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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.

An insight into female shoppers in France

Shopping is generally thought of as a typically feminine activity and female consumers have gained the reputation of being shopaholics! However, we are now seeing a number of changes. The economic situation in France has become more complicated in recent years, purchasing power is a worry for many households, and new technology is evolving … How are women responding to these changes? What shopping habits do they have in 2013? Have their expectations and attitudes changed? Are Smartphones and e-commerce now an integral part of their purchases?

In answer to these questions, in June 2013, Unibail-Rodamco launched a Shopping Observatory, in partnership with Ipsos, to try and understand French women and their shopping patterns, their motivations, what holds them back, their indulgences, as well as future trends. (1)

When women’s emancipation meets marketing issues

The change on women’s status in the society has greatly impacted on various areas of social life. In professional world and marital relations, the role of women changed and shook up the established standards. If marketing has adapted to new offerings for women, the stereotype of the « housewife under 50″ is difficult to erase.

A gap between aspirations and practices

How can we explain the continuation of ‘clichés’? Sometimes accused of being sexist, the world of advertising, is not the unique responsible for the persistence of these traditions. It sometimes reflects simply facts. For example, the sociologist Martyne Perrot (CNRS) highlighted the consistency of gendered tasks towards groceries.

« I found that women, especially mothers, continue to play a crucial role in this area, where they always behave like real nursing mothers. I admit, I was surprised to observe how it is stills the same”. She adds that, « young mothers are extremely depending on current hygienists’ injunctions, whether it is about diet, the need to eat food without pesticides, or marketing messages that relay it all. »(1)

Women are shoppers, men are buyers

Here’s an image that has been talked about a lot over the last year. In it we see the routes taken by a man and a woman who both have the same goal: going to buy a new pair of trousers in a Gap shop.

Sometimes classified in the humour category and often marred with unseemly comments, it deserves credit according to a lot of specialists (including Marti Barletta, author of Marketing to Women) for imitating a number of fundamental male-female differences, making it useful for studying marketing to women.

The act of purchasing and the decision-making process that accompanies it always take on complex forms and vary a lot from one person to the next.

However, a trend emerges when the purchase concerns either a woman or a man.

When a man is looking to buy some new trousers, he’ll opt for a product that will be a « good solution  » for him. Meanwhile, a woman will look for the « perfect answer ».

The changing rooms, the face-off between women and clothes.

The changing room is a pretty pointless place for men: most of the time, they already know what size they need in their favourite shops and buy without trying. This is unthinkable for women who try on 11 pairs of jeans, on average, before finding the pair that fits their body shape (Levi’s study). For a woman, the changing room is therefore a place that gives rise to a specific ritual, with an outcome that can be either enriching or demoralising.

She enters the changing room, hangs up her (potential) future purchases, carefully draws the curtain, and begins trying on the clothes. She then becomes distraught if she spills out of them, or delighted if they fit perfectly.

Every woman has gone through this inevitable experience when out clothes shopping. Yet, there are different « trying on » types, which don’t all have the same meaning for women.

“Why She Buys,” a book that details the Female Economy

We have thoroughly reviewed this book, written by Bridget Brennan in 2009.

It gives a good overview of the marketing to women phenomenon, starting with the often-cited statistics about women’s increasing purchasing power and ability to take financial decisions for their families. Reminding marketers that they must imperatively target at least some of their advertising and product offer toward women, the book also gives guidelines for how to learn about women as a client base and which techniques are most effective.

To read the full review, continue onto the article.
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