Tech for women: Power for the world’s most potentially powerful consumers | HT Brand Leadership Series

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Food for thought

Tech for women: Power for the world’s most potentially powerful consumers

  • Vani Gupta Dandia
  • May 09, 2019

It is a known fact that technology gives access to information, entertainment, new markets and new ways of thinking for men and women alike. Yet, it can be game-changing for women and, consequently, for marketers! Why? Because women are more discerning, women are more value-conscious, and women are more pressed for time. Women are quite simply more!

The opportunity with women is more!

1.7 billion women in developing countries still don’t own a mobile phone. And, it’s a fact that a mobile phone in the hands of women will mean greater financial independence, and better family health and education outcomes. In South Asia, women are 38% less likely to own a mobile phone than men (Source: a study by World Economic Forum in April 2016). What if a mobile company were to actively chase this agenda with discounts if the connection were registered in a woman’s name? Imagine what it could mean for India’s economy!

Women take to technology faster. Isn’t that natural?! Women are more pressed for time and are always juggling multiple things at a time. With the help of technology, one can pay bills online, work from home, cook in a microwave, and order groceries online.

Technology is more skewed towards men. (Source: The Guardian: The deadly truth about a world built for men, Feb 2019)

  • The average size of a smartphone is 5.5”, which is fine for a man but too big for a woman to use comfortably.
  • When Apple launched its virtual assistant Siri, users in the US found that she (ironically) could find prostitutes and Viagra suppliers, but not abortion providers. Siri could help you if you’d had a heart attack, but if you told her you’d been raped, she replied “I don’t know what you mean by ‘I was raped.’”
  • Google’s speech recognition software is 70% more likely to accurately recognize male speech.

In India, the demo stats are changing slowly in favour of women. In 2001, there were 51.2 million single women in the country. By 2011, this had leapt to 71.4 million, according to census figures. By the next census, this number should be well over a 100 million. As per the NSSO Survey 2014-15, 31% of all lone urban travelers are women! They are a much neglected consumer segment in India.  They have money, they are tech-savvy, they are willing to experiment and live life on their own terms, and, most importantly, make every shopping decision!

Women shop more and talk more!

Tell me something new.

It’s not just shoes and handbags. Women shop more of everything. That’s because they buy for their husbands, kids, colleagues, in-laws, friends, and everyone else in their lives. Women in every society have the primary care-giving responsibility. So, they think of everyone. Entire industries would have collapsed if women were not as thoughtful as they are. For marketers, this means that women are multiple markets in one!

To top that, women talk more. Every time you deliver a great service to a woman, she has a multiplier effect on your business, because she represents a broad range of other potential customers and she will likely tell other people, a lot of people, about your service!

  • 70% of millennial consumers are influenced by recommendations of their peers in buying decisions
  • Both Facebook and Instagram have more female than male users—58% women for Instagram and 53% women for Facebook, as per different studies. This is significant given that the largest population on Facebook is from India, with over 270 million users. (Omnicom study, Sept 18)
  • Women drive 70-80% of all household purchases through a combination of their buying power and influence.  Influence means that even when a woman isn’t paying for something herself, she is often the influence or veto vote behind someone else’s purchase. (Forbes, Jan 2015)

It’s important for me to refer to a report by Sokrati about online shopping behavior in India. It says that Indian men shop three times more than women. And, 60% of all online purchases are made during business hours. I suspect that with greater urbanization, women speaking up, data costs coming down even more (India avg 1 GB data cost is at 0.26$ v/s 12.37$ in the US), the online shopping stats will change. Also, given the rapid increase in ecommerce via platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, which have predominantly women’s accounts, there is bound to be a tilt in online shopping in favor of women.

Marketers must be more!
What does all of this mean for us marketers? Quite simply, get to know women better, and serve them well. It’s good for business.

  • For women, the total shopping experience is important. So, when a salesman is attentive to their needs, they happily oblige and buy. Or they pay back by recommending the store to a friend. Imagine if I could walk into a Starbucks store and be instantly served coffee and croissant the way I like it, wouldn’t I be delighted?
  • Women are more selective and continue browsing till they’ve found something that’s ‘near perfect’ if not ‘perfect’. Men, on the other hand, are more transactional. Men buy whatever merely “works” (study by TrendSight Group in 2016). Using intelligent machine learning technology to understand what she likes more and constantly adapting to her needs will become necessary to win over a cluttered market.
  • Create an emotional connection – have her say, “yes this brand understands me!”  When you do that, she’ll not only stay wedded to you for life, but she will also recommend you to many more people. AI will play a huge role in enhancing customer experience and, hence, building an emotional connection. Data-driven personalization will be the new bastion to create this emotional link. Chatbots to offer relevant and accurate information through the customer journey can be another one. Again, imagine if Alexa could sense I’m not feeling so upbeat, and have chocolate immediate delivered to me via a drone… I’d kiss both Alexa and the chocolate!
  • Recognize that women are in most cases the gatekeepers and shoppers, even if they are not the end users themselves. So, think about the end user or the ones she might be shopping for. Bridget Brennan, who writes passionately on women consumers for the Forbes magazine, calls this “address her invisible others”. Greater emphasis on data and analyzing data from multiple sources will offer richer insights into a woman’s “invisible others”.
  • Think ‘brand building’ the day you launch. Personality and style, ‘thumb stoppability’ can get you business from the very first Instagram post! That’s because women are more impulsive buyers—when they see something that they immediately like, they’re quick to show love towards it by adding it to the cart. Once I shopped for a Sri Lankan saree on Instagram based on only one ad! The colors looked striking, the brand had distinct style and one ad was all it took for me enter my credit card details and find myself thirty grand poorer. Discovery to transaction completion in less than ten minutes for a brand that I discovered for the first time on Instagram, when I wasn’t looking to shop, but unwind my brains! 
  • Lastly, hire MORE women! Women best ‘get’ women! Google ‘why are there so few women in tech?’ and the reality is abysmal. If there’s one thing we must change immediately, then it’s this. We need more women in technology, and in every other field. Not for women’s sake. But for business. For a whole lot of business! 

Marketing in the future will necessarily be technology driven. But using that to place more power in the hands of women will be the key to opening a new bastion of consumption. And, a new world order in time to come! Amen!

Vani Gupta Dandia
Independent Marketing Expert

Vani has had a rewarding career of over 20 years, starting with advertising (BBDO and Leo Burnett), and then various roles in marketing and category management with blue chip companies. In her last role with PepsiCo, she was leading the Indian snacks category with the objective of strengthening the master brand Kurkure. Prior to PepsiCo, she was with Unilever and Reckitt Benckiser.