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Q&A: The Rising Power of the Female Consumer

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Media Eghbal Bio

Our recent webinar “The Rising Power of the Female Consumer” explored the growing influence of female consumption worldwide by focusing on the drivers behind the growth, what is influencing women’s purchasing decisions and the key consumer groups to watch in the global female consumer market. Attracting 1,800 registrants, the webinar ended with a Q&A session, highlights of which are below.

What are the factors that go into determining the gender pay gap? Is it strictly if a man and woman accept the same job with the same credentials, experience, etc. that they are paid less? Or are there more factors?

Yes, in many emerging markets without sex discrimination legislation in place (or poorly enforced legislation) it can be as simple as women being paid less than men for the same work, especially given the dominance of the informal sector in many developing countries. In developed markets it is more likely to come from the glass ceiling, the gender imbalance that exists in nearly all companies where women feature heavily among lower tier jobs, but are poorly represented further up the chain and almost entirely absent at senior executive management level.

What would you say is the best way to target a woman when marketing a product?

The main thing is to avoid stereotypes – any design adaptation needs to be subtle and remember that not every woman is interested in pink and fluffy stereotypes. The rise of single person households means more women will be interested in all sectors including DIY and electronics so there is a growing demand for gender neutral offerings in this regard and more generally. Women are tech-savvy and like to research and read peer-to-peer reviews before making big purchases so companies can think about social media campaigns, which will encourage women to talk about their brand. They should also look to enable product reviews on their website and encourage women to share their content as many women like to make recommendations. Trade surveys also reveal that more women in both developed and emerging markets are becoming interested in brands that have an ethical ethos and transparency as part of their remit, especially when combined with value, so think about providing the stories behind your brand that would interest your consumer.

From what I hear, can we say that globally, females may spend more than men in the coming years in general, per capita, whether it is for personal reasons or for family needs? If so, by how much?

The average global male annual disposable income per capita is set to remain higher than the female equivalent by 2030, at US$14,317 in constant terms compared with US$9,315 for women. Yet much of the actual spending decision-making will come from women, who are key consumers for many consumer goods categories including packaged foods, beauty and personal care and apparel.

In your opinion, how similar is the Chinese female consumer compared to their Western counterparts?

As the middle class expands and more women are able to spend on discretionary items, there will be similarities to Western women. More women in China will seek or aspire to foreign brands and more sophisticated products. China is an interesting emerging country as the rate of female employment is already quite high, which means they offer more potential than their Indian counterparts, for example. The legacy of the one-child policy also creates differences. The 4 2 1 family unit means more women in China will bear the burden of looking after both their parents and grandparents in the future, which is not so evident in the West, and this is likely to drive demand for health goods and medical services. Asian families also place a greater importance on the education of their child so more money is likely to be spent on ensuring their child has the best education possible when they can afford this.

Is there any indication of the usage of social media for female vs. male?

Usage of social media by gender varies depending on country and region, of course. According to statistics provided by the likes of SocialBakers, globally men are the dominant user group. However, this trend is largely skewed by the large populations of developing countries such as China and India, where men tend to be dominant social media users because of better access to technologies, and higher IT and general literacy rates. In developed markets, females tend to be either even or with a slight majority as a proportion of users.

Usage also depends on the social media in question. For example, Instagram has been especially successful with females while Twitter is popular among males.

What influences women to make purchases?

The webinar went into this in more detail but there are a range of factors that are influencing women’s purchases: the fact that the number of female-headed households is on the rise globally means more women are already (or are becoming) the main decision-makers at home, and this is accentuated by the fact that surveys have revealed that women are still the main providers of childcare and responsible for the majority of household duties. The fact that more women are juggling work and home means they are seeking convenience and time-saving solutions as well as one-stop shops and brief moments of leisure they can fit into their schedule. We have also seen a growth in the number of lifestyle blogs and vloggers (video bloggers) who are influencing women and particular brands. More generally, many women like to research before they buy a product and read peer reviews so this all combines to influence what women want when they make purchases.

A lot of the opportunities seem to fit for men too? Such as convenience, stress management etc. Any differences between men and female in terms of offers?

Yes, this is true. Convenience, time-saving and stress management will appeal to both sexes – anyone with a busy schedule. More men and women are living fast-paced lives; being digitally connected all the time means the distinction between work and home life is becoming increasingly blurred. So it is true that solutions to help manage time and a busy schedule will benefit men and women equally. As Euromonitor’s survey revealed, the majority of household chores and care for children does still fall to women and as they are the main decision-makers at home in this regard, while juggling their careers, the solutions for a work-life balance will strike a particular chord with women.

Any indications of more countries implementing gender equality quotas on the senior team ratio and pay?

Norway is one such example; since 2003 it has had in place a law requiring companies to have at least 40% of senior management roles. In practice, most of these are non-executive roles, very few executive management roles are taken by women there (only around 6%). Maybe legislation needs to be more specific in this regard, and quotas should pertain to executive management positions.

Do you have an example of a company/respective e-commerce retailer that targets female consumers specifically?

Nordstrom is a US retail chain that has highlighted the importance of its female consumers in-store by providing mother’s rooms where women can comfortably breastfeed and women’s lounges where it is easy to take a break with kids. Coca-Cola and Gucci are companies using consumption to promote female empowerment. Coca-Cola’s 5by20 global initiative aims to economically empower five million entrepreneurs across its value chain by 2020. Gucci’s “Chime for Change” campaign promotes education, health and justice for girls and women everywhere.

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