By Patricia Roberts
Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases, including everything from automobiles to healthcare, and they spend about $5 trillion annually – about half of the U.S. gross domestic product.
It is predicted that over the next decade women will control two-thirds of consumer wealth in the U.S. and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in our country’s history. And yet, some establishments including automotive repair shops have difficulty attracting and retaining the female consumer’s business. Why?
Let’s begin with the basics the shop.
Before you invite the female consumer into your place of business, do an inspection. Women notice when the establishment is not neat and odor-free. Are the floors and furniture clean and free of stains and debris? How about the items on the walls and windows: are they inviting or could they be offensive to your customers or female employees? What about those bathrooms are they inviting or fit only for the most daring woman?
Are all of your employees treated with dignity and respect and aware of what is acceptable behavior in the workplace? Are your employees trained to communicate more effectively with women?
Women are relational buyers and men are transactional buyers. This means that women and men communicate and make decisions very differently. Before any time and money is spent on marketing, make sure that you and your employees are ready to invite the female consumers into your place of business. The store needs to be clean, neat, and the employees must be properly trained and prepared.
Examining the Market
As a whole, women are the primary consumer in the U.S., not a niche market. They have become the majority consumer with large ticket items like homes, automobiles, electronics and personal computers. They represent 52% of the population and are becoming more educated, with 41% having undergraduate or graduate degrees.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that women are a specialty market and require less of a marketing budget. Make sure you have a fully dedicated budget behind your marketing plan and the continued commitment to not only attract, but also retain, their business.
What does your marketplace look like? Who are the primary consumers? Where do they get their information before they make their purchases? Demographic information can be found with your local chamber of commerce, which is a great starting place for planning how you are going to get more than your fair share of the female market.
Social Media and You
Do not dismiss the importance of the Internet. Women have become the majority of web users and do the most online shopping in the U.S. In fact, 22% shop online at least once a day, while 92% pass along information about deals they find to others.
The majority of women turn to the Internet to do their research before they enter into a place of business. And they rely on social media like Twitter, My Space, Facebook and LinkedIn for reliable information about products and services. Are you utilizing these sites? Do you have your own blog? Is your website female friendly? Is your site connected with other sites that women would ordinarily visit? Are you doing any co-branding or linking to sites that are also female friendly? Do you have any coupons to offer for service at your place of business?
Social networking is here to stay, so make sure you are using it properly to reach the women in your marketplace. Not participating in all the available media directly affects your bottom line.
A Common Misconception
Some dealers might think if they focus on marketing to women, they’ll alienate their male customers. On the contrary, focusing on women will deliver the best to everyone.
Women tend to stop and ask for assistance, which means that they will demand more in terms of customer touch points in all areas, including products, services and marketing campaigns. So if you incorporate more education and information into products, services or your website, you are sure to give men more than they thought to ask for. Everyone wants good information to make good decisions and to be treated with dignity and respect….in other words, “Treat everyone like mom.”
Make sure you have identified the best ways to strengthen your customer touch points to the higher standards of women to ensure that they gain approval on their own merit as plain and simple customer service or marketing enhancements.
Patricia Roberts is the director of business development for AskPatty.com, Inc. She brings more than 39 years of experience in the automotive industry, including increasing the number of women who own, work in and shop in automotive businesses.