Subtle Differences Important to African-American Women

Discussion
Sep 20, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


WSL Strategic Research’s September 2005 PULSE Report says despite the numerous similarities shared by different ethnic groups in terms of where they shop and what they buy, there are also subtle differences that retailers need to understand if they wish to be successful.


A case in point are African-American women, who according to WSL Strategic Research:


  1. Join reward programs if they are not tied to store credit cards

  2. Shop in dollar stores more frequently than Caucasians. The percentage of blacks and whites who shop in dollar stores is the same.

  3. Have similar value perceptions as Caucasians in most areas but not all – designer jeans, for example, are more highly regarded by African-American women

  4. Are less likely to engage in DIY projects

  5. Are refocusing priorities to spend more time at home and less in outside activities – this does not affect how often makeup is worn.

According to WSL, it is essential for retailers to understand the nuances in the shopping behavior and attitudes of African-American women to attract and keep them as customers.


“For example,” the report states, “African-American shoppers are very interested in reward programs that translate to savings. But department stores, for one, may be missing the opportunity to build loyalty with African-American shoppers because they link their rewards programs to their credit cards.”


Another opportunity is in the area of beauty. WSL says African-American women are less likely to cut back on their beauty regimen than Caucasians. They also believe designer beauty products are worth the price even when their Caucasian counterparts do not.


Moderator’s Comment: What strategies and tactics should retailers put in place to attract African-American women to their stores and Web sites, and keep
them coming back?

George Anderson – Moderator

  • Source: The Nuances of Attracting African American Consumers – WSL Strategic Research PULSE Report 9/05

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11 Comments on "Subtle Differences Important to African-American Women"


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M. Jericho Banks PhD
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M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 5 months ago

I reject the idea, Les, that a certain skin color is required to understand and respond to diverse marketing requirements. For all of us who support equality this is anathema. And, it puzzles me that many of those who preach “sameness” will, at certain times, preach “differentness” when it supports their agenda.

Here’s a truth: In America, the variety of spending preferences among Caucasians alone is far, far greater than the variety between ethnic groups and Caucasians. Does this mean that we should hire Wal-Mart shoppers to market to Wal-Mart shoppers? Texans to market to Texans? Democrats to market to Democrats? Prepubescents to market to prepubescents? Etc. What a silly notion.

Here’s another truth: When seeking the interests of any reasonably-sized ethnic group, the marketing work has nearly always been done previously when appealing to our population in general. In other words, a sizeable group of Caucasian American women and women-at-large have almost identical purchase behaviors and preferences as those identified in this study of African-American women.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

I wonder just how many retailers measure and compare customer behavior and attitudes by various demographics. My impression is that very few retailers measure on any regular basis and even fewer use those measures to guide their marketing, service, and assortments. Real estate location decisions often use demographic information, but other than that function, these tools aren’t used extensively. Best Buy’s assortment, service, and marketing changes seem to be the exception, not the rule. The lack of action-oriented research is not limited to African-American women. The lack of attention seems to be a general rule for all demographic groups in most retailers.

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

I think retailers could start by hiring more African American women to work in their stores, particularly in sales positions. I think that would make female African American shoppers feel more at ease.

Les Haughton
Guest
Les Haughton
15 years 5 months ago

I have a unique idea…why not hire African Americans at Sr. management level who understand that these are real differences. Fortune 500 companies and especially retailers who are not prepared to sell their goods and services to people who don’t “look” or “act” like them are really not fulfilling their promise to maximize shareholder value. The changing face of America will challenge the retail industry to think differently, some retailers though, sadly, are going to be the victims of their inability to accept change.

Rupa Ranganathan
Guest
Rupa Ranganathan
15 years 5 months ago

George, thank you for bringing up this topic. This piece of research touches upon the issue of “Spending Priorities” which often becomes the stepping stone to solid segmentation strategies or tactics. Marketers are more often at the periphery of “spending power” discussions when it comes to ethnic or multicultural groups, missing the subtler nuances of “spending priorities.”

Looking beyond store credit rewards programs, retailers could consider some “Luxury Brand Tie Ins” to indulge this consumer, who is clearly willing to pay the extra in exchange for exclusivity. And additional research on what you would like to call your “signature make-up” or other line for this market can provide new approaches to positioning “prestige” lines for this obviously influential and strong consumer segment.

David Morse
Guest
David Morse
15 years 5 months ago

Why is it that so many of us get so sophisticated with our segmentation schemes, but when it comes to multicultural markets we look for simple ABC solutions? Either that, or we start looking for hidden “agendas” as Michaels Banks alludes to.

Unless we’re talking about cosmetics, marketing to African Americans has nothing to do with the hue of someone’s skin. It’s about culture. It’s about understanding and connecting to a segment that has a different set of experiences than our own.

We humans are complex beings, and like it or not, culture plays a big part in how we shop and what we buy. As the country becomes more multicultural, previously marginalized people will demand more and more that companies address their unique needs, rather than insisting they be stripped of their differences by someone’s idea of a mass market.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 5 months ago

David Morse, the use of the word “agendas” does not automatically imply “hidden” or any of the negative inferences that accompany that catchphrase.

Your argument citing complexity flies in the face of professional marketing which, instead, seeks simplicity. Why go to the trouble and expense of paying for an additional, ethnic-based campaign when your existing campaigns are already reaching the majority of that audience?

David Zahn
Guest
15 years 5 months ago
While this research points to an improvement over just lumping all consumers into one large amorphous blob…it runs the danger of not going far enough in distinguishing the nuances between and among ANY ethnic or demographic group. It is important to look at consumer segments and to determine what similarities exist (and what differences) – but to think that there is ONE way to market to an ethnic group is thinking that went out of vogue years ago. Retailers (and manufacturers) need to become more savvy to the way shopper groups approach their shopping decision-making, but lets not take it to the extreme of thinking that retailers need to do steps a/b/c to appeal to the “ethnic group shopper” when there are other factors that may override the ethnicity (education, income, family dynamics, etc.). I have not seen the research, so it may have accounted for the other variables (in which case, the results are that much stronger) – my caveat though is just to be sure we understand what was measured, and what we… Read more »
Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 5 months ago

Heated discussions! But this subject is no different then
micro marketing to Hispanics, Asians, or what ever the segment
that (this is key) can bring more profit, and loyalty to your
store.

It is a matter of doing your research and focus-grouping on
some of the key points from the research… given it fits into
your overall marketing efforts (not Price).

If I was a retailer, and had an abundance of prospective, loyal African-American women shopping, I too would engage in finding out why, and how to maximize their shopping trip.

People, retailers, let’s start marketing the business..Hmmmm

Gwen Kelly
Guest
Gwen Kelly
15 years 5 months ago

Michael Banks asks the question, “Why go to the trouble and expense of paying for an additional, ethnic-based campaign when your existing campaigns are already reaching the majority of that audience?” True enough; a general market campaign may be seen by a number of ethnic consumers, but it may lack key elements, i.e. it doesn’t resonate with the ethnic consumer nor does it have a call-to-action for that consumer. How can we as marketers not be cognizant of key insights we learn about the ethnic consumer; e.g. how they interface with our product or service? What we should be continually striving for is having the most profitable share of the business that positively impacts the bottom-line; a targeted, ethnic campaign is one way of achieving that goal. And we recognize that business insight in a positive and inclusive manner via the creation of targeted campaigns.

Whitnye Bivens
Guest
Whitnye Bivens
13 years 11 months ago
An interesting idea could be to add on-site tailoring. In my own personal experience as a consumer, there have been items I’ve wanted to buy but the fit was off. What if the store had a tailor who could alter the garment for an additional fee? Not only would it benefit African-American women but it would benefit all clientele. Essentially, it could work like this: *You find a pair of pants with a great color, design, or style that fits you. *The waist happens to be too long/short. *You take the pants to the tailoring counter/window/area and ask if these pants could be altered. *Based on the type of alteration, the answer is yes or no. *A timeframe is given for the alteration; maybe it can be done in a few hours, maybe a few days, maybe in-store. *A sale for the pants is made, an additional fee is charged for the alteration. I know nothing about alterations but I personally would be more likely to buy more items from a store if I knew… Read more »
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