The keys to online shopping for women

« Purchasing, especially online, allows people to feel part of a large community with values at the heart of it, brand values.” These are the words of sociologist Stéphane Hugon whose doctoral research focused on “The social construction of online identity”. (1)

Through the development of online shopping, individuals are discovering a new purchasing experience, one that’s digital, rich in information and community-based. However, do men and women demonstrate the same behaviour when it comes to online shopping?

The democratisation of online shopping

In January 2013, Ifop (the French Institute of Public Opinion) published a survey comparing online shopping and in-store purchases, the results of which highlighted the advantages of online sales sites compared to their “physical” competitors. According to the study, pure plays are no longer considered by shoppers to be marginal players. When they have the choice, around a quarter of French people – and up to 32% of those in the upper socio-professional category – prefer to shop online rather than at traditional distributors.

These days, pure plays are considered reliable by consumers; 81% of French people consider them “the least expensive” and 70% believe they have “the most stock”. The only negative point is the fact that the proliferation of online sites causes confusion amongst Internet users. More than 66% of French people bemoan the excessive number of online sales sites, 38% state that many of them “disappear too quickly” and 38% notice “confusion in prices”. (2)

Faced with this digital competition, traditional shops have to rely on the reassurance their image provides: 59% of those surveyed deem them to offer “the best support and advice” and 81% think that they are “the most trustworthy”. Another significant trend is the “web-to-store” strategy.

Instead of fighting against online shopping, shops should integrate digital into their strategy. 80% of those surveyed confirmed they had already used the Internet or their smartphone to “find out if a shop is located nearby”, “check opening hours” (78%) or “narrow down purchase options” (76%). (2)

« French people associate physical shops and pure-play websites with their own respective qualities, which seems to indicate that, in their eyes, these places for shopping are more complementary than substitutable,” says Matthias Berahya-Lazarus, President of Bonial France. (2)

Social networks and online shopping

With a community of consumers constantly on the look-out for new items, social networks have become an indispensable part of online shopping strategies. Big players in the sector, such as Amazon, Priceminister and Cdiscount, have done so by publishing lots of information and promotions on both Twitter and Facebook. Some brands have gone even further by directly linking social networks to purchase payment. La Redoute, for example, was one of the first brands to launch a shop on Facebook. “We were the first to launch a shop that’s fully on Facebook, allowing our customers to choose from a selection of products and make purchases without leaving the social network,” explains Guillaume Darrousez, former online shopping and Development Director at La Redoute, “Payment is made directly on Facebook via a bank card or a PayPal account. The client’s order is then delivered free. Fans can also comment on and share their shopping ideas with their Facebook friends. This virtual shop illustrates a new stage in our strategy, which aims to combine shopping and social networks. It’s also a way of thanking our fans who contribute a lot through their many comments.” (3)

Do men and women spend an equal amount of time online?

Online shopping appeals to both men and women. 78.4% of female Internet users and 77.9% of male Internet users have made at least one online purchase in the last 6 months (Médiamétrie Netratings, June 2012). This similarity is found across many sectors, even those considered gender-specific the difference is relatively slim. For example, 20% of women and 25% of men have bought at least one computer product/video game or console online in the last 6 months. Similarly, 9.9% of female Internet users say that they regularly buy toiletries/beauty products online, compared to 7.7% of male Internet users (Médiamétrie Netratings, June 2012).

Online shopping: impulsive men versus reflective women?

According to a 2013 study published and conducted by the site (specialist in online promotions), male and female shopping behaviour does differ on the Internet. In terms of the average online shop, for example, men spend €52, whereas women spend €40. This difference can be explained largely by the types of purchases made by men, who invest in more expensive products online, such as TVs or computers. Furthermore, the conversion time is 10 minutes for men, whereas women are more reflective about their purchases (14 minutes). It would seem that women are more demanding, requiring more conversational support and reassurance (as highlighted in 2009 by the online business site WebProNews on the subject of gender-specific differences in online shopping: « Men Want It Fast, Women Want It All) ». (4)

Similarly, a recent study by Kantar WorldPanel and Ifop Windor Nixdorf, shown in infographic form on the site (2013), showed that there are slightly more men (32%) than women (28%) who do their food shopping online, and that men dedicate half as much time to this as women do (5).

Online Food Shopping

Despite these differences, a 2011 study by British research agency Shoppercentric went some way in offsetting male/female divisions in terms of online shopping. According to the study, the behaviour of 18-24-year-old men is no different to female behavior. Whether it be how they navigate, if they ask family or friends for their opinions, or the number of impulse purchases the make. (6) Will the development of new technologies reduce gender-specific differences?


(7) – Les ateliers du CCFA comité des constructeurs français d’automobile

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