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Women like to buy online too!

There’s a day to celebrate the power of women, March 8th. But research shows that only 3 percent of creative directors in advertising agencies are women. While more than 80 percent of all major brand purchases for home, health and personal care are made by women online, very few marketers actually think about this “hidden” set of consumers when creating their online campaign strategy. Why is there such a skewed approach by marketers? 

Save a few leading online companies like Amazon which has Amazon Mom, not many brands focus on this large chunk of consumers. Ample market studies show that men go online to download apps or learn about new technology and news, while women spend more time on e-commerce sites, especially those selling household, baby care, personal care, and beauty and fashion products. Despite relevant data not many brands take heed of that still. And this is not just in the US or European markets, brands in Asia do the same.

A study released by ComScore in 2010 showed that Asia is one of the fastest growing markets when it comes to online buying, and women make for the largest chunk of online shoppers. In fact they are the people who are most active on social sites, and were early adopters of many social features as compared to men, the comScore study showed.

“Female users are the unsung heroines behind the most engaging, fastest growing, and most valuable consumer internet and e-commerce companies. Especially when it comes to social and shopping, women rule the Internet,” wrote Aileen Lee, Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a venture capital company that incubates small online ventures.

If we come to Asia’s largest online consumer market, China the figures emphasise the point even further. According to  a study on the Chinese online shopping market by MEC China shows that 44 percent women in tier 1 and tier 2 cities and 23 percent in low tier cities love to shop online in China. This is because women in Chinese households control majority of disposable incomes. They are also the principal buyers of groceries and other daily household necessities. In fact this is the case in most markets throughout Asia. Another case in point is India where we see more and more e-commerce sites coming up that will have women as main consumers because they look at baby care fashion, and groceries, all traditionally have been female domain. But if you check out the amount of campaigning these companies are doing, the result would be negligible. The campaigns are generic and very rarely speak to a women as a consumer (who is drastically different from a male consumer).

Stressing this point is a statement made by Linda Boland Abraham, comScore chief marketing officer and executive vice president for global development, “Understanding gender-specific differences in Web usage is valuable to any digital stakeholder looking to successfully reach and engage both women and men in the online environment. We have seen that women across the globe share some similar usage patterns online, such as strong engagement with social networking sites, but it’s also important to understand gender differences on a regional, country and local level, where cultural differences are continually shaping online usage and content consumption.”

Today we still find male marketers brainstorming over campaigns for women (if at all). But that needs to change. Lee feels that getting a female marketer to develop a campaign for a woman would be more effective if a brand wants to capture this huge audience. A case in point is that a campaign that was done by Kraft Foods, where the company created campaigns in Philippines that spoke to women of the household, and the sales and product adoption improved drastically. Dr Elaine Rodrigo, director consumer insights & strategy, Krafts Foods Asia Pacific said, “Once we took an approach where we sought the women out and showed them the benefits of products through campaigns that had children, our products showed higher sales.”

But not many are doing that, are they?  Writes Stephanie Holland, president & executive creative director for Holland + Holland Advertising (she helps male marketers talk to women buyers), in her blog She-conomy, “Did they miss the point? I think so. The findings overwhelmingly remind us that women are spending more and more time online. And those who develop products as well as advertise to meet her needs are going to swiftly move ahead. As a male marketer or male business owner who needs to reach the female audience, it would be wise to view findings that reveal the power of the female consumer as opportunity, not offensive. Does this mean you are going to benefit from listening to the female audience through the ears of experienced female marketer? More than likely, yes. Because, even if you don’t, someone else will.” So are the brands listening?