Women are the world’s most powerful consumers, and their impact on the economy is growing every year. In fact, women call the shots in the vast majority of consumer spending decisions. In the USA, women buy or inﬂuence 80% of consumer purchases.1
The shopping behavior of women has been studied for ages now. Maybe Noa Shavit, a Behavioral Analyst depicts the typical shopping behavior of women by saying: “Walk into a women’s clothing store and you’re bound to see a familiar sight: bored men sitting on any flat surface they can find, holding purses and shopping bags as their girlfriends/wives/daughters scour the store.” I found myself frustrated many times (mostly when I was younger) doing shopping with the girls. Luckily, nowadays, my shopping trips are restricted to the nearest convenience store. Women have evolved to behave in a different manner than men.
John Gray uses the metaphor in his book “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus”2 that men and women are from distinct planets. Gray also explains how men and women perceive each other: “Men mistakenly expect women to think, communicate, and react the way men do; women mistakenly expect men to feel, communicate, and respond the way women do.” We have forgotten that men and women are supposed to be different, says Gray.
Retailers should therefore recognize that the shopping behavior of women is different from that of men. But how is the shopping behavior of women different?
The shopping behavior of women
Noa Shavit suggests that the hunter-gatherer archetypes of men and women are often brought to life while shopping. She says: “Many women spend hours sifting through merchandise, looking for inspiration and taking care to ‘gather’ the items that suit them, while men tend to ‘hunt’ for the necessities, looking for what they need and exiting the premises as soon as they’ve found it.” Therefore, the shopping behavior of women tends to be more hedonic whilst that of men appears to be more utilitarian.
Charles Dennis and Andrew McCall3 characterize the shopping behavior of US women as follows:
- Women like searching, comparing, finding the best value and taking pride in shopping as an activity;
- They make 10 per cent better cost savings than men, making them the ‘better shoppers’;
- They have a more positive attitude to shopping and see the activity as a satisfying experience in itself;
- US women experience shopping as a leisure and social activity in which they are more involved and through which they can express love for their families and their social network; and
- Women shopping together spend nearly twice as long in a shop as men shopping with women or other men.
The shopping behavior of women has been well debated and described in Bricks and Mortar shops, but what happens if they shop online?
Women shopping online
One way of describing how women shop online is to compare them with the online shopping behavior of men. Catalin Zorzini recently contrasted online shopping habits between women and men using different sources. Some interesting differences are tabled below:
|The online shopping experience has to be social and comprehensive||Want their shopping experience simple and straight-forward|
|Shop based on future needs||Tend to purchase when need is immediate|
|More selective and more likely to buy a product that fits all their requirements||Stop shopping when they find the first workable product|
|Buy gifts for others too||More likely to spend money on themselves|
|Make impulse purchases||Tend to think logically when making purchase decisions|
|More responsive to marketing emails, coupons and sales||Less interested in discounts, deals, or out of season sales|
|More receptive to other people’s opinions||Need detailed product descriptions, feature comparisons to other similar products, and customer reviews|
Do you recognize some of your own online shopping behavior listed in the above table? The online shopping behavior of women is almost the same as if they are shopping in a department store.
Bricks and Clicks retailers should recognize that women do their shopping differently from men. “There is, after all, no known society in history where gender differences did not exist” says Dr. Noam Shpancer, professor of psychology at Otterbein University in Westerville Ohio. However, retailers who ignore the needs and wants of women will do it at their own peril.
1 Huddleston, P. 2011. Consumer behavior: women and shopping. Business Expert Press.
2 Gray, J., Adams, A., Jacobs, B.D. and Jacobs family, 1993. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Harper Audio.
3 Dennis, C. and McCall, A. 2005. The savannah hypothesis of shopping. Business Strategy Review, 16(3):12-16.