Women like pink. Women are not good with numbers. Women are not good drivers. Women love shopping. Women are…. These stereotypes about women are so common not just amongst men but also marketers. And mind you such perceptions exist even in the developed world. Has the image concerning women remained in a time warp while the whole world around them has changed? Or is it that, the roles defined by genders do not change so easily, which means men will remain the so called ‘provider and protector’ and women will always be ‘preserver and support’ to the dominant force?
What women don’t want!
Evidently, there is reason to believe that women today are becoming both decision makers for big ticket items and also importantly consumers of previously male-dominated categories. Data and research evidence the same. 45% of life insurance purchase decisions by working women and one third by housewives have been taken in their sole capacity. (Source: Nielsen Women Syndicated Study). Similarly, the number of women having a savings bank account has increased by 33% in the last 10 years (from 2002-2012)- and so have women with credit cards – 10% in 2012 vs. 4% in 2001 (Source: IMRB Research study). While 59% women are actively consulted on car brand related decision, 31% aspire to buy their own SUVs. (Source: Nielsen Automotive Syndicated Study)
Expect categories with typical male-dominated consumer base, e.g. automobiles, financial services, telecom, to adapt to the opportunity in the female market – not just as influencers but specialist target groups. Here are a few tips and trends that will shape the success in this 46% of the consumer market.
Desire for responsible consumption
Old stereotype that women are insatiable, impulsive shoppers of frivolous things is giving way to desire for smart management and advanced planning of household budget. Women are only becoming more responsible towards money consumption. Marketers have realised this and specifically target women e.g. Big Bazaar has created special occasions like Independence Day where women are specifically targeted or their Wednesday shopping which targets non-working women to make the best of the prices for those days. Season end sales even for aspiration brands have become a part of a thought through strategy as more and more women postpone purchase for a great bargain.
With 37% increase in graduate women (period 2008-12) women have started contributing to household income, the lines of inequality and role differentiation have diminished. As more and more women are becoming financially independent, cultural norms have steadily started softening and rigid boundaries prevailing in traditional Indian life are beginning to fall. With this convergence of roles women have taken up many such responsibilities which were traditionally the men domain e.g. financial planning, payment of taxes etc. Brands have to leverage this multi-dimensional identity of a women’s role in the household which has moved beyond that of singular identify of a care-giver. Banks with credit cards specifically designed for women, Insurance players launching women specific plans are clear examples.
From effort-saving to lifestyle assistance
Women tend to lap up products that don’t just help them save effort but enhance their overall well-being, something they are constantly seeking. For the truly time starved women, tech apps that enable consolidation and hyper-tasking such as checking mails, school updates, holiday planners, wealth management, diet charts and overall well-being should ring a bell. This is also what may be explaining why women buyers of smart phones have increased by 175% in last one year as compared to 100% in case of men (Source: Nielsen Informate Mobile Insights)
More for less guilt
The pursuit of a better life is tinged with a desire to keep the best of the past. There are cultural and personal expectations to fulfill the traditional role of restrained value-conscious homemaker. Brands have to find ways of communicating the negative impacts of discarding the old product and upgrading or replacing the new. Assuaging her guilt is the key to enhanced consumption. Saffola as a brand has done this well to take a commodity cooking medium to high involvement health product. Durable brands like refrigerators and washing machines can do this by bundling service contracts just like automobiles have done successfully. This should work as women are ultimately responsible for the running and maintenance of most of the household goods and also because women’s expectations of customer service are far more than her male counterpart.
Transparency as a virtue
72% of educated women rate the value of being honest and transparent as an essential guiding principle of life. And this value translates to her as a ‘consumer’ too. For example, food brands that display nutrients and calories clearly and overtly are preferred. Brands should have nothing to hide and should proactively show and prove that they are transparent. More and more brands are now giving product demos, sampling their products to women to build confidence in their products and offering a return if products do not meet expectations – personal care products being a case in point.
Women want to live their lives on their own terms, explore new possibilities, push boundaries and win admiration of female colleagues more than that of male colleagues. The ultimate barometer of achievement for today’s women is to become a role model for many other women. The new definition of ‘Feminity’ is about personal competency and intellectual depth rather than her external manifestation of beauty. Brands need to take cognisance of this change and portray confident women who will help fight the cultural stereotypes and shape the new future. Nike Voices beautifully captures this new woman through the phrase ‘if somebody’s got to be the best, why not me’.