Shopper behaviour: differences between men and women

The following is an interesting podcast from Terry O'Reilly's new show Under The Influence on branding and consumers (on CBC Radio).  Entitled, Men Are From Sears, Women are from Bloomingdales, the premise is that genders follow archetypical patterns when shopping. Specifically, it suggests some reasons for the 'truthy' observation that men hate shopping.

Give it a listen (after the short 'ad' for another show).

We can agree men and women, broadly speaking, exhibit different patterns in communication, problem solving, decision-making and socialization. After years of studying shoppers in retail settings, I agree that men indeed are more likely to find shopping a chore. However, this is not 'black and white; I have a different 'take' on this. 

First, there are plenty of exceptions to this generalization; situations where men very much enjoy shopping (think Bass Pro) and where women cannot wait to get out of the store (think... Bass Pro). 

Second, and most important, I believe that there is a Catch-22 at play here.  Because retailers have long known that women are most often the ones who shop for the household, retail experiences have been tailored to them over the decades.  Because retail is so quick to adopt ideas seen in other stores, the standard practices in retail, all retail, have evolved from retailing to women. 

Today there are proportionately more men regularly shopping (people are single longer, female spouses have demanding careers splitting more household trips).  However, most shopping experiences are not designed for men, for their needs.  Men's clothing is perhaps the best example, especially with the predominace of unisex stores.  It is little wonder men do not enjoy the process.  There is a great opportunity to rethink how men shop, but in order to build more compelling experiences for them, rather than assume they will hate the shopping experience.

The podcast presents some insights that are quite compelling; such as, men are less deal-focused, price-compare less, and spend more on similar product than women. Or the difference in spending when men shop together and when women do likewise.  According to the research, men pick higher priced items at regular price, when other men are with them; it seems the purchase price relates to status and power. Women seek even better discounts in the presence of their female friends, as status is conveyed by deal-hunting expertise.

Men see staff as but another 'tool' or resource in store, a possible source of practical information ("where can I find this?").   Women, on the other hand, value the relationship with a staff person and trust more complex judgement ("does this look good on me?).  O'Reilly offers several examples of sales techniques to enhance the customer experience and encourage longer visits, higher spending.

One final note: in a global market place, it did strike me as highlighting a fairly "white" or Western set of shopping attidudes and behaviours. More and more our research processes must accomodate a broader mosaic of what is 'mainstream', even in domestic Western markets such as Canada, Germany or the United States.

However, it is a compelling piece in a great series on branding. Take a listen...