Family life cycle refers to the stages families go through over time and how it affects people’s buying behavior. For example, if you have no children, your demand for pediatric services (medical care for children) is likely to be slim to none. But if you have children or adopt them, your demand might be very high because children frequently get sick. You will be part of the target market not only for pediatric services but also for a host of other products, such as children’s clothing, entertainment services, and educational products. A secondary segment of interested consumers might be grandparents who are likely to spend less on day-to-day childcare items but more on special-occasion gifts for children. In fact, many markets are segmented based on the special events in people’s lives. Think about brides (and wannabe brides) and all the products targeted at them, including Web sites and television shows such as Platinum Weddings, Married Away, Whose Wedding Is It Anyway, and Bridezilla.
Resorts also segment vacationers depending on where they are in their family life cycles. When you think of family vacations, you probably think of Disney resorts. Some vacation properties, such as Sandals, exclude children from some of their resorts. Perhaps they do so because some studies show that the market segment with greatest financial potential is married couples without children. 1
Keep in mind that although you might be able to isolate a segment in the marketplace, including one based on family life cycle, you can’t make necessarily make assumptions about what the people in it will want. Just like people’s demographics change, so do their tastes. For example, over the past few decades U.S. families have been getting smaller. Households with a single occupant are more commonplace than ever. But until recently, that hasn’t stopped people from demanding bigger cars (and more of them) as well as larger houses, or what some people jokingly refer to as “McMansions.”
But like the trend toward larger cars, the trend toward larger houses appears to be reversing. High energy costs, the credit crunch, and concern for the environment are leading people to demand smaller houses. To attract people such as these, D. R. Horton, the nation’s leading homebuilder, and other construction firms are now building smaller homes.