Marketing wisdom tells us that 80% of all household purchases are made by women, and no business owner can ignore them. Marketers of kids’ gear, food, cosmetics and clothes are good at reaching women, but women buy gender-neutral stuff too, like cars, auto services, technology and just about everything except Viagra.
One marketing consulting firm reports that 60% of women 16 and older are working. They comprise over half of all college students and about 38% of small business owners according to the 2002 figures of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A February 2002 study by Prudential Financial found that of 400 American women surveyed, 37% live in households with incomes of $50,000 – $100,000, and 12% were in the $100,000 annual income range.
No business owner can afford to ignore this market, but not ignoring them is not the same as attracting them. Attracting them is not the same as winning their loyalty, either. There is definitely a difference in dealing with women because they notice the small stuff. While men tend to make judgments based on first impressions and key interactions, women never stop gathering information.
Women develop a collage of impressions about a business from a hundred small factors; everything from its cleanliness to the design of the shopping bag. Smart business owners turn this to their advantage by investing in small amenities women can appreciate. Many young women today are much wiser than the boomers were at the same age. They have traveled widely and are accomplished and picky consumers.
The key to winning the loyalty of women shoppers and your share of this market is to offer carefully selected choices rather than a plethora of everything from A-to-Z that overwhelms them Eileen Fisher, designer of
women’s clothes, adopted this strategy and offers simple clothes in a limited palette. Furniture stores such as Storehouse Furniture in Atlanta have pared their selections to an “everything goes with everything else” array. Even house paint companies are adhering to this strategy of paring down and offering carefully selected choices.
Look! Women have so many work and family responsibilities they don’t have time to research and ponder every buying decision. They also aren’t trying to impress their friends by having the most toys. While a man may want 16 different size screwdrivers in his toolbox, you show a woman a tool with 16 interchangeable heads and she’ll buy it. Now she has one instrument which takes up less room but accomplishes the same thing, costs less in the end, and does the same job.
Whether buying for themselves of for the business they own or manage, women make final purchasing decisions based on the relationship with the seller, not on statistics and voluminous data. Given a choice on two nearly identical products, women will choose based on customer service and relationship with the vendor.
Men want to buy the product and leave, while women want to know how it works. Prescott True Value in Arizona has a loyal following of women running households on their own due to divorce or widowhood. By having enough staff to guide the customer and answer questions they have good to unequaled repeat business from women. Andy Andre, the owner of Prescott Arizona True Value store has learned that customer service is respect. “It’s taking the time to explain things to a customer and not talk down to them” he says.
Entrepreneurs assume that marketing to women is all about discounts and giveaways, but care and creativity is what really attracts women. If a man is ignored by a sales clerk he thinks, “What a jerk.” A woman will think, “I hate this company.” It’s the small things, good and bad, that make the impact on women customers. Learn this, and you’ve got a handle on your share of a growing niche.