Jessica Alba on Thrive in September of this year.

Jessica Alba re: The Honest Company

“…other brands spoke to a hippy, natural consumer not not necessarily your everyday person who is just getting by and so Iwas like how can we reframe this and brand this company in a way that makes it accessible from an aesthetic standpoint but also from a financial standpoint to everyone and really create a brand that speaks to millennials, that’s the impetus of why I started the Honest Company”
“We are a Health and Wellness Company and we make products but the biggest part of it for me was around education, so how can we build a platform through social media and our website where we could educate the consumer in a non-scary and empowering way but because people don’t want to feel like what they’ve been doing is hurting their children. We want it to be actioning and empowering these little steps can actually lead to a healthier life, you don’t have to transform everything but you can take little steps and it can make a help”

The branding and eco-credentials of Honest seem great but we do wonder if we really need so much when plain water to wash a baby may well do. With this in mind, it’s worth noting that first world children are the biggest polluters. In industrialised economies, one child will be responsible, over their lifetime, for consumption and pollution equating to that of 30 to 50 children in the developing world. Do we really need more stuff?

Photo by Thiago Cerqueira on Unsplash

All of the above makes for a parenting perfect storm. Especially when you hear that parents are at increased risk of mental health issues. Approximately 68% of women and 57% of men with mental health problems are parents. The pressures to do the right thing for your child are high and sadly, young mothers fair the worst and are at a higher risk of postpartum depression than average, with feelings of isolation and low self-esteem high. We like where Happity is going.

Tailored support for parents mental health needs is an opportunity worth exploring. We found this report from the Mental Health Foundation (in this instance, the report is about young mums, often single), which illustrates how tailored support for young mums is a must:

“Comprehensive support services can prevent many of the difficulties commonly experienced by young mothers as they offer a variety of support, information, activities and opportunities. They can also offer a platform for young mothers to explore ideas, concerns and ambitions as they cope with the many adjustments in their lives.”

We can’t forget that in all of this, single parents are the true heroes. There are around two million single parents — they make up nearly a quarter of families with dependent children. The majority of these single parents don’t receive child maintenance and live in relative poverty compare to couple families, 90% of single parents are women. In 2017, “the number of lone parent families grew by 15.2%, a statistically significant increase”. Single parents are often stuck in a inflexible rut. Over two-thirds of single parents enter the three lowest paid occupation groups and single parents are more likely to be in low-paid, part time work (36% of single mothers would work more hours with good quality and accessible childcare).

So what are the future service design opportunities for new parents? Here’s where our heads are at:

  1. Lets go hands free:
  • Smart phones are not going away and when you’re holding a baby, a phone is about the only other thing you can. People who use mobile phones to access the internet is up from 66% in 2017 to 72% in 2018 according to Ofcom. What other products and services can we create for parents that are hands free.
  • Could we create new content delivery platforms for things like peer support, adjustment to motherhood/parenthood, ease access to professional support networks, enhance on-demand mental health support and confident parenting.
  • According to Ofcom, the largest group of podcast listeners are within the 25–34 age bracket, that’s bang on with millennials having kids now. We wonder if there’s an opportunity for more hands-free interaction with real-time, data-driven audio content.
  • One tenth of UK households already own a smart speaker and by 2022, this is projected to increase to 48% — delivering £3.5bn worth of spend. Also, around 70% of voice purchases are made on a specific ‘known’ product, typically as a repeat order. Is it time to design a new service that makes parenting easier?

2. Mindful parenting, it’s ok to be ‘good enough’:

  • If parents are the most anxious in the first year, and for up to three years, are also at increased risk of mental health issues; could we create new products or services that ensure new parents are provided with the support they need to take care of themselves and to bring up happy and healthy children?
  • With the rise of co-parenting in Sweden and the UK, shared maternity leave is becoming a thing, how can we ensure the products and services we create, honour this and do not alienate gender, race or identity.
  • The formative years are when parents need the most support and babies need the most warmth and affection. Through creating unique experiences for all parents and children to connect, will we see stronger community-based child-rearing and in turn a happier and healthier society?
Photo by Benjamin Manley on Unsplash

3. Sustainable revolution: care for the planet and the pocket:

  • Green parenting is very nappy-centric and people increasingly care more about wider sustainable missions related to childcare. What other things can we do or create to ensure everything we create or do “leaves no or little trace”?
  • Can we build customer trust, adoption and loyalty by being truthful about our sustainable credentials. Can we assist with the biodegradation of nappies and be transparent with the end-to-end cycle of nappies, sacks, clothes and bottles from transportation to decomposition. We’ve reached ‘peak stuff’ after-all.
  • Let’s help people make more sustainable choices, be explicit on the benefits, show price and eco comparison. Help people track their sustainability credentials and improve them using “smart tracking”.
  • Let’s create value, give parents and child-carers free returns of too small nappies, encourage reduction in cosmetics and provide rewards on reducing single-use plastic.

These are just some of the ideas, we’re sure there are plenty more. Let’s work together to define and design the full scope of support required by new parents in a world where declining fertility and over-consumption are making the news all of the time.

This little insight was brought to you by Hana Sutch, Managing Partner at Furthermore, a Digital Product and Service Design Consultancy and Go Jauntly — a walking app that helps people discover walks, curate their own and share outdoors adventures with friends.

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