Savvy adult shoppers will comparison shop before they make a purchase decision, but this behavior doesn’t happen automatically—it’s learned. Kids have the capacity to start doing it on a basic level quite early if you show them how. These tips can make the task a little easier for young children to understand and increase the odds they’ll continue to use the skill later in life.
1) Keep it hands on.
When kids are very young, they often need to see things visually or work with them physically, as their brains are still developing the ability to work in the abstract. As an example, suppose one store has 3 boxes of cereal on sale for $6, while another has it on sale 5 for $6. It might be easier for your child to see which deal is better if you physically put 3 boxes in one stack and 5 in another, as they can see that the stack of 5 is taller. You also could have them make simple bar charts of how many nickels, dimes, quarters or other currency is needed at each store for an item.
2) Look at reviews or ratings.
Kids typically don’t realize that companies aren’t going to reveal flaws about their products. They also tend to make purchases based on impulse and emotion rather than logic, and they often think that your disapproval of an item is somehow just a way to be mean. By having your child look at reviews or ratings, you provide an outside opinion about the items he’s looking at. You get him to pause and double check that his gut reaction to a product is on target. Don’t worry if your child’s reading ability is limited yet. You can treat the reviews as a reading practice, or you can simply summarize what the reviews say for him and have him concentrate on looking at the stars the reviewers have provided.
3) Keep it simple.
Today’s marketplace isn’t limited to one city or state. Thanks to technology, it’s not even limited to a single nation, with companies routinely working with customers from all the way around the globe. Subsequently, there are often dozens, hundreds or even thousands of stores that can provide similar services or products. The temptation that results from this situation is for customers to spend an excessive amount of time shopping around. Your child likely isn’t ready for this level of complexity and will get bored if the comparison never ends. Just keep it simple and compare just a handful of providers or features at a time.
4) Keep it relevant.
In most cases, your kid’s eyes will glaze over if you try to comparison shop with him on, say, shaving cream or pantyhose. Do it with something that’s relevant to him, though, such as a toy he’s been dreaming about, an item for school or even his favorite food, and you’ll likely see him perk up. Always remember that the whole point of comparison shopping ultimately is to make a purchase. If your kid’s not interested in what you’re buying, it will be more difficult to get him to focus and pay attention to what you’re doing.
5) Match his savings.
Matching whatever your child saves between two providers serves two purposes. First, it makes the savings more tangible. Over time, he can see how the money saved from comparison shopping really adds up. Secondly, it provides an incentive to continue working even when the comparison isn’t easy. Some items, for instance, might have promotional codes, coupons, shipping or other elements, such as different pricing schemes, to consider. If money is tight, you can do a variation on the matching concept, such as offering x percent, or you can offer something other than money, such as earning x extra minutes on the computer for every dollar saved.
Your child doesn’t need to wait until he’s an adult to start doing comparison shopping with some level of seriousness. You simply have to take his cognitive and emotional maturity into account and get him comparing in a way that is relevant to him. Matching savings in some way can be a great incentive to get through the work comparison shopping involves.