Monday, October 30, 2006

The 80% Minority Doesn't Shop Alone

The New York Times has a quite interesting article by Mickey Meece on the increasing attention that sellers are paying to women, the "80% minority" who make most household purchasing decisions. For example, when Best Buy figured out that women were shaping more like 90% of consumer electronics decisions, and outspending men $55 billion to $41 billion on the kind of gadgets they sell, they redesigned their selling strategy to be more female-friendly.

The article has examples of smart sellers in industry after industry who are figuring out who they should be selling to. And more power to them. I hope they all reap a competitive advantage, and that more women get better service.

What is surprising to me about this article, though, is that all of these women are presented as doing their buying alone. No husbands or boyfriends figure in these purchasing stories. It is one thing to recognize the great importance of women buyers, and likewise to recognize the importance of women earners, who spend their own money. But it seriously distorts the picture of purchasing reality to leave men out altogether. Women do make most household purchasing decisions. But they do so mostly in married, or marriage-oriented, households, working together with their husbands.

The next step, therefore, should be when retailers figure out how to sell to couples purchasing together.


Edith OSB said...

I've noticed this dichotomized thinking in many gender studies. There is a focus on "who made the decision" rather than "how the decision was made."

My students do observation reports from a variety of settings. Many of them work in retail establishments, and the bulk of their reports detail various styles and patterns of information giving and seeking, disagreement about priorities, and purchasing styles that range from nearly solo (the husband or wife just stands around and offers no opinion) to mutual (they talk until they agree).

To some extent, I suspect this finding that women make the decisions is, at least in part, an artifact of the research method.

Gruntled said...

This is like the "head of household" problem that the Census Bureau backed itself into. They don't have a check box for "we head the household together." In fact, some influential people who write about families -- James Dobson, for example -- think that families can have only one head.

rebecca bush said...

A fun anecdote:

While shopping at Best Buy for a video game to give my boyfriend, I received help from no fewer than 5 male customer service reps.

Either they’ve started their “female-friendly selling strategies” or electronics geeks are really attracted to the idea of women playing Star Wars video games.

The next step in this case would be for Best Buy to offer me female customer service reps so that someone can answer the question: "Which video game will annoy girlfriend the least."