Hitting the CE Spot
Learn how to make women your best customersSeptember 6, 2012 By Bob Ankosko
Memo to specialty CE retailers: Think green, not pink, when a female customer walks through your doors. Women are embracing consumer electronics more than ever, buying e-readers, tablets, smartphones, digital cameras, notebooks and other CE devices for themselves and their families.
And when it comes to traditional audio/video categories such as television, women are equal partnesr in big household purchase decisions. If she’s not on board with the big-screen TV her husband hubby is obsessing over, chances are it ain’t gonna happen. The bottom line: CE specialists that ignore female customers are missing out on a boatload of revenue.
Women Driving CE Growth
Women’s share of technology dollars climbed to 47 percent between June 2011 and 2012, or about 3 percent higher than same period a year earlier, according to the latest research from NPD Group. “In a tech market that was fairly flat, it was women who were driving the growth,” said Liz Cutting, director and senior imaging analyst. “Of the big categories, PCs were still growing but it was tablets and smartphones that really drove the increase.” In particular, the female share for tablets jumped 8 percent year over year, reaching 48 percent of all dollars spent.
In terms of overall tech spending, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) found that women spent an average of $667 on CE products compared with $728 for men in its 2011 “Women and CE” study. And, although both figures were significantly lower than those reported in 2007, the gap between male and female spending narrowed by almost two-thirds, dropping to $61 from $173.
“We’re seeing the comfort level in CE rise among women who, overall, are finding CE products easy to set up and use,” said Jessica Boothe, CEA manager of strategic research. “Men have a tendency to outspend women overall but women are big influencers in where the money is spent.”
In the survey, six in 10 women reported initiating or being involved in the buying process. And while women tend to consider TV, DVD players and other traditional CE products “shared” household products versus men who claim full ownership, they are more likely to claim ownership of e-readers, notebook computers and cell phones.
“Women like products that are easy to operate but they also want something that is the right size and weight for them,” Boothe said, noting that younger females are attracted to devices that perform multiple functions and tend to be more interested in product style, brand popularity and color. On the whole, however, women are still more likely to choose standard black or silver over pink and other colors.
Women are embracing CE more than they had in the past because they’re using tech tools every day to stay in touch with family and friends, manage time and save money, said Suzanne Kantra, founder of Techlicious.com, a technology website geared to women. “Technology is a staple today” and the smartphone is becoming the tool of choice for more and more women. “It’s not just calling or texting anymore,” she said. “Women are browsing the Internet, using apps and doing all sorts of things that typically had been a little geekier and maybe more in the male domain a couple decades ago.”
Ladies Love to Shop but…
It’s no secret that many women like to shop but CE stores aren’t necessarily high on their list of shopping destinations. Only 30 percent of the women who participated in the CEA study described the “general electronics store” as a place that appeals to women, even though nearly all said they visit such stores two or three times a year, the same as men.
The problem is many CE stores do very little, if anything, to engage female shoppers. “Women tell us that the No. 1 reason they shop at a retailer is that it’s a ‘store for me,’” Cutting said. “In other words, it’s personal. I go in there and I connect with the people in the store that feel like I feel about my family and what I do with my life. Many specialty stores are not good at that.”
One of the most important things a retailer can do to entice women is to create an atmosphere that’s relevant to their everyday life. “It’s about the solution, not the specs. How do I use this for problem solving? Why is it for me?” Kantra said. “Studies have shown that women are willing to spend more than men on a product if they can see the benefit within that context.”
Selling consumer electronics to women has always proved challenging to retailers and manufacturers. “You can talk to 10 retailers and every one of them will tell you they would like to do better with the female consumer,” said Dave Workman, executive director of the PRO Group. “Cracking that code has always been somewhat elusive. This industry has built itself up on acronyms and buzzwords but the female consumer has always been more about the application of the product and less interested in the jargon.”