Men and Women; Different Shopping Styles
There's no doubt that men and women are different. In his 6-part video series, The Human Sexes, anthropologist Desmond Morris begins by asking the question, "Are the differences between men and women biological, genetic, or societal?" His observations lead him to conclude that all three play an integral part in behavior of males and females.
Physical differences can be traced to the survival roles of early man. Men were the hunters and the makers of hunting tools (hence their preoccupation with knives and guns?) Women were the gathers, reared the children, and built the huts (hence their present day proclivity for grocery shopping, child rearing, and home decoration?).
Men have bigger lungs, heavier noses, and wider nostrils so they can chase game more effectively. They also have heavier jaws, more deeply set eyes, and sloping foreheads for protection from savage animals. Women have a larger percentage of body fat enabling them to survive longer periods of food deprivation.
In the mental arena, women have more highly developed verbal skills while men have superior visual/spatial skills. For example, men are better at navigating a maze because they are able to make mental maps in their heads. Women navigate through the use of landmarks. Take those landmarks away and women will be thrown off track. Change distances and men will become disoriented.
Men are more apt to play board games than women are. In fact, 98% of competitive chess players are men. It has something to do with men's propensity to strategize (back to old hunting days.). Women are most comfortable dealing verbally with people; men are more comfortable dealing with things.
Men and women shop differently and buy for different reasons. Knowing what those differences are can help retailers configure their stores and structure their selling strategies.
Women purchase 80% of all household goods. This is still the case even though over half of American women work and have less time to shop.
Men, on the other hand, spend less time shopping - they move through the store at a faster pace. They don't like asking where something is and, if they can't find it rather quickly, they leave the store.
We've talked a lot about women as shoppers but it's important to recognize that the shopping experience is changing for women. In the days before the majority of women worked, shopping was a way to get out of the house - it was the great escape. These days, it can often become a chore. Because of their time-restrained lives, women are becoming less exhaustive in their shopping habits.
Women will spend more time and money in a store if she's with a female companion. She'll spend on the average of 8 minutes, 15 seconds if she's with a female friend, 7 minutes, 19 seconds if she's with her children, 5 minutes, 2 seconds if she's alone, and 4 minutes, 41 seconds if she's with a man. So, from a retailer's point of view, it pays to encourage her to shop with a female companion.*
Women expect more from the shopping experience. They are far more critical of the store environment and notice lapses in cleanliness, poor lighting, and lack of directional signs. They want to spend time in stores that make them feel comfortable.
Some of the elements that make shopping more enjoyable for them are aisles that allow easy movement from rack to rack without being bumped from behind. Children's play areas free women shoppers from constant child restraining. Product positioned that is easy to reach - positioned neither too high nor too low- will accommodate customers and make it easier for them to reach the product they're after.
Stereotypically we think of men as being more interested in technical information. However, women adopt technology easily but for different reasons than men. Men like the "gee-whiz" factor technology offers. They can recite the waterproof testing results of Gore-Tex to anyone who will listen. Women, on the other hand, look at technology and see its purpose, its reason - what it can do. When sales people wait on women, the emphasis should be on what a product can do to make her life easier and her experiences more enjoyable.
*Excerpted from Why We Buy by Paco Underhill