Market Correctly to Female Visitors

Lands' End. Crate & Barrel. J.C. Penney. PETsMART. Amazon. What do these online retailers have in common? They all get what it takes to market their sites to a very important consumer demographic — women.

As an online retailer, have you thought about how to reach out to women in cyberspace? Do your online marketing communications address their needs? If not, I suggest you begin before you're left in the cyber dust, wondering where you went wrong. Consider the following:

· Sixty-three percent of online shoppers are women.

· According to a Harris Interactive study, women control 75 percent of household finances and 80 percent of purchasing decisions.

· A recent report from The Strategis Group showed that women are now the dominant demographic on the Internet.

Do you see the potential return on investment? If you realize how lucrative addressing the needs of women on the Web can be, you'll want to understand what influences their purchasing decisions.

Let me go out on a limb here and say that men and women are different. We respond differently to the same environmental influences. A man and a woman listening to the same conversation might have completely different impressions of what was said. If you want women to respond positively to your site, you need to understand what motivates them and craft your communications appropriately. For example:

Create a relationship-oriented marketing approach. Studies show that women are more likely than men to provide personal information online if it will build a relationship, but only if you have won their trust. One way to create a relationship-oriented approach is to establish an online chat option, like at Lands' End, where consumers can exchange ideas, chat and build relationships with each other. Such a strategy will turn your site from a mere shopping portal into an online community, encouraging repeat visits and customer loyalty.

Address security concerns. According to a study by Cyber Dialogue, security concerns relating to stolen credit card numbers and privacy issues are the main obstacle hindering women from buying online. To address these concerns, post your site's privacy policy clearly and constantly reassure visitors as to the security of their transactions. And never trick consumers into revealing personal information, or you will lose their trust forever.

Women make purchasing decisions differently. While men tend to buy based mainly on price and availability, women use a more holistic approach. Factors such as your company's community relations activities or strategic partnerships might not matter to a man, but might be a deciding factor for a woman. Women are more likely to make buying decisions based not only on what you sell, but on what your company stands for. This once again reinforces women's relationship approach to purchasing. If you want to attract women to your site, get involved with causes that are important to them — and ensure your marketing message lets them know about it right up front.

Keep it simple and informative. According to a survey of 1,000 U.S. households conducted by, men and women surf the Net for different reasons. The study found that most women go online to save time, simplify their lives and help them make smart decisions, while men tend to look at news, sports, stocks and other entertainment sites.

As an online retailer, that means the quicker and easier you can make a woman's online shopping experience, the less likely she will be to abandon her shopping cart, and the likelier your chance of turning her into a loyal customer. To accelerate and streamline her shopping experience, provide quick-loading pages that don't waste time, straightforward navigation and easy-to-access information on your products. Consider other helpful features such as an online chat option with a customer service rep, tools such as sizing charts to help in decision making and product recommendations for repeat visitors.

Build relationships with customer loyalty programs. Generating new traffic is, of course, essential to your site's success, but don't take for granted the value of existing customers. On average, only 10 percent to 15 percent of visitors are loyal to a site, but those who are spend one-third more than casual visitors. Since word-of-mouth recommendations are a large influence for women shoppers, the benefits of customer loyalty are exponential. Consider implementing loyalty programs such as gift reminder services, clubs and personalized shopping lists for repeat visitors.

Women are taking advantage of the Internet's ability to save them valuable time, enable them to shop at their own schedule and learn as much as possible about a product before they buy. If you make it a core strategy to understand what women want online, you'll be on your way to creating a lasting, lucrative rapport with this influential market segment.

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