Women, the Web and Their Wallets
A Joint Study by BlogHer, Inc. and Create with Context, Inc.
In August 2010, BlogHer partnered with Create with Context, Inc. (CwC) to determine women’s perspectives and behaviors when it comes to online vs. offline shopping and the layers of influence that drive their purchasing research and decision-making. With women controlling over 80% of the household spending (a $7 trillion market in the U.S.), we wanted to understand what women expect, want and are missing when they interact with technology and eCommerce.
To do this we conducted both in-home and phone research with a sample of 20 women across the United States, and fielded a quantitative survey across two different populations: the general U.S. online population and the BlogHer network, collecting responses from 1,100 women in each population. The BlogHer Network responses came out remarkably similar to those of the women from the general population, so unless otherwise noted, the data below reflects the general population responses. For more details about the methodology, see Slide 4 of the Women, the Web and Their Wallets presentation.
The following results shed light on how brands and businesses could be building better products and websites for women…and how they can provide women with the tools and insights they need to commit their dollars in this challenging economy.
• Design is a critical factor for most women, encompassing look and feel, user interface and experience as well as ease of use
• The opportunity in “Social” goes way beyond social networking
• Each shopping venue (Online vs. Offline) is missing the opportunity to win over the other’s customers
• Blogs eclipse social networks as a place to find useful product information
Women Need Interactive Devices
When asked which tech items they could not live without, women in both samples chose items that allowed them hands-on interactivity (mobile and smart phones, laptops and desktop computers). Passive entertainment devices such as televisions were not considered as essential. The results speak to what “one-stop-shops” our devices have become to satisfy our work, play and communications needs.
How Women Shop Does Not Align with how e-Commerce Works
When women start the shopping process their criteria and the priority they assign to them may organically shift, as they learn more during their product research. However, most online shopping is linear and specification driven, requiring a shopper to make choices that limits what they see.
Case Study: Why shifting priorities matter
• Katie needed a new dryer so she went online to ‘see what’s out there’
• She clicked on ‘gas dryers’ and then a price range ($600 or less) because ‘that’s what I should spend’
• Katie actually prioritized aesthetics first, then price, then features – but most <$600 dryers are not pretty
• By selecting price first, Katie did not get an opportunity to see what could be if she spent a little more
• By providing inflexible filtering tools, the website doesn’t facilitate upselling
Women want technology devices to be beautiful…and depending on the device that can mean everything from look and feel to user interface and ease of use. Once a woman has a new product, she tends to learn how to use it by “feel”, with one of the participants going so far as to compare it to making spaghetti sauce, “with a pinch of this and a pinch of that until it feels right”
While learning to use a new product, women won’t “ask for directions”, with only 20% turning to others for help and fewer than half stating that they read the manual carefully. With women highly focused on the features that will benefit them, the abundance of knobs, buttons, interfaces and pre-sets found on many technology products are unnecessary and instead conflict with the simplicity and beauty women tend to prefer in such products.
What do women expect when they shop online? In a time-constrained and budget conscious era, e-Commerce scores points for efficiency and cost-effectiveness. 79% of the sample said they want free shipping and nearly as many (76%) say that an easy way to return a product and an easy way to filter by price (72%) is very important. Online shopping delivers more advantages overall vs. offline shopping, including:
- It’s cost-effective: The best place to get the best deal and best selection
- It’s efficient. You can research and shop at your own pace
- It’s informational: Easier access to learn more about a product
Online Site Advantages
Physical stores are still the best place to window shop: An opportunity exists to create displays that spark inspiration and let women see items in context.
Physical Store Advantages:
Blogs: The best social media source for information and recommendations
As always, BlogHer is interested in how blogs and bloggers influence the conversation around products…and actions. When asked where they turn among social media venues (Blogs, Message Boards or Social Networks) for product and purchasing information, most of the women selected blogs. Blogs are first choice for:
- Getting product recommendations (39.5%)
- Getting detailed product information (51.4%)
- Finding a link to a site where you can make an online purchase (44.2%)
Message boards (36.7%) were higher than blogs (29.8%) when it comes to “providing a way for users to make comments”. Social networks were not the preferred channel for any of the purchasing behaviors described.
We asked women to describe purchases they had made based on blogger recommendations and to tell us about that experience. We received hundreds of responses, and found that women were willing to buy all sorts of products based on blogger reviews and recommendations. Just as shopping in a store provides visual context for items, a blogger discussion of a product provides context for how a product my fit into a shopper’s life. Often, when specific bloggers were named as influencers, there was no correlation between the type of product bought and the stated expertise of that blogger. Rather, women trusted bloggers because they felt they knew and related to them, and therefore would probably like the same products.
Finding the right balance between online shopping’s noted efficiency, as well as the social interaction, context and inspiration that may be lacking, can help brands and businesses connect with women on the web. Stoking and supporting conversations found on blogs may be the key to helping online retailers strike that perfect balance.
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