It’s kind of fitting that we write about the differences between men and women and how they shop. We know men and women are different because we have been business partners for over 20 years now, and we’ve noticed that we do quite a few things very differently.
Just in case you didn’t know, but were curious, we are married. Happily. Just not to each other. And we’re polar opposites. Our office is a big rectangle that looks more like a living room than an office, with two carefully disguised work stations, and a big conference table in the center. Rich’s space is a creative mess. Georganne’s looks neat as long as you don’t open her desk drawers. Rich is always thinking of our next big move; Georganne figures out how to make that “next big thing” actually happen.
Rich’s brain never turns off. Georganne flips hers off like a light switch the second she leaves the office. Rich devours business books and publications like a madman. George reads anything she can get her hands on – she swears she single-handedly keeps the lights on at Amazon.com. Rich prefers to focus on one thing at a time; George is the queen of multi-tasking.
And so it is with men and women. We’re just different.
For some reason men shopping versus women shopping studies and surveys are a continuously popular topic. Most of the findings can be filed under “the same old, same old” category, but a few are really interesting. Like the Cosmopolitan.co.uk study that found women think about shopping nearly as often as men think about sex.
You may want to read that last paragraph again.
Although no one can substanciate where this rumor came from, men are said to think about sex about every seven seconds. According to the Cosmopolitain study, women have other things on their minds, namely shopping: women think about shopping every 60 seconds – that’s 960 times a day, and 6,720 times a week.
The study also found 20 percent of ladies surveyed would forfeit “a holiday” (vacation), and 23 percent would give up “a hot date with a celebrity” for the ultimate shopping purchase. That’s good news for retailers.
Another interesting study titled, "Men Buy, Women Shop" conducted by researchers at Wharton's Jay H. Baker Retail Initiative found that women are more likely to experience problems while shopping than men. 29 percent of women reported "lack of help when needed" as their biggest shopping hassle. On the other hand, 29 percent of the men surveyed listed "difficulty in finding parking close to the store's entrance" as their number one problem. That’s kind of funny, considering all the jokes about women driving around the parking lot 20 times looking for a better parking space…
Okay, back to the facts: According to WomenCertified, a women's consumer advocacy, women spend $4 trillion annually and account for 83 percent of
But it’s not all about your female shoppers. A guy needs what a guy needs on the sales floor, and what he needs is far different from what she expects from you. Consider the following:
q Women have been trained to shop, men have not. She’ll have her list in hand or in her head when she walks in the door. If your store doesn’t have what she needs, she’ll find another store that does.
Most of the time a man will usually know what he wants before he comes to your store, so he’ll hit the sales floor with purpose. But his behavior changes when he has to buy a gift for his significant other. This is when your enthusiastic “Welcome to our store!” is generally met with that deer caught in headlights look.
You need to be prepared to recommend items. And while gift cards are always a good idea, don’t recommend them right off the bat. Women are on to the gift card thing – this year our focus groups complained that gift cards are just too easy, meaning their spouse didn’t have to put any effort into their gift. After all, she spent hours searching for the perfect present and all she got was a lousy gift card. If you do sell a gift card to either sex, make sure it leaves the store in a creative package that represents your store well. Even if it’s valued at $100, a plastic card in a cardboard sleeve just isn’t a whole lot of fun to open.
q Women are big impulse shoppers. She’ll not only pick up the item she came in for, but additional items as well. You know those tables grocery stores place in the main aisles? They’re called Merchandise Outposts; their job is to silently encourage shoppers to throw additional “Gee, I could use one of those” items in their carts.
Men are not big impulse shoppers. That’s why you always find department store aisles dotted with Merchandise Outposts. The product on display is usually a mixture of high profit gewgaws no self respecting woman wants, but hassled male shoppers fall for every time. Really, who needs another boxed set of cat pins? Or executive dart board, Rich.
You will also want to fill your feature displays with irresistible product, spice up the impulse items offered at the cash wrap, change your Speed Bump displays (the first displays of product shoppers see as they enter your store) weekly, and add clip-strips throughout your store wherever they make sense. You’ll catch the eye of both male and female shoppers, encouraging add-on sales.
q Women have no problem asking for help in your store when they need it. With women it’s all about the relationship – she enjoys interacting with your store associates when she has time. When she’s time-starved, she will seek help so she can complete the task at hand and move on to the next one.
Remember, the Wharton study found that 29 percent of women reported "lack of help when needed" as their biggest shopping hassle. This shows how critically important your associates are in the shopping scheme of things. The study found women are unhappy with associates who ignore them, are not willing to offer help, or are too involved in conversations with each other to pay attention to customers. Shopping is very personal to a woman.
q The Wharton study showed that associate interaction is still important to men, but it's not as important as the product or getting in and out of the store quickly. He’s more likely to be irritated by associates who are not willing to check for additional items or escort him to the item he came in to buy.
Men are the exact opposite of women in this area: he does not like to ask where things are, and he generally does not like to ask for help. He’s much more likely to read your point-of-purchase materials and product signing. These are your “silent sales people”, so make sure they are doing their job.
Encourage your associates to greet male shoppers and offer help. But don’t say, “May I help you?” because he will give you the international response to this question: “No-thanks-I’m-just-looking” and keep walking. Trust us, we’ve seen this happen thousands of times. Instead, ask “What brings you to our store today?” He still may give you an auto-response, but he’s more likely to tell you why he’s there. Remember, your store and what you sell are foreign territory to most men, so give him a break and ask lots of open-ended questions (questions that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no) to find out more about who or what he is shopping for.
Yes, men and women are different, but you knew that before you read this article. The important thing to remember that when they are shopping in your store they expect different things from you. It’s not always about what they came in to buy; it’s about how they buy it.
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