What You Need to Know to Sell to Military Families

By Stacy DeBroff,
business.com writer
Aug 11, 2015
Image Credit: Monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images

Entrepreneurs and business owners increasingly have zeroed in on customer segmentation in search of new market share. From the nation’s changing demographics—such as Boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials—each generation offers up its own consumer perspective, behavior, and purchasing journey—all of which business owners must analyze and transform into real-life marketing and sales strategies.

Often one segment proves elusive—military families. These consumers—including active duty military, reservists, veterans and their families—stand apart from the typical consumer in that they experience regular relocations, often live far away from loved ones, possess higher levels of education and maintain a close cadre of friends and neighbors. However, as a consumer group, military families continue to remain nascent from a marketing perspective.

To shed new light on the shopping behaviors, retail preferences, travel habits and big-ticket purchasing decisions of military families, Influence Central teamed up with MilitaryOneClick, a premier online resource for current and former military personnel and their families.

Our study reached spouses of active duty and retired personnel, as well as Moms of military service members. In addition, respondents came from all branches of the service, including the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force, with near equal representation. Study findings also remained consistent no matter the length of military service.

Our study of 400 military family members offered an insider’s view into what most influences their consumer purchasing choices and shares insights on what business owners and entrepreneurs can do to reach this market.

Here are 5 must-use strategies:

Related Article: 5 Things Entrepreneurs Should Know About Sales and Marketing Today

1. Military Discounts Prove Tipping Points to Purchase

The best way to reach consumers affiliated with the military? Offer a military discount. Overwhelmingly, military families say they shop at businesses that offer these discounts, and 92 percent say they tailor their purchases to stores that offer deals for military families.


Moreover, military personnel and their family members will eagerly travel to get this discount. Sixty-seven percent of military families will drive upwards of 15 miles if a business offers a substantial discount.

2. Word of Mouth Plays a Powerful Role in This Close-Knit Community

Even if a growing business serves up a discount to active duty military personnel, reservists, or veterans—it won’t work if no one knows about it. So communicating these deals to military families will be key to making it work, including engaging with military consumers via social media or word-of-mouth marketing so customers and potential customers can remain aware of the latest offerings.

In addition, business owners can look to build strong relationships with military consumers so their businesses will remain top of mind.

Finally, don’t forget to encourage these customers to write online reviews to help share their personal experiences with their military colleagues.

Related Article: Reputation Management: The Missing Ingredient in Your Marketing Strategy

3. Coupons Drive Off-Base Shopping

Moms typically represent the primary purchase decision-maker for their family, and nearly 80 percent prefer to shop off-base and in-store—rather than online—especially when buying clothing for themselves and their kids.

grocery shopping

Business owners can identify ways to encourage in-store shopping via coupon offerings, as 79 percent of military consumers use coupons when shopping and 68 percent either download or clip coupons from newspapers, magazines and circulars in order to save money.

4. Travel & Vacations a High Priority

As military families spend much of their lives away from family, vacations and travel increase in importance, as more than 55 percent look to visit family one to two times each year. In addition, these families also seek out relaxation as a family and nearly 60 percent take vacations one to two times per year.

military father and son

Yet even as these families place a premium on getting away, they still seek out value. More than 80 percent search for vacation destinations that offer a discount, and nearly 90 percent use the availability of military discounts to determine where they’ll stay on vacation.

Related Article: Your Employees Are Scared To Take Vacation. Fix That!

5. Ownership Trumps Leasing

Despite their mobility, military families exhibit a strong preference for buying items outright, instead of leasing or renting—particularly for big-ticket items such as cars or homes.

Our study showed that an overwhelming 95 percent of military families prefer to buy cars instead of taking out a lease. As in other categories, these families still keep an eye out for value, as 81 percent of military families prefer to buy a car from manufacturers offering a military discount.

We’ve long known that moms direct their family’s purchasing decisions, but this study offers entrepreneurs and business owners new insights and perspectives into the consumer behavior of active duty military, reservists, veterans and their families. Gaining a deeper understanding of what motivates the shopping habits of this powerful American consumer group, as well as what impacts their path to purchase, can go a long way in beginning to cultivate this market as a strong consumer segment.

Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of Influence Central, is a social media strategist, attorney, and best-selling author. A frequent national and international speaker, she consults with brands on consumer and social media trends. You can reach her at stacy@influence-central.com. Want more insights and trends? Subscribe to the Influence Central Trend Report at http://influence-central.com/trendreport/.
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