Retail

Women Be Shopping

As the tongue-in-cheek title of this story suggests (and actually, it’s slightly paraphrased: the real meme – having entered the zeitgeist with an early-career Dave Chappelle playing the meta role of an unoriginal standup comedian in “The Nutty Professor” – spells the last word as “Shoppin’”), the notion of all females being shopping fanatics is a stereotype at least as old as retail itself.

It remains so persistent, however, that even in 2016, when men show a higher interest in shopping than is traditionally associated with their gender norm, the behavior is described as “imitating women’s”.

From a strictly business perspective, one of the many potential dangers in the practice of subconsciously accepting such a cliché as fact, to one degree or another, is that it may compel (perhaps less forward-thinking) retailers to presume that members of the fairer sex are going to visit their stores with little to no effort on their part, and therefore there is little to no effort required on their part to get women to – nor keep them coming back to – their businesses.

Somewhat paradoxically, for retailers to adopt this laissez-faire attitude would not be an ill-advised move in that it gives credence to a broadly drawn stereotype, but rather that doing so would be to not pay enough attention to the specific levels of truth that do exist within it, in a detailed examination.

To wit, a lot of merchants might not truly understand just how much power women hold with regards to their shopping habits that actually help to continually shape and evolve the consumer retail landscape … and to ignore those details – and therefore not respond proactively to them – is to do their own revenue potential a disservice.

Earlier this week, Blackhawk Engagement Solutions released a report called “How Women Shop: Shopping Habits of American Women” that summarizes the findings from two studies — one (conducted in April 2015) that analyzed the general shopping behavior of U.S. women and the other (conducted in October 2015) that focused on U.S. women’s app and gift card preferences.

Viewed together, these two analyses – and their collective insights into female shoppers’ research habits, device usage, and paths to purchase, among other factors — provide a veritable framework from which retailers can not only better understand female shoppers to a much stronger degree than passing generalities would allow, but also one upon which they can structure their businesses to cater to this immensely powerful consumer demographic.

“With women usually doing the lion’s share of day-to-day shopping, female shoppers aren’t only a key demographic for retailers, they’re often the primary demographic,” Rodney Mason, GVP of Marketing at Blackhawk Engagement Solutions, states in the report.

For one thing, as Blackhawk’s research metes out, women are a driving force in mobile commerce (not to mention connected commerce at large), with 71 percent of those surveyed reporting to use their smartphones as a tool in their shopping behavior.

For retailers who might be wondering if it’s quality, brand or availability of an item that is the strongest factor in motivating a woman to purchase, they’re barking up the wrong tree on all counts. It’s price, according to the study, by a long shot: 97 percent of respondents reported to have the same — or greater — price sensitivity as they did the year before, and the vast majority of women cite price as the greatest influencer among all factors in their purchasing decision.

Just like the case is in China, female shoppers in the U.S. are big movers in online-to-offline commerce. Forty-five percent of women in the Blackhawk study had bought online and picked up in-store at least once in the last six months, and that number jumps significantly when the potential for additional savings or convenience is introduced (to 88 percent if women could save $10 on a $50 purchase, and to 80 percent if an item could be picked up three days earlier).

Loyalty programs are, on average, an even bigger part of women’s shopping experiences than the aforementioned smartphones, with the study finding that 80 percent of female shoppers belong to store loyalty programs. It’s important to note, however, that mobile devices still play a role in loyalty engagement for women, with 37 percent of them receiving loyalty notifications via apps and another 36 percent doing so via text message.

Speaking of loyalty rewards, that’s an area where, according to the study, gift cards play an important role in a majority of women’s shopping behaviors. Seventy percent of the respondents expressed an inclination to go for discounts that required the use of a gift card, and 38 percent of them reported that they even buy gift cards for themselves if rewards come into play.

As Mason summed things up in his statement: “Our research shows that retailers have opportunities to engage with the sought-after female shopper through omnichannel optimization and valuable promotions that offer best-in-market prices and use prepaid cards.”

Sure, women be shopping. And if a retailer would like them to be shopping at its store, it best pay close attention to exactly how they do it. Otherwise, women will be shopping at a location that did.

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