Impact of Gender on Shopping Preferences

A new study by WSL provided some very interesting insights into male shopping patterns that should come as a wake-up call to any merchant focused on increasing sales. While conventional wisdom would indicate that women are the ones most likely drawn to sales, bargains, and coupons, the study revealed that some 63% of men are on the hunt for sales while in a retail location and, even more surprisingly, 53% of men use coupons to secure additional savings. Anyone who has directly worked in retail may not be all that surprised, but these findings definitely shed light on an important retail trend: gender and shopping preferences. 

There’s no doubt that there are marked differences in the way men and women shop, but those differences aren’t always consistent with general stereotypes. The aforementioned example about men and coupons is just one insight. And, if merchants want to use gender psychology to increase sales then we’ll definitely need to dig deeper than "Women like to shop, men like to get it over with."

Differences Highlighted on the Car Lot 

Nearly everyone buys a car at one point in their lifetime, but few studies have examined the differences in the way men and women shop for a vehicle. In fact, many salespeople in the auto industry would still venture to say that color would be the number one factor for women in choosing a vehicle, followed by amenities. Through an online survey, Kelley Blue Book put some of these suppositions to the test and what they found was very insightful. Priorities such as fuel efficiency, safety, and technological features ranked highly amongst women, while things like style and brand loyalty were among the traits men favored when buying a car. Here we have a situation where it’s the women who think practically when shopping, while men are more concerned with more superficial features - interesting learnings that would be contradictive to many retailers’ assumptions.

A Deep Look At Gender Disparity 

While the automotive study may provide an ah-ha moment for those that lean towards more traditional thinking, it’s only one example of a much larger universe of gender based data that would – and does – impact the retail shopping experience, and, in the end, buying habits.

A more comprehensive study was performed courtesy of the Verde Group in 2007. The study surveyed over 1,200 Americans about their shopping habits and preferences and the data they uncovered should definitely be considered, even today. Here's a look at some of the highlights: 

Men don't put up with problems – The study showed that women experience more problems when shopping than men, but they are also more likely to remain loyal to a company in the face of those challenges. On the contrary, men who experience a problem with a retailer reported that their loyalty drops by nearly 40%. The lesson here is simple, of course. Make sure your customers experience a problem-free shopping experience. Of course, if you target men, you need to ensure a seamless customer experience if you want to see them back as a repeat customer.

Young women are more likely to encounter disrespect – Keeping in mind that the study reported only on issues from the shoppers' perception, the Verde Group relayed that young women were more likely to experience disrespect from sales associates. This included reporting specific instances of being forced to wait too long, annoyance on the associate's part, or a lack of courtesy and manners. While every retailer should make an effort to train their employees to be gracious and respectful to any and all customers, it may retailers to ensure their sales associates are extra engaging with young women.

Event with this study we’re left in a world of generalities and assumptions. While you may lose a man's business when you don't have the product they wanted, chances are you won't do your female-focused retail store any favors by treating product availability like an afterthought. Keep in mind that while studies and surveys will – and do - provide valuable insights into the different ways men and women shop, the divide is perhaps not as vast as some would believe. 

Online Shopping

2012's Cyber Monday proved to be the biggest single shopping day in cyberspace history. With online sales of nearly $80 billion, any retailer who hopes to succeed in today's marketplace has to understand the importance of ecommerce. Just as in the traditional brick and mortar sector, however, there are differences in the way men and women shop online. Here's a short look at some of the differences:

  • According to a survey conducted by Empathica, men and women see product pages very differently. Men want details and photographs, while women tend to scan for a general overview before moving on to the next product.
  • Empathica's survey also revealed that 54% of men use the Internet every few days to perform shopping research as opposed to only 47% of women.
  • Men are more likely to look for deal websites when hunting for a bargain, according to a Performics Social shopping study. Women prefer to look for coupons through social media.
  • In a demonstration that gender differences aren't always as stark as they appear, both men and women primarily use their home desktop or laptop for online shopping purposes, as opposed to a tablet or smartphone, a Shopzilla survey revealed.
  • The Shopzilla survey confirmed that price is a major factor for both men and women, but women are much more likely to purchase a product if it's on sale.


Using Gender Differences to Improve Your Approach

In the traditional brick and mortar setting, pay attention to the differences between men and women and use that knowledge and insight to create a better experience for the gender you're targeting. If you're aiming for women, make sure your sales associates are friendly and helpful. If aiming for men, think about erring on the side of inventory surplus, rather than the alternative. For both genders, do as much as possible to eliminate problems and create a smooth shopping experience to improve customer loyalty.

When it comes to online shopping, the differences are not nearly as delineated, but they are still worth considering. If aiming for women, cut some of the detail from your product pages and fill that space with social media options, coupon links, and customer service availability. If you’re targeting a male audience, consider changing up your products on a regular basis or at least providing something new every so often. Older males aren't as interested in social media tools when shopping online, but both women and younger males like to involve their online social presence with their shopping events. As long as these buttons and chat boxes aren't getting in the way of the key messaging and offers, there are definitive benefits to providing them.

In the end, no survey can tell you how to run your retail business. And few merchants cater solely to men or women. Even a clearly female-focused store like Victoria's Secret relies on men purchasing gifts for a significant portion of their income. In an effort to make your store friendlier to the gender you're targeting, don't make it inhospitable to the one you aren't. After all, the bottom-line focus is sales. Leverage knowledge and information to deliver a better experience for your target customers, but be cautious not to alienate others at the same time.