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Women & Purchasing Decisions

Goodbye status quo—Equality in the consumer space has made historical changes, with women driving 70-80% of purchasing decisions and surpassing men in the percentage of online purchases (though not by much). Female consumers may be the world's most influential shoppers. So, if the future consumer is female, what consumer insights do you need to market to her?

Women Were Always Consumers

Before we jump into understanding modern female consumer insights, we need to reflect on the history of women's roles in society. Historically, women have always been primary consumers: they bought, bartered, and used goods. Women boycotted products, actively purchased food for their families, and hired and fired domestic workers. While men got a lot of the credit for worldwide buying power, women reigned as lead consumers of the home.

From Homemakers to Breadwinners

The female consumer has changed dramatically over the last century. World War II gave women the opportunity to work in traditionally male occupations. By the 1970s, feminism addressed gender inequality in the workplace, and in a matter of decades, women went from being primarily homemakers to breadwinners. Now consumer insights research shows that women drive 83% of all U.S. consumption. But, despite their financial strength, women still feel misunderstood by advertisers (over 91%). Marketers (who are primarily male) keep missing the mark when it comes to reaching female audiences. One of the biggest failures of advertising to women was the Bic Pens ‘For Her.’

Graph: Women spend 4 million annually and account for 83% of consumer spending.

The World’s Most Ridiculed Pen

In an attempt to attract female consumers to its plastic pens, BIC took a gender-stereotypical approach to product development—they went pink. BIC ‘For Her’ featured pastel pink and purple pens, complete with an Ad campaign that marketed them as a “women’s accessory” (just for the ladies!) designed to fit comfortably in “delicate” feminine hands. Needless to say, the BIG ‘For Her’ product line and the campaign were a flop because they lacked relevant female consumer insights. Women flooded Amazon to leave snarky reviews and there was global outrage by women everywhere. Thankfully, BIC has recovered, with a woman leader (North American General Manager, Mary Fox) at the helm. But the lesson for marketers is, don’t tell women what they want, do your research and ask them.

So why are marketers running into these problems? How can you glean the consumer insights to target the modern female with messaging that makes women feel understood?

Understand That Men and Women Shop Differently

When it comes to shopping, spending, and consumer behavior, men and women have differences. Some ways that men and women differ in their purchasing include:

  1. Women react more strongly to personal interactions and engagement while shopping, whereas men are more utilitarian.

  2. Women often do research and comparison shop more often than men.

  3. Men shop on mobile devices more than women.

These are just a few ways that gender can affect purchasing decisions, but by no means is it gospel. Ultimately, your marketing strategy needs to be informed by the consumer insights of who buys your products—and gender is just one component. So, don’t make assumptions, study the data and take into account gender (and all other components) to segment your approach and appeal to your customer.

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Give Women A Voice

Let's talk about a big issue with advertising to women—most brands lack the consumer insights to accurately portray or represent women. Current research reports that only 37% of Americans believe women are accurately represented in advertising (that number is even smaller amongst women—dropping to 29%).

How are women misrepresented?

The Super Bowl (watched by millions every year) is lauded for its ads, but time and time again Super Bowl ads miss the mark in how they portray women. From, Teleflora’s ad in 2012 highlighting how women will provide sex in exchange for flowers, to Budweiser’s multi-year ads showcasing humor with men ignoring their “nagging” wives. Or, Proctor & Gamble rebranding Mr. Clean as the ultimate sex symbol (tagline, “You Gotta Love a Man Who Cleans). No wonder women feel misrepresented in advertising––if the most-watched commercials can’t portray them right, who can?

Attract women by hiring women

Let's put it out there—gender diversity in your organization is good for business. Recent studies show that brands with female leadership at the top (including their marketing teams) outperformed their non-diverse competitors by 21 percent. So, why is gender diversity so essential to marketing to women? Well, the best way to understand what women want is to have women on your team.

Different women of diverse backgrounds can share their perspectives throughout the creative process. By having female voices at the table during product development ensures you are targeting female consumers with purpose and intention.

Build Trust and Community

Want women to be your brand champions? Get to know them and let them know you. Building trust with female consumers can lead to long-lasting brand loyalty. Studies show that women demonstrate more brand loyalty compared to men (especially if they're treated well). One way you can build trust with women is through creative storytelling. Integrate their stories into your brand messaging and showcase your connection with your customers. Keep in mind female consumers are looking for brand authenticity—so keep it real. (It's also why 38 percent of moms buy products from brands that other women "Like" on Facebook—customers trust real people.)

A woman is sitting on her bed working on her laptop while her dog is sleeping

Always Innovate

Never get too comfortable with your marketing strategy and never trust consumer behavior to stay the same. Women consumers are humans, and human interests change with the times. The Great Recession led to female consumers steadily buying more cosmetics, while COVID-19 led to women ignoring cosmetics and stocking up on sleepwear (for more than just sleeping). New markets constantly emerge, and innovative companies will stay on top by adapting to recent trends and listening to their customers. So how can you adapt to changes in female consumer behavior?

Give Women What They Want

The research is clear—the best strategy to win female consumers is by designing products that meet their needs. Invest in a comprehensive and consistent approach to your marketing strategy—overall gender equality from product development, leadership, and advertising. Get buy-in from women.

Remember, there isn't a singular "women's market"—women are multifaceted, and your marketing needs to recognize and address that.

Get To Know The Modern Female Consumer

Don't guess what women want. Get to know all your customers with consumer insights gleaned from market research and a brand strategy that acknowledges their diverse needs. At Rebel, we get up front and personal with your target audience to understand how they see your brand, why they use your services, and what's missing.

Let's work together to help your brand find truths in places you wouldn't expect, to take you to places you never thought possible.

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