Do We Ignore Half The PC/CE Market?
“Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now.” – Vivian (Julia Roberts), Pretty Woman (1990)
IDC and Gartner recently reported 68.5M consumer PCs were sold in Q3 of this year and volumes could hit 70M in Q4. We’re well on our way to the industry’s next big goal…2B PCs WW. The CEA (Consumer Electronics Association) estimates CE sales will hit $48.1 B in Q4 producing modest industry growth for the year. All in all, not bad for a lackluster year.
We’ve done a good job of profiling and targeting the early adopters. Looking at our kids list of “gotta have” stuff, they’ve nailed the teens, tweens and Gen Yers. Watching the Wii commercials with old dudes bowling, they’ve tapped into the boomers+. Problem is we’ve only given lip service to half of the global population…women, even lady geeks. Maybe the problem is exactly as Sean Connery stated…“I like women. I don’t understand them, but I like them.”
This epiphany came to us as we tried to figure out why our 1TB home server was already half full. Turned out the files were typical of most consumers’ home system storage – digital photos, music, video clips, personal videos, etc. Very little of it was ours ! That got us to thinking…and wondering…
Fearing The Unknown
Why is the industry doing such a poor job in reaching the female segment of the market? It might be as Warren Farrell said, “The only men who aren’t in fear of women’s reactions are usually men who aren’t born or who are dead.”
While most firms – manufacturers and retailers – may not fear women, only a few have really tried tapping into this half of the buying public. BestBuy has a separate team that focuses on reaching the female technology/CE consumer. Many of the camera manufacturers have introduced female-friendly devices.
MP3 player producers are doing a decent job. The cellphone industry has done a fair job of figuring out half of their buyers are women. Notebook manufacturers seem to test the waters and then retreat to the old tried-and-true. The industry is leaving millions – if not billions – on the table by not recognizing, understanding and paying attention to “the other half” of the market.
Delivering the right information and product shouldn’t be that difficult. All we have to do is follow Vivian/Julia’s advice…“You know, you could pay me now, and break the ice.”
Breaking the ice for the industry isn’t a big secret. Lots of firms have studied the situation including ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi:
- 35% of female internet users would increase spending on CE if the industry tried harder to reach/assist them
- 50% of the women walk out of stores without buying anything because they can’t find what they want
- Women don’t want to be patronized with pink stuff but rather products that are sleek, well-designed (crap maybe Jobs is onto something!)
- In fact, 43% of women don’t set out with a specific brand or product in mind
It was also found that there are four distinct mind-sets or “shopping genes:”
- Content responsibles – practical, loyal, efficient
- Natural hybrids – confident, balanced, classic
- Social catalysts – social, smart, trendy
- Cultural artists – creative, impulsive, adventurous
So, if we can deliver the right products and the right environment/atmosphere, the industry should be able to expand its sales opportunities.
Men slightly dominate the Internet. But the difference really amounts to a rounding error. According to most reports by 2010/2011, women will begin to contribute their unfair share to the Internet and Web 2.0 worlds. A study of affluent working women finds:
- 94.3% access the Internet on an average month
- Online purchases have increased 56.6%
- 50.8% are considered heavy Internet users spending at least 430 minutes a week online
A comScore study shows:
- Female gamers average 41 years of age and account for 52% of the gaming audience
- 84% have broadband access at home
- “Middle-aged” women rule the $458 M online casual game market (70% of the gamers are female, over 40)
Women don’t control all of the decisions and purchases in a family or relationship…just the ones that count. Or as Vivian/Julia said, “I can do anything I want to baby, I ain’t lost.”
Solving Problems, Meeting Needs
While the industry may not be doing everything it can to assist/encourage female buyers. Women use the web for more than just “women only” sites. Unlike men they do research and they ask questions. The web has become their number one source for finding information. Women don’t want industry players to solve their problems. They simply want us to listen. It’s not that they haven’t told us…we just aren’t listening.
Women who struggle through web sites are very adept at finding sales, discounts, coupons and gift ideas. And if they are satisfied or dissatisfied, they are expressing themselves regarding stores and products online with their reviews, blogs. In fact according to a recent Pew Internet study:
- Women are more enthusiastic online communicators using email to exchange information and news
- Women appreciate the Internet’s strongest suit, efficiency
- Women are more likely to see the vast array of online information as a “glut” and to penetrate deeper into areas where they have the greatest interest
- The rate of growth of women using the internet for online activities is greater than men
- Younger and black women outpace their male peers
Just as the old saying that on the Internet no one knows if you’re a dog or not, it appears that no one knows if you’re male or female. But they certainly have different informational and decision making wants and needs.
Technology was traditionally more passive (watching TV, listening to the radio, reading the paper). Technology has empowered consumers. It has enabled them to create and mix their own content. It has opened the door to research products, technology more thoroughly. It has provided women an opportunity to express their likes, dislikes, needs more globally. If women don’t find products, technology that delivers for them they’ll look elsewhere immediately.
And find it they will…with the competition. It’s a lot like Voltaire said, “I hate women because they always know where things are.”
Companies that focus on what is important to women and treat them as a significant consumer can more quickly, more easily and more profitably tap into the other half of the world population. Are they more loyal? We can’t say yes with any degree of confidence. All we know is what Vivian/Julia said, “I’m gonna treat you so nice, you’re never gonna let me go.”