There is upheaval in the workplace, radical change in the marketplace and a struggle for influence in govermment and society as a whole. It is a revolution of, by and for women — driven by a desire for more: for ongoing education, better ways to nurture themselves and their families, increased success as executives and entrepreneurs, higher earnings and better ways to manage and leverage their accumulated wealth.
So begins a fascinating new book, “Women Want More: How to Capture Your Share of the World’s Largest, Fastest-Growing Market” by Michael J. Silverstein and Kate Sayre, of the Boston Consulting Group.
It is a revolution of dissatisfaction in which women are using their checkbooks to vote no on large sectors of the economy, including financial services, consumer electronics, consumer durables and healthcare…Too many companies continue to make poorly conceived products, offer services that take up way too much of women’s precious time and serve up outdated marketing narratives that portray women as stereotypes.
According to the authors, women control $20 trillion of consumer spending — likely to climb to $28 trillion in the next few years. Yet only a very few companies, some familiar to Americans like Gerber and Banana Republic, really get women, they argue. These companies, they say, follow the four R’s:
They recognize the value of women consumers and research their needs, studying carefully how their product or service is consumed. Whatever feedback they get, they respond, and refine their offerings.
The worst offenders, (not surprisingly to any woman who’s ever used them) in order:
Investments, cars, banking, life insurance, physicians, car insurance, work clothes, hospitals, personal computers and lodging. I can certainly vouch personally for the first two categories. In both instances, ready to hand over significant sums of hard-won, carefully-saved cash, I was treated like a very slow three-year-old, in both instances by male salesmen. The first, trying to sell me investment products, I blew off. The second, a car salesman who started explaining the car’s features to my boyfriend instead of me, didn’t deter me from buying the vehicle, but, really, what a moron. I enjoyed watching his reaction when I paid cash.
Like men, women work hard for their money. Unlike some men, though — often also juggling what sociologist Arlie Hochschild called “the second shift” of childcare, eldercare and/or housework — they face severely limited time and energy.
As a consequence, they’re short of patience and hungry for understanding and respect for these severe limits on their energies; anyone hoping to part them from their cash needs to get it. But they don’t. Seems pretty basic to me, but apparently few businesses still understand these essential drivers of female consumption — or resistance to the most seductive and costly of advertising or marketing campaigns — whether in Calcutta, Beijing or Orlando.
I went to Home Depot last weekend, dreading the whole thing. I wanted to get in and out, fast. A lively, fun, super-competent sales associate named Marilyn, a woman my age, sped me through the aisles within minutes, helping me locate and buy hardware, light bulbs, lumber, a saw, hinges. I was delighted. I was also stunned. When was the last time anyone gave you such efficient, knowledgeable and friendly service?
This book, which isn’t a quick read but packed with interesting data for anyone interested in how and where women around the world spend their money, is based on a survey of 12,000 women in more than 40 geographic areas, who were willing to answer a staggering 120 questions. Women everywhere told the researchers they’re overwhelmed, tired and worried about money; managing household finances was the top challenge for 48 percent of respondents, and not enough time, said 45 percent.
Time is the most important lever that suppliers can use to win women over to their products and services. If they can reduce the time it takes to buy or use a product — while still delivering the other necessary benefits — they can change from being an inflicter of pain and frustration to being a provider of leverage and convenience.
What makes women extremely happy? Pets — 42 percent. Sex — 27 percent. Food — 19 percent.