Are You Catering to Female Shoppers?

In recent years, wireless and electronics retailers have been making efforts to better serve female customers. Even industry giant Best Buy has stepped up its lady-friendly game, as reported by Miguel Bustillo and Mary Ellen Lloyd of the Wall Street Journal (June 16).

While men traditionally make up the majority of gadget shoppers**, it turns out that Best Buy’s only attributes 16 percent of its total sales to women (and the company commands 22 percent of all U.S. consumer electronics sales). Also, only 31 percent of its store workers are women, Bustillo and Lloyd wrote.

Now, the Richfield, Minn.-based retailer is trying to bridge its gender gap,” they wrote. “(Best Buy) is empowering female workers and tapping teenage girls to suggest new ways to sell to women. The push reflects a realization that in some of the hottest areas of electronics retailing – smart-phones and other mobile devices – women are becoming the most coveted customers.”

Some key points raised by Bustillo and Lloyd:

  • Best Buy has formed focus groups of female staff and customers – called Women’s Leadership Forums” – around the country, who meet to give insight on how to better appeal to female shoppers.
  • The Best Buy Mobile began spotlighting iPhones and colorful phone cases in its storefronts, because it found that teenage girls were more attracted to those items than BlackBerrys.
  • Some recommendations made by the Women’s Leadership Forums include: redesigning showrooms to resemble kitchens, creating a customer loyalty plan that allows women to donate loyalty points to schools, helping female staff balance work and family demands, and providing hand sanitizer beside video game test kiosks. 

Last year, Donna Myers of Casual Living magazine wrote an interesting column (Aug. 1, 2009) about how barbecue grill retailers often underestimate the importance of approaching female shoppers. While barbecue grills are certainly not cellphones, Myers identifies some intriguing data:

  • Women are not niche but are the primary consumers in the U.S., and they are an economic powerhouse. (Bustillo and Lloyd wrote that executives at big-box retailers like Wal-Mart and Target have long referred to their target customer as she.”)
  • Women make more than 85 percent of all consumer purchases.
  • They influence 95 percent of total goods and services decisions.
  • Women purchase 50 percent or more in categories typically considered male: banking and financial services, electronics, automobiles, PCs and many other big ticket items.
  • Women are responsible for $3.7 trillion annually in consumer spending.

So what do women want from you?” asks Myers. Just ask them. In the current economic climate, you obviously need to know.”

Women want to build relationships with the companies and people with whom they do business.They want to feel confident they can trust you, that you will treat them fairly.”

They want your respect.When salespeople promise to do something and don’t follow through, it indicates a lack of respect, which quickly leads to a lack of trust.”

Women care about great design, but they also want easy-to-manage technology.

Women are discriminating shoppers and in today’s economy they are doing significant research before embarking on a shopping trip.They’ve studied prices, capabilities and competing brands,” adds Myers. In a shopping behavior study from Miller Zell, 60 percent of women indicated they are doing more pre-planning before visiting a retailer than they did a year ago, and 44 percent said they are doing more online research than a year ago. They are very watchful and great at detecting inconsistencies between your messages and your product performance.”

Women have high standards and want quality products and services, but the good news is they are willing to pay for it.A good example is the success of Whole Foods in spite of its premium pricing. The lifestyle-oriented brand delivers premium products and experiences women fully appreciate.”

Women’s biggest retail complaint is a lack of help when needed (according to a study of gender shopping differences by WomenCertified, the Wharton School and the Verde Group). Staff up, especially during busy seasons (see Tips for Hiring Holiday Help), and make sure your team is well trained in customer service, product knowledge and positioning products as solutions,” said Delia Passi, founder of WomenCertified (as quoted by Emily Esworthy of Pink magazine).

**In 2005, Gallup found that 31 percent of male shoppers made an electronics purchase in the month prior to the survey; only 16 percent of female respondents made such a purchase.