Demograhic Demagoguery

By David Dritsas

There’s been a lot of talk lately about “Selling to Women.” It’s a topic that is bandied about commonly at trade shows, business conferences and certainly in the pages of Dealerscope, more than a few times.

The premise is certainly valid. Electronics is no longer a boys club; more women are buying CE products, so it makes sense to take this demographic more seriously. But is selling to women really all that different? Is this group so generically disparate that retailers need to adopt a whole new strategy, or even a radical change in store design?

At our recent editorial advisory board meeting, a quite contrary view was expressed. One attendee reacted to such a notion with heavy skepticism, noting a recent initiative by a major national retailer to make its stores more female friendly—even hiring outside consultants for help. But both the retailer and the consultants noticed a slightly different outcome. While the new stores attracted new female customers, it also attracted new male customers. So perhaps we’re looking at a bigger question here. Are dealers really trying to sell to women, or are they just trying to sell to a new breed of customer?

The “changing face of retail” is almost cliché, but tied to that is the changing face of the customer. It’s not just women that are new to buying CE products; there are a lot of new male customers, too. Not every man is a gadget nut, and many are looking for the same, comfortable retail experience for which woman are supposedly looking, one that offers friendly and informed sales people—and of course, good prices.

We are at a very interesting time in our society. Personal technology is more important than it has ever been for most people, as are the ways in which people shop for it. Web-based banking and debit cards are creating a culture that is comfortable with virtual transactions and “plastic purchases,” even from something as unusual as an unmanned kiosk (see this month’s cover story on Zoom Systems). Retailers need to take such changing consumer behaviors into account and adjust their strategies to suit, rather than just “making the store prettier for the ladies.” Your customers are smarter than that. You have to be, too.

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