What women (consumers) want

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Like it or not, ecommerce has become the new benchmark for flawless personal service, and every venture — business-to-consumer and business-to-business — must upgrade the customer’s experience to stay relevant.

Understanding what that looks like in an age when people can make purchases from computing devices, and in ways that inspire people to buy from you and engage with your business, is the focus of Bridget Brennan, CEO of Female Factor, who has built her business around marketing to women.

Brennan is the 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 how mistaken preconceptions about women can result in lost sales and unhappy customers.

Those experiences, Brennan explains, are related to the human senses — touch, taste, or smell — that are hard to replicate on a computing device. Thanks to this sensory appeal, “Brick-and-mortar retailers and other businesses have a home-court advantage,” she explains, “so think of the senses to create that experience.”

The managers of increasingly vacant shopping malls realize the customer experience is the key to luring people back, and this new experiential trend became abundantly clear to Brennan when she visited a small, independent bike shop and was warmly greeted by an employee who asked her if she would like a cappuccino. “That was the last thing I expected to hear in a bike shop,” she notes.

Welcome to what now constitutes Customer Engagement 101. Brennan makes it clear that her advice is applicable to every type of sales interaction, including those in the business-to-business realm. Whatever the context, there are several “watch-outs” to avoid, things that tend to alienate women as customers, and it starts with avoiding stereotypes such as expecting the color pink to serve as a strategy.

It helps to remember the No. 1 reason that women drive more than 70 percent of consumer spending — 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 CPOs (chief purchasing officers) of their households. “So, when they are out in the marketplace, they often are not just seeking and buying products for themselves, but on behalf of the other people in their household and even in their social and business networks,” Brennan states. “This adds layers of complexity to their buying decisions.”

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