As e-tailers struggle to find their core user groups, many are increasingly shifting their focus to the fastest growing online population segment — women.
Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Forrester Research estimates 45 percent of online shoppers are female, and more than half of all consumers who made their first purchase in the second half of last year were female.
Furthermore, women are increasingly buying items that are among the Internet’s top sellers. The Consumer Electronics Association, for example, found that 22 percent of all electronics purchases are now made by women, resulting in $22 billion (US$) in sales each year. As women become more comfortable with shopping on the Web, chances are good that they will buy more of those top selling items online.
Studies also show that an increasing number of women shopping online are between the ages of 45 and 54. “The Web is now, in fact, very middle-aged,” Media Metrix senior vice-president Doug McFarland told the New York Times. “It tends to be used by people in their mid-40s.”
E-tailers Targeting Women
As evidence continues to mount that women are exercising unprecedented economic power online, major e-tailers are designing marketing programs to capture their attention.
Autobytel.com, the online car-buying network of about 5,000 auto dealers, is one of a growing number of Web sites jumping on the new bandwagon, with its new “Autobytel for Her” section. The new effort is geared toward providing information about vehicle safety records and manufacturer recalls, as well as automobile reviews written by women.
According to Ann Delligatta, Autobytel’s chief operating officer, women have been traditionally underserved and disadvantaged in the car buying market. “We’re trying to level the playing field and put women in control by giving them the knowledge to hold their own in a negotiating situation,” Delligatta said in published reports.
Autobytel’s efforts are timely, since the online car buying market is projected to grow exponentially in the next few years, with women purchasing 68 percent of all new vehicles and influencing 85 percent of all vehicle purchases, according to Deligatta.
Likewise, sporting goods retailer Fogdog.com now has a dedicated section for women shoppers, featuring apparel, camping equipment, running gear and fitness items, among others. Women are invited to peruse material with titles such as “Women’s Specific: What It Means Today.”
Women Control Finances
The combination of women’s increasing comfort level with Internet shopping and their influence on household spending could be a powerful stimulant to ailing dot-com industries, according to some observers.
A Harris Interactive study earlier this year found that women control 75 percent of household finances and are responsible for 80 percent of purchasing decisions. With the online shopping population now almost evenly divided between men and women, those are significant figures.
Still, e-tailers are finding that women are tough customers when it comes to issues surrounding online shopping. A CyberDialogue study found nearly 90 percent of wired women say security guarantees would encourage them to shop online, and 67 percent said clearly posted privacy policies would further entice them.