Retailers Try to Crack Female Shoppers’ Code

Discussion
Dec 01, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Women are different than men. That simple understanding has prompted some retailers in the consumer electronics business to adjust their marketing practices and in-store environments to be more inviting for female consumers.


“Guys walk around tech stores like they’re in a porno shop looking for the fastest, newest, coolest, first-on-the-block thing, while women would rather shop in a calmer, information-based environment for products that will simplify their lives,” said Mary Lou Quinlan, author of Just Ask A Woman — Cracking the Code of What Women Want and How They Buy. 


A report in the Washington Post, said stores such as RadioShack have turned down the volume on music played in stores, added more color to their interiors, widened aisles, adjusted product mix and hired more female sales associates with one goal in mind – get women to spend.


“The store doesn’t feel like a men’s club anymore,” said Charles Hodges, a spokesperson for RadioShack. “Now women can walk in and be helped by women just as knowledgeable as guys.”


Women are motivated to buy gadgets for different reasons than men, said Ms. Quinlan. While guys may want to be the first with latest in technology, women often buy a product because they have a friend that has found it useful in making their lives easier or more enjoyable.


“Where men like to be the only one with a product, women like to bring more of her friends into their find — they want to share the good news of what’s working for them,” she said.


Moderator’s Comment: Are women shoppers that much different than men? How does a retailer split the difference in areas such as store design when it
has both men and women for customers?

George Anderson – Moderator

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13 Comments on "Retailers Try to Crack Female Shoppers’ Code"


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Peter Fader
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

The instant poll above is missing the correct option: the differences among men and the differences among women are both so vast that it’s meaningless to compare a “typical” woman to a “typical” man. This is the same standard answer I give whenever demographic issues arise (e.g., marketing to Hispanics vs. non-Hispanics, gays vs. straights, older vs. younger consumers, etc.).

It’s very misleading (and dangerous) to paint a stereotypical picture of the members of one group vs. another. These pictures might help sell some catchy popular-press books, but they won’t help retailers run their businesses more effectively.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

The standard opening airplane conversation between two adjacent passengers who’ve never met: “Where are you going?,” Why?,” “Where are you from?,” “What do you do?,” When I worked for Lechters, if I sat next to a man, he rarely knew what Lechters was. If I sat next to a woman, she always knew it was a housewares specialty store. To say that all women shop differently than men would be an absurd stereotype, but there are definitely strong patterns for the majority.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

If the quotes from Quinlan here are typical of what she says, she’s a stereotyping sexist. I agree, it may sell books, but it won’t do much of anything productive for anybody. This is a very complex issue, and if you really want to accomplish something, neither sexism nor stereotyping has a place.

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

The correct answer is that women and men are completely different and women and men are more similar then they are different. Can that be possible? It sure is.

In the end, however, they are both consumers. In some areas, greater and, in some areas, less dependent upon sex. However, that’s where you must be careful. It’s the consumer.

The conclusions and observations quoted are simply absurd.

Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Guest
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
15 years 3 months ago
At least for the moment, it appears that no female RetailWire writers have chimed in…so here I go (not to mention that I’m also a Hispanic marketing specialist…an endeavor that I realize some of you view as irrelevant, stereotypical and unnecessary in the marketing arena…you’re wrong, but you’re entitled to your opinion). In my opinion, it’s all a matter of perspective…as one writer already stated, women and men are different and they are the same. There are no formulaic right and wrongs that you can use to address the “typical” consumer of either gender…However, there is no doubt in my mind that when retail is structured from a male point of view and often from a Caucasian older male point of view, you will have one outcome versus the retail experience developed to speak to the shopping needs of certain female customers. There is no one female shopper. Women are at different lifestyle stages…some mothers, some not…some executives, some not. And we don’t all like the same things. However, there is value in considering a… Read more »
Mitch Kristofferson
Guest
Mitch Kristofferson
15 years 3 months ago

There are certainly gender differences that are relevant to shopping behavior and needs, but other factors and demographics such as role and responsibility in the household, career, etc. also must be considered. For example, stay-at-home dads with primary child-rearing responsibility could have more in common around certain product categories or needs with stay-at-home moms than either group would have with single, traveling executives – male or female. Yes, stereotypes don’t help, but data-driven insights do. The consumer landscape, channel multiplicity and overlap, and other drivers have made a data-driven, fact-based understanding of the consumer critical to any retailer’s large-scale success.

Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 3 months ago
It’s funny, Rochelle. As I was reading the comments, I was noticing that it was only men commenting. We are different and we are the same, but don’t dismiss the differences too lightly. That said, I believe the primary difference in a man’s and a woman’s shopping experience is the difference in the way salespeople treat us. I went to Best Buy not too long ago because my TV blew up. I intended to replace it that night. I was leaving with a TV come hell or high water. Not ONE salesperson approached me. I stood and watched a while: a man would walk into the dept., and three salespeople would descend, as I stood ten feet away ignored. After this happened 7 times (yes, I counted), I left. I went to Circuit City to much the same experience. Eventually, I grabbed a salesperson and essentially made them sell me a TV (remember the hell part). This experience has been replicated many times over. I no longer drive Saab’s simply because, after buying three, and… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 3 months ago
I’d like to come back and answer this one next week as I’m planning an excursion on Monday to check the look and feel of laptop computers. I know just enough about how they work to know what I want it to do but my priority is that it is light enough to carry around without having too small a screen or keyboard. Is that a very womanly kind of specification? Just to be on the safe side, walking into an electronics haven, I am taking my son to make sure that the technical specification is adequate for my needs. How womanly is that? He assures me that he is in touch with his feminine side so perhaps between the two of us we will be able to deal with whatever the stores may throw at us. On the other hand, we have absolutely no intention of buying on the spot. It will be back to the PC and internet to shop around for the best price once we’ve made a decision. Where we actually… Read more »
Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 3 months ago
As I was reading Karen’s post, I was thinking of my wife’s past experience in purchasing a car. She had the same experience in two of four dealers. She wandered around the showroom in each for up to 30 minutes before giving up and going on to the next. Needless to say, she doesn’t let me forget it. I sent her out on that mission. It was to test drive and pick her own car as she was to be the one driving. Then, once picked, we would shop for it together. It likely won’t happen that way again as the bruises are still visible… 🙂 You might be right. The thing that makes no sense about it is that a higher percentage of women buy vehicles today than ever. The percentage is greater than men for both cars and SUV’s. Whether it be cars or electronics, sizing up your potential customer likely equals a lost sale. The best retailers understand that all who enter their doors are customers of equal value – male, female,… Read more »
David Livingston
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

Bernice is on the right track. Men and women are wired differently and react differently to various products. With electronics, men are interested in quality products that perform. Women are interested in quality products that perform and also match their shoes. That may sound sarcastic, but I think its true.

Margaret Callicrate
Guest
Margaret Callicrate
15 years 3 months ago
THERE IS NO CODE! I had to laugh at Marylou’s analogy between an electronics store and a porn shop, for guys. All I could think about was “Tim-the tool man-Taylor.” But I disagree that women shop for electronics because they simplify their lives. While that may be partially true, many of us (yes I am a woman) want those “fastest, newest, coolest, first thing on the block things” too. And you know, it’s too bad that electronics retailers “don’t see us” when we come into their stores! We have money to spend. It’s all about knowing who your customer is. A customer is anyone walking through your doors! There is no need to differentiate between gender. If you have knowledgeable store managers and selling staff that know how, and want to communicate with people, then that’s a start. I had a similar experience at Best Buy. The two young men at the computer counter simply ignored me after making eye contact (no greeting!), while discussing their work tasks. So I decided to seek out someone… Read more »
Mark Barnhouse
Guest
Mark Barnhouse
15 years 3 months ago

I’m a “non-techie” man who has had many of the same experiences some of the female commentators report. When I finally make the leap to HDTV, you can bet I’ll avoid Best Buy and Circuit City like the plague–I’ve had better experience with the more expensive Ultimate Electronics, so that’s where I’ll go.

I’m considering buying an Apple PowerBook laptop. I’ve visited my local Apple store three times now, and each time have felt that I didn’t belong there. That hasn’t made me reconsider, but when I actually do buy one (I’m waiting for the Intel chips), I will do it online.

A truly good sales associate can sell to either sex (or transgender), any race or ethnicity, any age, any sexual orientation, etc. Store design matters to some extent–re-read Paco Underhill–but it’s the human beings that matter more. And really good ones are rare–I sometimes think they’re born, not made.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
15 years 3 months ago

It’s simple. Women respond to color and odor; Men respond to task and don’t mind too much color or odor to complete the task. Just decorate for women, make it smell good and then tell them they can’t have it!

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