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Cater to women shoppers, ask what they want

grill column

Courtney Mueller, Donna Myers -- Casual Living, August 1, 2009

Do you think of women consumers as a niche market? When a couple comes into your store to shop for a grill, do you or your employees talk primarily to the male partner? Do you think of barbecuing and barbecue-related purchases as predominately a male undertaking?

Whether you’re a retailer or a manufacturer, here are some facts that should cause you to re-evaluate your approach to women shoppers:

  • Women are not niche but are the primary consumers in the United States, and they are an economic powerhouse

  • Women make more than 85% of all consumer purchases

  • They influence 95% of total goods and services decisions

  • Women purchase 50% 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

  • Women make up nearly 45% of Super Bowl viewers, and are increasingly involved fans in most major sports

Translate that to your own sales. If women account for 85% of total consumer purchases, how many dollars does that represent to your business? You need to communicate effectively with women customers.

How much have grill and accessory manufacturers involved women in the design stage by finding out what is really important to them?

A few years ago I conducted some focus groups for a gas grill manufacturer and to my surprise learned that among the women participants virtually all of them were the primary griller in their households. They were very knowledgeable, reinforcing that this was factual and not just talk. However, I was somewhat shocked to learn that most of them were terrified to light a gas grill, so for them to barbecue they need the male head of household or an older son to light the grill before they can cook!

Grill manufacturers believed they had made great strides in simplifying the lighting process, but women who were frequent users of their grills did not perceive it to be either easy or safe. If anyone had asked, they would have readily shared that information.

Female car buyers still feel invisible when purchasing a car though today they buy 50% of all cars sold, or about 30 million a year. It is hard to believe but 77% of female car buyers continue to be so uncomfortable with the way they are treated at dealerships they feel obligated to take a male along when shopping there.

What women want

So what do women want from you? 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. Communicate product value, but not by reciting a litany of product features such as detailing which shape burner each grill provides. Talk instead about greater cooking flexibility with more burners, or about the fact you can cook different foods at different temperatures at the same time, a distinct advantage for any outdoor chef.

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. In a shopping behavior study from Miller Zell, 60% of women indicated they are doing more preplanning before visiting a retailer than they did a year ago, and 44% 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.

Today’s women shoppers are more educated. They are juggling careers and family, running a household and are concerned about the environment. Nearly 50% say they want more green choices. They have more of their own income as a result of climbing the career ladder. Fewer women than men have lost jobs in the recession, so they may be even more important to you as a customer.

In a Hardware Retailing survey regarding how consumers were likely to change in coming years, clearly consumers are going to be more demanding on every front. Service is one place they will surely be more demanding, as well as the price value relationship of the products they purchase. And that goes for both men and women.

Creative cooking flexibility matters to women at the grill

Women not only grill, they make buying decisions

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