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Women and CE- The buying habits of a neglected demographic

January 2003

By Sean Wargo

Senior Industry Analyst

Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)

Did you know that women are responsible for purchasing more than $45 billion in consumer electronics on an annual basis? Probably not, if you are like many who have traditionally viewed electronics as a man's market. But the fact is that women initiate or are involved in 50 percent of all CE purchases; they're a force with which to reckon.

In that spirit, the market research team at CEA has taken a look at women's involvement in the purchase and usage of CE products. Despite traditional marketing views, the research shows women want their gadgets, too.

Just how much do they want CE products? CEA pitted the beloved diamond against a couple of CE products to see how they measured up. The results? Let it be known far and wide, women have a new best friend. Over half of women (58 percent) would choose a high-definition television over a one-karat diamond ring. Nearly two-thirds said the same of a digital camera versus half-karat diamond stud earrings. It's great news for the manufacturers and retailers of all things digital.

But is this interest in CE just a result of their spouses' gift lists? According to the latest research, no way. The vast majority of women (71 percent) said their most recent purchase was for themselves, rather than another.

Beyond the glitz and glamour of cutting-edge technologies like HDTV, women generally have a practical reason for looking at CE products for themselves. Safety, security and communication are all key themes for the female shopper. Almost two-thirds of women (64 percent) are likely to purchase CE products that enhance their personal safety. Over half (54 percent) are likely to purchase CE products that provide information security. And lastly, over 70 percent are likely to purchase products that keep them connected to friends and family. Home security, cell phones and telematics are all technologies that stand to benefit from women's buying habits.

A practical side is also demonstrated in their general attitudes about technology. Rather than getting caught up in men's gadget wars, women are less interested in technology overall (42 percent), even as they consider it important for keeping up in the job market (75 percent). Despite stereotypes, this is not the result of feelings of intimidation regarding technology. Fewer and fewer women see technology as too complex, with 31 percent saying so today, versus 46 percent four years ago.

In general, women's confidence and comfort with technology is growing at the same rate as their male counterparts'. More women are comfortable with purchasing PCs than ever before (52 percent versus 35 percent in 1998), and the same is true of DVD hardware (55 percent versus 26 percent). The last frontier is in tinkering. Men are slightly more likely to try to figure out a problem themselves first (62 percent versus 52 percent), with women twice as likely to seek help (33 percent versus 14 percent), though this may change in another four years. Suffice it to say, women are definitely viable CE customers.

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