Battle of the sexes: The role of gender shopping preferences

Data on gender-based shopping preferences is both interesting and valuable information that can be used by anyone selling products online. Utilising customer data such as geolocation, buying history, devices used and gender has become a significant defining characteristic in online retail, and if you take a glance at general statistics or data surrounding customer profiles, you’ll see it reveals a few key differences in buying patterns for both male and female shoppers.

What do marketers need to know?

If you don’t have access to gender-based data on your own customers, a few basic tips based on the general population can help you increase your sales.

It comes as no surprise that both men and women shop online, predominantly from their laptops, with a slight predilection for men to utilise smartphones to make purchases. Developmental psychologists have recognised a general rule that “male brains” tend to watch, gather data and consider differences in what is called ‘systematising’, whereas “female brains” excel in empathising and understanding relationships. However it’s not as clear-cut as this, as in order to market effectively to both groups, we must recognise that some women might have a more “male brain”, better equipped at systematising rather than empathising, and similarly some men might excel in empathising, not systematising.

Companies are increasingly targeting both groups when it comes to marketing. As an example, numerous car manufacturers now show fathers driving their children around in a new vehicle equipped with the latest technology, gadgets and sensors. These adverts appeal to the “male brain” which enjoys data and being shown the benefits of buying that item, but the adverts also cleverly provides emotive context which is important for “female brains” and importantly, doesn’t exclude them from the advert’s target market.

Who buys online?

The number of internet users worldwide will exceed 3 billion in 2015, according to eMarketer, increasing 6.2% next year to reach 42.4% of the world’s population, with more users in China than anywhere else. Maintaining an online presence has become, for some, a daily activity and as e-shopping has become simple, fast and mobile-friendly, more and more of us are leaving physical stores behind to make purchases in the virtual world.

A study from Nielsen showed that whilst women do make up the higher portion of online shoppers (72%), 68% of men in the study had also shopped online in the preceding 6 months. So there’s not much in it for both genders, and marketers should be aware of a need to target both groups.

Implementation of gender-based data

Gender-based research has produced clear data that highlights differences in product research strategies, as men generally search by product while women search by brand, however remember it’s always best to rely on your own data, rather than a generalisation. Test this difference by sending a segmented email with the CTA concentrating on brands for your female subscribers versus products for your males, then you can determine if this type of approach is suitable for your particular audience.

Bear in mind that it’s likely the uptake for sales and promotions will be higher amongst women, and as women have a higher level of brand commitment than men, an offer from a trusted brand is likely to increase the frequency of unplanned, spontaneous purchases.

Appealing to both

If men enjoy collecting data and eliminating competition from other rival products prior to making a purchase, yet women reach buying decisions by looking at the overall picture (including product reviews and background information), it’s easy to see how a restrictive campaign can limit the campaign’s potential for success with both genders. Effective marketing requires a working consideration for the shopping preferences for both groups in order to come up with a strategy that will target the widest audience possible, without neglecting any group.

All marketing efforts and sales platforms need to match up and share a cohesive message across all channels, including social media, and campaigns should appeal to the preferred shopping experience for both genders. Whilst some gender stereotypes do hold true when it comes to online shopping, there is an increasing move away from the “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus” approach to marketing, and the lines are becoming slightly blurred between gender-based marketing campaigns.

Becky Hesilrige
Becky Hesilrige
Becky is the Content Marketing Manager at Pure360. She studied Sociology and conducted her dissertation on online communication and relationships. Follow Becky on Twitter @beckyhesilrige
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