Increasing global power of women consumers

women-powerDid you know that women and economic growth is a reality that has played out quietly for centuries to the point now that women globally are a market segment bigger than Facebook?

Yes, really. And large enough to rival China or India. A real, not virtual, economic superpower in their own right, dubbed the ‘Third Billion’ by analysts at Booz & Co.

Whether this reality has taken place in the world’s most advanced economies or those that are beginning to emerge on the world stage, one constant remains – the participation of women in economic activity keeps the world spinning on its axis.

As a result, the influence of women as the world’s most valuable customer segment is causing global brand owners to chase the ‘gender dividend’ in recognition that they are the most dynamic and fastest growing economic force in the world today.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos in February 2013, global business leaders agreed that investing in supporting women as customers, employees, leaders, future investors and partners is a key growth strategy for all business sectors given that women are already the most dynamic and fastest-growing economic force in the world today.

For example, in the US women control or influence more than 80 per cent of all purchasing decisions, wielding a purchasing power in excess of $5 trillion and globally they are responsible for $20 trillion in spending, a figure expected to rise to $28 trillion by 2014.

And research by the powerful World Bank has shown that investments in women yield a ‘double dividend’ as women are more likely than men to invest their incomes in their families and communities, driving up GDP and literacy levels and decreasing mortality rates. This double whammy, combined with pure market forces has started to redefine how Wall Street looks at the future prospects of global companies increasing market share in business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) markets.

As I pointed out in my latest book, The Art of Influencing and Selling, women are redefining markets and creating growth by focusing their spending power on purchases such as food, healthcare, education, clothing, consumer durables and financial services.

And research by Deloitte shows that women’s earning power is growing faster than men’s in the developing world, where their earned incomes have increased by 8.1 per cent compared with men’s 5.8 per cent.

Nowhere is this change of focus more apparent than in the sports good sector.

Increasingly, sports brand owners are investing in what has been termed the ‘gender dividend’.

For example, adidas, Under Armour and Nike are all engaged in ramping up their efforts to attract female consumers in the wake of the phenomenally successful London 2012 Olympic Games.

These and many other global brand owners are all making a concerted effort to create engaging content and experiences that are tailored to women from the outset, designed to reach girls in the environment they already inhabit online and provide them with increased opportunities to interact with their sports brands.

This is driving growth within the UK sports marketing and consultancy sector as brand owners like adidas and Nike increasingly use Twitter and other social media sites in order to achieve this level of engagement as well as encouraging women to advise one another in their athletic activities, whether they are part of a sports team or a tribe of friends.

It’s clear that the way in which brand owners in other sectors approach women should also reflect this wider reality.

But what’s got in the way of so many less switched on brand owners is the patronising way they continue to treat women consumers.

Here’s a few examples of my own and I’d love to hear about more examples of crap marketing practice:

  1. A utility company calls the home phone number to offer us a better deal on electricity and gas and telephone bills. Despite the fact that the utility bills are in both our names, the female cold caller insists that my wife puts her through to the “head of the house”.
  2. We are having a meal at a nice restaurant and at the end of the dinner the server automatically gives the bill to me without asking who’s going to pay. Nothing wrong in taking my wife out for dinner, but we take it in turns to pay!
  3. My wife books a local electrician to come to our house and give a quote for some rewiring work. He carries out the inspection and suggests he pops back to speak to me before he puts in an estimate for the work.
  4. We have neighbours who want to build on our adjoining wall at the rear of the house. We appoint a surveyor and let him know that my wife and I jointly own the property. When it comes to drawing up the Party Wall Agreement, he omits to include my wife’s name and yet her consent is required.

I’d better stop there but I could go on. You see what I mean?

So what’s best marketing practice when it comes to marketing to women consumers?

Here are my 5 golden rules:

  1. Stop patronising your customers. Don’t see them as male or female but as customers.
  2. Understand their attitudes, values, perceptions, beliefs and behaviours. It’s this that’s important, not what sex they are.
  3. Focus on the context for the product or service that you are marketing. Why should the customer care? How does it add value for them?
  4. Focus. Focus. Focus. And the point of view is from that of the prospective customer and not your own POV.
  5. Be authentic in your interest in the prospective customer. And use the best marketing weapon known to man. It’s called listening.

The switched on global brand owners are finally realising that women represent not just consumers but also shoppers for the rest of the family and consequently represent a far more lucrative segment than males from a volume perspective.

And they follow these simple five golden rules.

Women are today’s global economic superpower. And marketers better start getting used to it!

To read another blog on this subject, click here.

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