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How Consumers’ Gender Impacts the Way You Sell

How Consumers’ Gender Impacts the Way You Sell

Do you understand the gender breakdown of your customer demographic? Do you understand the different behaviors of men and women when it comes to purchasing?

We live in an increasingly gender-equal society. Although there is still a long way to go to get to true equality, look at how far we have come in the last fifty years. In fact, as we applaud gender equality and blend gender roles in business, conversations about gender differences may seem a bit out of date. This discomfort in discussing such differences can actually hold businesses back from marketing effectively to specific genders. Marketers know, there is indeed a difference in how women and men make decisions the to purchase and how they respond to messaging.

Many factors weigh into why someone purchases. This includes cultural, personal, sociological, and even psychological factors. Sociologists understand that women and men approach problems differently. Women tend to be internally focused and will usually want to talk with people as a way of engaging and solving problems. Men communicate to express thoughts and ideas, and are externally focused. Women are interested in how a problem is solved, Men just want to solve it and demonstrate their ability to do so.

What does a woman’s problem solving approach mean for you as you try to sell your consumers?

It means that women will probably be more interested in speaking to, or being helped by, a sales person or customer service rep, and the dialog that ensues will be very different than how a man may approach it. A business marketing primarily to women may need to plan for a longer, more in depth sales cycle. At the same time, to sell to a man, you may need to succinctly solve his problem and make efficiency a core part of the purchasing process.

Finding: The Cues You Give Each Gender

“Women are more subjective, intuitive, comprehensive, and relational processing while men are more logical, analytical, selective and item-specific processing.” –  Meyers-Levy & Maheswaran 1991

According to the study, the way most men search for a product is not as comprehensive as most women. They focus on certain information sources and then decide. Women rely more heavily on the opinions of others and stories of their experiences with a product.

Action: If women are an important part of your customer base you’d need a comprehensive review strategy – a method of consistently prompting reviews. They will be looking on Yelp, Trip Advisor, Amazon, and any other site available to read what other customers have said about you or your product. Customer service is central to this – if you have unhappy customers leaving dreadful reviews, you’d better be answering them respectfully. And you need a system to prompt reviews as well.

Finding: Women Plan Ahead

This is no shocker in many households: research shows that women plan ahead when it comes to purchasing. They are also more prone to place emphasis on sentimental products, while men prefer items for financial or leisure usage. Time factors heavily in different gender practices. Men are more likely to seek out a product to fill an immediate need, while women plan for future use.

Action: To target women consumers, make sure you plan a long relationship building segment into your marketing. Content marketing in order to capture leads and build your brand is powerful when you’re trying to build relationships. Rewards or VIP programs help to keep customers close and engaged.

When targeting men, make information readily accessible online and in the store, preferably in a do-it-yourself format so they aren’t stuck waiting on a busy sales associate to answer questions they would prefer not to have to ask.

Finding:  Women usually are driven by emotive reasons when deciding to purchase.

Men just want the facts and an easy experience. Men are more utilitarian when deciding to purchase; they are often trying to solve a problem or make their lives easier. Women will more likely want to engage in personal interactions with salespeople, whether in person or online, so having a live chat available on your website, and enough sales people in your brick and mortar location is critical.

Action: Men need information readily available, meaning your website better have an excellent UX experience. Information needs to be easy to find and digest. For your brick and mortar location, parking needs to be easy and plentiful, and the goods you are selling easy to find and purchase. Having product in stock and short lines are important to men.

Finding: Men won’t spend time messing around.

When men like something they may bulk purchase. They are destination shoppers, and want to find what they’re looking for quickly. Women will spend more time finding what they want or looking at alternatives if their first choice isn’t available. Men may leave to find another retailer with a more reliable stock.

Women generally enjoy the experience of shopping. It is often a social experience. They are also more likely to leave things in their cart, especially online, because the experience is more important than the purchase.

Action: Again, providing female shoppers with the opportunity for dialog and personal interaction is critical, via your online presence and in real life. You also need to plan for follow up nurturing to tempt them to come back to their shopping cart if they left items there.

Men will want to find the product they like available when they want it; having a Temporarily Out of Stock sign on your site or retail store may cause them to go elsewhere to look for a competitor who can satisfy them. Keep popular items heavily stocked, and consider a frequent customer program so that you can alert them to new arrivals.

Finding: Women Respond to Coupons.

Studies show that men do have a major say in household purchases, especially groceries, but do not use coupons as heavily as women. They are more likely to purchase online, particularly for food delivery (restaurants take note) but are less likely to use coupons for those purchases. Men and women both use loyalty cards and it often impacts their decisions about where to purchase.

Action: If women are a major part of your demographic, coupons and discounts should be a big part of your promotional strategy. Men do respond to discounts, but based on the findings mentioned above, make sure online purchasing is promoted and easy to navigate. Having a VIP program where customers earn rewards is powerful with both genders.

Caution: Beware Your Own Gender Outlook

Most Importantly, pay heed to your own gender and how it may affect your outlook and decision making when it comes to marketing. Gender determines our worldview, and marketers often think from their gender instead of looking at a wider approach.



Gender differences may appear to be a touchy subject, but marketers need to understand the different behavior tendencies of each gender. There are striking differences in the behavior of women and men when it comes to deciding to purchase. However, because, as we’ve stated more than once, women have very high expectations for customer service, when you work to satisfy women and provide an excellent shopping experience you make that experience better for all of your customers.

Learn how to confront and solve seven of the most common problems all retailers face with this free eGuide from SAP. 

About The Author

Amy is a Writer, Editor, and Content Strategist with a background in Sales and Sales Management. She created The Millennial Think Tank to debunk much of the hype around GenY and has deep insights into all 3 generations. She also writes on Sales, B2B, Leadership and Diversity Issues. Amy lives in Florida and PA with her modern day Brady Bunch family.

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