Marketing to women is about excluding stereotypes, not men
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Marketing to women has been the life’s work of Bridget Brennan, the CEO of Female Factor, and author of two books, Why She Buys: The New Strategy for Reaching the World’s Most Powerful Consumers, and more recently, Winning Her Business: How to Transform the Customer Experience for the World’s Most Powerful Consumers. In Winning Her Business, she explains that the main reason women drive more than 70 percent of consumer spending with their buying power and influence is that they are the primary caregivers for children and the elderly.
This is why they have such a multiplier effect when it comes to serving as the chief purchasing officers of their homes, but as Brennan notes, preconceptions about women can result in lost sales and unhappy customers. In this Take Five interview, she talks with IB about why marketing to women isn’t about excluding men, “it’s about excluding stereotypes.”
IB: You note that e-commerce has changed expectations for buying IRL (in real life), so how much of the advice contained in the book relates to how understanding female consumers can help retailers and others compete with the Amazon factor?
Brennan: Yes, you’re absolutely right. There is quite a bit of that in the book. E-commerce has changed our perspective on buying IRL. Ironically, e-commerce has become the unlikely new benchmark for flawless personal service. Just as we continually upgrade our software to stay current, we have to update our customer experience just to stay relevant. The fact is, great customer experiences are still the exception and not the rule despite our state-of-the-art communication tools. So, I believe that that’s a huge opportunity for businesses to deliver a great customer experience. Understanding what that looks like in the age of e-commerce is what’s so important, and that is a large part of what I cover in Winning Her Business.
IB: What would you say it looks like at a very basic level?
Brennan: Well, today it’s all about inspiring people to buy from you and giving people a reason to leave their homes and leave their businesses to engage with your retail business or your small business or whatever type of business that you have.
IB: With more vacant stores than ever, our local shopping centers are focused on providing a great experience when consumers visit. Based on your research for this book, are they on the right track?
Brennan: Yes, and just to note, the book covers every type of sales interaction, so not just retail but also business-to-business and service-oriented businesses, as well as businesses that sell products. So, it covers a wide swath of the modern business environment. You are obviously well versed in the challenges for brick-and-mortar retail. That’s something that we’re all reading about every day, and it’s constantly being covered. It’s so high profile. I believe that with so much of our time spent staring at devices, compelling physical environments are more important now than ever. And so, the imperative for anybody who is selling from a physical space is to deliver the kind of personal, sensory-rich, and service-oriented experience that inspires people to leave their homes and businesses to seek it out.
For the most part, it’s still difficult to touch, taste, or smell anything through a screen or through a device. This means that brick-and-mortar retailers and brick-and-mortar businesses have what I call a home-court advantage. They have the opportunity to engage all five senses within a physical environment, and that’s a great opportunity. We’re seeing regional businesses understanding that they do need to create more of an experience for the customers to bring a brand to life. Malls are also recognizing that there is an opportunity to create a mix of businesses beyond pure retail to attract new customers. We’re seeing innovations in malls that include everything from attracting places like fitness-oriented businesses to more restaurants or even to work and office spaces, so expanding the mix that can draw more regular customers and foot traffic.
IB: So, just think of the human senses and that will lead you to ideas to make your experience more enriching. It’s really a very basic solution, very simple and fundamental.
Brennan: Exactly. We’ve lost some of the fundamentals and going back to them can bring all sorts of new opportunities — fundamentals like hospitality. Hospitality has worked for human beings for thousands of years, and it’s a big part of what makes us human, and even offering more hospitality inside of stores and retail environments is something that can create a more differentiated experience than the online experience.
IB: Is there a really good best-practice example of this, perhaps from a brand that’s familiar to us, or one that’s not a household name such as a smaller, independent retailer?
Brennan: I tell the story of when I recently walked into a small, independent bike shop, and when I walked in, the owner of the store was sitting there and asked me, “Hey, would you like a cappuccino?” That was the last thing I expected to hear after walking into a bike shop, and even the word cappuccino conjured up an image of luxury and made me think, “Oh, I’m not going to be getting coffee that’s been sitting in a carafe for three hours.” With single-serve coffee makers out there, there is an opportunity to more easily offer things like hospitality in a small business environment.
Even something as simple as comfortable seating can encourage your customers to linger in a store, and women are often shopping with companions. These companions might include children who may be less than enthusiastic about being on a shopping expedition. So, having chairs where women’s companions can sit comfortably while your primary customer is executing her mission can help your customer actually execute something that they came into the store to do, and do it more easily. So, these are simple things — hospitality, comfortable seating — that really can make a significant difference.