It's no secret that women are different from men. Now, we're not saying that one sex is superior or inferior to the other – just different. But we'd never know it from the experiences we've had shopping in some stores. Both sexes suffer from time poverty, and both have no time for stores that makes little or no attempt to make shopping easy.
It doesn't matter what you sell or how good you perceive your store to be, today's shoppers are more demanding, and if these demanding customers conclude your store is too hard to shop, your services and policies are not up to their expectations, or your store associates are not helpful enough, they won't be your customers for very long.
How you sell to a woman can be as important as what you are selling. Almost every encounter she has becomes personal, because women care about the human dimension – about the person they are with, so they will often look for a relationship before she makes a purchase. Women also want to know that there will be support and personal service available after the purchase is made.
Women are the Chief Operating Officers of the household, controlling 80+ % of the purchasing decisions. If you discount her ability to make a decision or tell her to come back with her husband, you are in for serious trouble. She won't be back, and she'll tell her friends how "well" you treated her.
Your male customers are a different story, but they aren't that hard to figure out. They don't like to shop, so they are less likely to shop of their own volition, unless the object they are after involves a new car, power tools, or stereo speakers bigger and louder than the ones the guy next door has. (Just kidding – kind of.) But when it comes down to basics, men pretty much want the same things that women want in a shopping experience: quality, convenience, no hassles, and knowledgeable help when they want it, and to be left alone when they don't.
Men like one-stop shopping … Women like choice
Let's get personal and turn this male/female thing into the shopping saga of Tom and Mary.
Mary, like many of her girlfriends, was raised on shopping, but Tom was generally off doing other things, so he doesn't have the vast shopping "training" that Mary has. Tom likes it when you make shopping easy for him. And like most guys, Tom doesn't like to shop around, so if you have the information he needs to make a purchasing decision, he'll love your store. Be sure to have plenty of ideas, project sheets, supply lists, "how-to" brochures, and project-related end features.
Mary, on the other hand, is a collector of information and alternatives. She likes choice, and is willing to shop a variety of stores to get what she needs. A typical shopping trip for Mary could include a visit to several stores. This is where relationship-building comes in – if you want her to choose to come to see you instead of just running to the nearest store that sells what you sell because it happens to be on her way home; get to know her.
Now, Mary shopping in your store by herself is a good thing, but Mary shopping with her friends is even better. Women love to shop in packs, so take advantage of classes and events that encourage them to shop with friends. When women shop in groups they like to egg each other on to buy more "stuff."
Mary, and her sisters in shopping are also impulsive shoppers who can usually be enticed to purchase additional items as well. On one of our observation trips we watched a woman in a craft store walking the aisles picking up pom-poms, craft paint, and several other unrelated items. We asked if she needed the related items – if she's painting she might need a brush as well as the paint. And since she's buying pom-poms, would she be in the market for glue, too? Her answer was yes, which made us wonder why the retailer hadn't cross-merchandised these add-on items near the primary items so they would create multiple sales.
You can easily cross-merchandise using clip strips and J-hooks, and you can display accessories in and among your sewing machines and/or vacuum cleaners. You'll save customers time while helping increase store sales.
How men and women view price
When it comes to how much things cost, Tom likes to compare items by price. He also likes to know what makes one item better than another, so it's a good idea to keep your staff up to date on the product, as well as each product's key features, advantages, and benefits so they can establish value.
With Mary, it's always a good idea to stress how much she's saving. Try "Compare at" signage showing the regular and the markdown price, and register tapes that read "You saved $X.XX today."
(Note from Rich: It's not uncommon for women to comment that they've saved so much money on one purchase that they now have "money" left over to make another. I was able to relate to that reasoning when I heard it discussed in one of our focus groups because Georganne uses it all the time. She'll say, "I saved $50 bucks on that suit. Now I can buy shoes!" Go figure.)
Asking for help
Men are reluctant to ask for help and usually don't like to ask where things are. Tom will usually dart through the store on a mission trying to find whatever it is he's looking for (and missing everything else along the way). Tom shops the same way he works a parking lot: find a space fast and park. Once inside, he'll make one or two quick passes through the store and if he doesn't find something he likes, he's outta there. Your store associates need to pay close attention, learn to recognize this trait, and be ready to help the Toms of the world ASAP.
(Note from Georganne: Men won't ask for directions either. Now I know that I am generalizing here, but ask any woman to tell you a story about a man asking for directions and she'll be able to tell you several. Rich of course, being a man, denies this.)
Women like to interact with sales associates. Mary will look for help when she needs it and wants lots of information. In our sales training sessions we stress how important it is to be able to "read" a customer, and why you need to ask many questions before making a determination about what to recommend. This step builds trust and it demonstrates that what the customers is saying is important to you, and that's important to the customer. Mary may, or may not, be on familiar ground in your store. She wants to be taken seriously and treated with respect. Remember, it's a relationship thing.
Reality vs. Perception
We've always said there is no reality in retailing, only perception. You are what the customer perceives you to be, whether you like it or not. Tom and Mary will both make a value judgment about your store within the first 10 seconds after entering. In those 10 seconds they are already determining how much time they will spend in your store. While it may not be fair, we all do it.
Store ambiance – that way a store looks and "feels" – is where men and women really differ. The way your store looks is usually more important to Mary. She prefers clean, brightly lit stores where she can spend time and move comfortably throughout the store at her own pace.
As far as Tom is concerned, the store needn't be a palace. His style is more "hit and run." Tom's tendency is to find what he needs, in the least amount of time, and then get out of the store fast. The trick is to slow him down, for this you need a "Decompression Zone."
A decompression zone is simply the 10-15 foot space between the front door and the merchandise inside. This can be your vestibule or the real estate just inside the front door. The decompression zone is important because when Tom is on a mission, it slows him down long enough to focus on the task at hand. Understand that anything you place in your decompression zone will be missed by customers. Place signage and other important information just beyond the decompression zone where customers, both male and female, are more likely to see it.
Maneuvering the aisles
Keep your aisles clear. Make sure that there is enough room for customers to move comfortably past other shoppers. Mary will most likely be the one to shop with her children, so the child becomes a major factor. If the child has to be left in the main aisle because her stroller or cart won't fit down an aisle packed with merchandise and other shoppers, Mary will leave without the product before she'll leave her child alone in the aisle.
Children need to feel good about your store. Once inside, will the children be welcomed or will they be greeted with dumb signs that read "Unattended children will be given an espresso and a free puppy." If they like your store, children can mean big business. Instead of rules why not offer a Cookie Credit Card kids can redeem for a free cookie each time they visit your store with mom or dad? Trust us, if the child likes your store, rest assured mom and dad will be back to shop with you again. Drop us an email and we'll send you our Cookie Credit Card template you can customize to use in your own store.
With Mary it comes down to this: She wants a nice place to shop, she wants to be treated with respect, and she seeks relationships with the people who work there. Selling to Tom comes down to this: How hard do you want the guy to work? Make it easy and he's yours.