Retail Traffic

Understanding the Female Shopper's Mystique

Women control more than 80% of consumer spending and probably influence the other 20%. By understanding what women's lives are like now and what shopping means to them, you can create shopping experiences that please women and keep them coming back.

Not surprisingly, men and women have different attitudes about shopping. It's pretty much a given that most men approach shopping as a grim mission. They know exactly what they need to get, how long they are willing to look for it and how much they are willing to spend to get it. Women, on the other hand, view shopping as an art, fusing creative, social and educational activity with restorative relaxation. Purchasing may be secondary to the emotional benefits of the shopping process itself. Women are looking for ways to cope with the pace of life.

Outside influences In the last 30 years, women's lives have changed dramatically. Almost 80% of women work outside the home, either part- or full-time, yet we know that women still bear the majority of household management duties and provide most of the emotional support for their families. While the prosperity of the last decade hasn't reached everyone, many people have more money than time. When money is an issue, time becomes more valuable. Clearly, big opportunities for retailers lie in resolving women's challenges, through a $3 bag of ready-to-eat salad or making the trip to the grocery store more entertaining.

Material girl? Women rate shopping as their third-favorite activity; behind only dining out and vacations. Obviously, women think of shopping as a recreational activity, but it isn't a shallow pastime, as some people believe.

Women and shopping are old companions. As society moved into the Industrial Age, men became the producers and women became the consumers, charged with managing the household. The post World War II boom brought a burgeoning middle class and mass availability of consumer goods. Women diligently studied options and compared prices to get the best value for their families. Women still approach shopping with rigor, researching and comparing, thumping and sniffing for the best they can possibly have for their loved ones and themselves.

It's not all altruism, because females in Western culture are socialized to become aware of their appearance and attuned to fashion. They adorn themselves with new colors and styles of clothing and experiment with cosmetics. Shopping is one of the ways women experiment with and establish identity and individuality.

Through an all-day effort or just a quick peek at lunch, women often use shopping as an escape, and a way to buoy their moods, hence the phrase retail therapy. Following are some simple ways to create retail experiences that will delight women.

Make it safe. Security is a big issue for women. Offer to escort women to their cars or make security more visible. Address security through architectural planning. The Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio, for example, mimics a small downtown atmosphere where women feel secure - and Easton bustles until closing.

Make it manageable. Offer a range of parking options to facilitate quick visits. Open up your space by making better use of walls to get fixtures off the floor. Make sure aisles are wide enough to accommodate a stroller. In an effort to make their stores more women-friendly, Sears now provides shopping carts.

Make it sensuous. Offer soft music, visually stimulating displays, opportunities to touch, and taste (where appropriate). Women are attracted to curves, whether in fixturing or nonlinear floorplans.

Make it accessible. Remove barriers between the customer and the product. Cosmetics retailer Sephora touched a nerve with women when it put all of its products out where they can be seen and experienced.

Make it educational. Women love to know the details. Restoration Hardware tells stories to establish rapport with customers and create a nostalgic cachet around its products. Hardware stores, one of the last male bastions, acknowledge that teaching women how to use their products is an effective way to get us in their stores.

Make it entertaining. Progressive grocery retailers are combining education with entertainment by offering activities such as wine-tastings and cooking classes. Make the Saturday morning marketing fun!

Make it about fashion. No matter what kind of product you sell, never underestimate the power of fashion to attract women. Color, lifestyle graphics and visual merchandising can help.

Make life easier. Offer solutions that meet needs and save time. Sainsburys, a UK grocer, has small, conveniently located shops that focus on quick pick-ups and merchandise for an evening meal, including the wine selection. Express is all about showing women head-to-toe dressing. They walk out of the store with not only a higher average purchase, but also increased items per transaction.

Make it real. Acknowledge women with real-life body shapes, ages and ethnicities. Check out the new GAP ads. Lands Ends' website lets a woman create a model using personalized body shapes in order to see how Lands End clothes will look. Banana Republic is using older models in their catalogs.

Make her feel important. When life feels a little out of control, a thoroughly helpful sales associate can create one grateful and loyal customer. Service, Service, Service.

Now, we just have to figure out how to sell the guys...

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