Compete: The Male vs. Female Debate Goes Mobile

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Dec 16, 2011
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Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Compete Blog. Compete Inc. is a web analytics company that focuses on understanding how consumers use the internet.

A year ago, when Compete segmented smartphone owners by gender, the male population dominated the marketplace. But sometime in early 2011, that trend shifted rather dramatically and women started adopting smartphones in greater numbers. Females were now accounting for just over half the segment.

The wireless industry is starting to respond to the smartphone adoption by this segment in both its marketing efforts and its device selection. On Sept. 20, VZW released the HTC Rhyme. One of the key features that it touts in its advertising campaign is the Charm Call Indicator which dangles from your purse and lights up when you get a call or a text message. This marketing is on the opposite side of the spectrum from the very male-oriented targeting that we were accustomed to seeing with some of the large Droid campaigns.

So, does this strategy of marketing devices to particular demographics (in this case, gender) work? And do differences exist in how the two genders are using their smartphones?

Compete asked survey respondents if they performed a number of activities, ranging from sharing photos to conducting financial transactions on their smartphones within a given month. We’ve charted activities that did a good job highlighting some clear differences between the sexes.

Clearly, we see many of these activities skewing more to females:

  • More females are socializing via mobile, whether it be via text messages, social networking sites, and sharing photos/videos with friends
  • Females are entertaining themselves with online games and also using the device to shop online

While that data looks at activities performed, there is another way to approach this battle of the sexes and that’s by looking at what features people would find to be a “must have” in their next smartphone purchase.

The data shows that men tend to be more “feature driven” than women — when asked to consider a long list of “must have features” such as long battery life, the presence of a camera, fast internet browsing, wi-fi access and speakerphones, more men than women picked basically every single feature.

Discussion questions: Are the smartphone features wanted by women versus men enough to justify gender-based appliances and campaigns? How are smartphones evolving as a communication tool between genders? How do any gender differences impact mobile as a shopping tool?

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7 Comments on "Compete: The Male vs. Female Debate Goes Mobile"


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Cathy Hotka
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

It’s fascinating to watch the seeming competition among men and women over phones. Men seem driven by novelty and new features, like Siri, while women want to carry a phone that looks appropriate and complements their personality. Given the fact that people cycle through these devices so frequently, it’s a good thing that device manufacturers are introducing new functionality and styles.

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

Absolutely, especially with the faster turnover that a combination of innovation in apps, functionality and usage patterns (see survey above) is driving. Anyone with a phone that is more than a year old is already behind the curve! The ability to manufacture gender specific smartphones is a good idea just based on the sheer volume of appliances. The ability to market specifically to these phones is the next step.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
9 years 4 months ago
I don’t think the differences are enough to segment devices. But I thought electronics retailers figured this out a long time ago: men tend to purchase based on feature/function, and women tend to purchase on how they will use the device in their lives. It still means the same set of features. It’s just a different way of positioning them. Anecdotally, it’s interesting for me to see more of the moms at my kids’ school with smartphones. For some, it has become their personal computer. For others, it’s still just a phone that has some other whizbang stuff they haven’t figured out yet. But in both groups’ cases, there is an acceptance that they’re going to have to learn it and figure out, I think much more so than they came to that conclusion about desktop computers. So if I were trying to sell smartphones to at least that narrow demographic of women (moms of school-aged kids that I know), my positioning would be “Your life – in your pocket.” And I would offer services… Read more »
David Livingston
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

Hmmm, talking, testing, shopping, and spending money. No surprises there. This isn’t news. Gender based appliances and campaigns have been around for ever.

Ronnie Perchik
Guest
Ronnie Perchik
9 years 4 months ago

It’s always interesting to learn about consumer behavior and media consumption by demographic. Mobile is huge, and discovering how men use their smartphones versus women is surely valuable for marketers. So job well done to Compete Blog!

I doubt mobile manufacturers will start designing gender-specific phones, mostly because that would be costly. But launching marketing campaigns that target by gender is a reality. In much the same way CPG companies market to moms, mobile companies can follow suit.

Marketers need to stay on top of mobile as a potential medium for communicating the brand message. As we learn how consumers use their phones, we know where to reach them, when and how.

Concerning the last question, let’s look at apps. Designing gender-targeted apps that assist men or women in the products they might shop for would work. Or, how about targeted mobile ads with language that speaks to one gender or the other? Tailoring mobile to men vs women is more realistic on the software front, versus hardware.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

As all of these tasks grow in popularity, I don’t see this survey showing huge disparities between the genders. I would market all of these tasks equally for now.

Roger Saunders
Guest
9 years 4 months ago
OK, Men are from Mars, and Women are from Venus…there are subtle differences in how the two sexes, collectively, may choose to make us of mobile devices. Based on the BIGinsight October, 2011 Consumer Intentions & Actions (CIA) Survey, males continue to have adopted smartphone devices a bit at a higher percentage than females. Not to quibble about a few percentage points. Of the 1,448 Adult Males who said they own a Smartphone, 30.5% said that they “comparatively shop” via the Smartphone Regularly, and 37.5% said they do so Occasionally. The 1,625 Adult Females answered the question as, 27.0% used the Smartphone Regularly and 36.5% used it Occasionally to “comparatively shop.” When asked “How they may use a Smartphone to make Holiday purchase decisions,” 39.6% of Males will Research Products and Compare Prices, while 36.1% of Females will do so via their Smartphone. 60.6% of Females, who have a Tablet will use that device to Research Products and Compare Prices, compared to 58% of Males. Males are more likely to Purchase Products via their Smartphone… Read more »
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