The Rise of the Female Consumer

Adapting to an Increasingly Female-Dominated Consumer Base

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Women currently control more than $20 trillion in annual global consumer spending. Over the next decade, women are predicted to control two-thirds of consumer spending in the United States. Despite that fact, more than 90% of women say that advertisers don’t understand them.

That’s a huge majority of the primary and continually growing consumer base to whom advertisers simply cannot connect. Obviously, this a major problem for those in the marketing industry. So, how can we retool our approach to cater more toward female consumers?

Crunching the Numbers

Women are increasingly finding themselves in control of massive earning, as well as buying power. For example:

  • By 2028, the average American woman is expected to earn more than the average American man
  • Women control roughly 50% of private wealth in the U.S, and account for roughly 50% of stock ownership
  • More than 60% of personal wealth in the U.S. is held by women
  • Women make roughly 85% of all consumer purchases
  • Women control 68% of all new car purchase decisions
  • Nearly 50% of women demand more green, environmentally-friendly choices
  • Women have long surpassed men in internet usage, and 78% of U.S. women research products online before purchasing

Those figures reflect some very substantial conclusions about women in the marketplace. In order to work effectively in an economy increasingly dominated by women, marketers must learn how to connect with female consumers.

Communication, Not Condescension

As demonstrated by Dell’s disastrous “Della” campaign, with which Dell hoped to market to female consumers with bright, colorful computers, cute accessories and information about weight loss and cooking, marketers still have a lot to learn about female consumers.

Women feel patronized by companies and marketers that rely on outdated stereotypes of women’s role in the home, the workplace and the economy.

The Impact on Marketers

When marketers consistently target men, while women control more of the income, they ask for trouble:

  • Products which do not appeal to the majority of the consumer base will lead to fewer sales and less revenue
  • Condescending or demeaning advertising can actually alienate female consumers, meaning that women will refuse to buy certain products based on principle as well as practicality
  • Particularly when they target young men, marketers increase the likelihood of teenagers snatching mom’s credit card to make unauthorized purchases. As Monica Eaton-Cardone explains, this can lead to chargebacks and other problems.

The lower sales which result from ineffective, male-oriented marketing in an increasingly female-dominated market, combined with a continued, total lack of understanding of this matter, can only lead to an increasingly skewed understanding of the market and ever-spiraling sales. The longer marketers continue failing to understand female consumers, the more difficult it becomes to correct the problem.

Where to Go from Here?

There are six industries identified as ones in which targeting female consumers would be most effective.

Four of these are industries which already primarily target women, but in which more effective marketing could yield even greater sales: food, apparel, beauty and fitness.

For example, studies suggest that what women look for in clothing is not necessarily the most cutting-edge styles or cute colors, but rather consistent fits and affordability. In recent years, companies like Banana Republic, which offer basic styles but consistent sizes in a variety of cuts, as well as more affordable, on-trend clothing lines like H&M and Forever 21, have greatly outperformed more high-end fashion brands in which no two pairs of pants are alike.

The other two industries are ones in which women hold a considerable majority of the buying power, but continue to suffer unsatisfactory attention: financial services and health care.

Women are in control of a large and still growing share of wealth in the U.S., but financial companies still presume their target customers to be men. Women cited condescending attitudes, a lack of respect, poor advice and a lack of options as being primary complaints when dealing with financial companies. This frustration leads many women hoping to invest their assets to turn away discouraged, losing countless opportunities for financial institutions every year.

In order for marketers to work effectively with a consumer base that is increasingly composed of women, and in which women hold the majority of the buying power, they will need to reevaluate their outdated strategies and worldview. There is no way in which marketing can be truly effective if the majority of consumers find it unrelatable at best, or insulting and demoralizing at worst.

We’d like to give a big thanks to Monica Eaton-Cardone for providing industry stats and information. If you would like to contact Monica, you can find her on Facebook or Twitter.