The art of customer segmentation and prediction fundamentally depends upon a few undisputable attributes; It’s sexist, ageist, nationist, locationist and most certainly spendist. These stereotypes and assumptions are some of the best tools in a digital marketer’s arsenal when it comes to segmenting audience and modeling behavior. They support marketers in building an image of the customer they are marketing to. This image, built upon slivers of demographic, live and historic data pieced together, helps predict the kind of behavior and actions they are likely to take.

However, whilst stereotypes are pre-eminently helpful in determining how to market to specific audiences, the challenge arises when we apply one stereotype broadly, forgetting the myriad other assumptions that more detailed information allow us to make.

Gender is an area where this broad brush stereotyping is at its worst. Marketers have long used male and female as catchall categories for segmentation. When we think of overt attempts to target a female skewed audience, the marketing world is filled with fluffy faux pas, with major attempts seeming to end in embarrassment. This can lead to some hilarious Amazon customer reviews if you recall the Bic ‘for Her’ pens!

However many female consumers are ignored or mistargeted in marketing efforts. The short sightedness of brands is inexcusable, given that women consumers control $20 trillion in consumer spending globally. Research shows that women make the final decision for buying a huge proportion of big-ticket items such as new cars, computers and home purchases. Women consumers drive over $12 trillion in global spending. And 22% of women consumers shop online every day, according to Ogilvy & Mather.

There are a few areas where marketers can look to appeal to the dominant force of women in consumer spending, without a diamante in sight.

1. Circle of influenceWomen are often influenced by and seek out peer opinions throughout the purchasing journey. This can be obtaining advice and product opinions from each other or broadcasting and amplifying messages about brands they champion. Integrating social media both in the retail experience and in data analysis is core to engaging this socially active segment of the female demographic

2. Support research and the decision making process – Demonstrating how a product can be used, enlisting the support of reviews and engaging the imagination are all very valuable in persuading shoppers to buy. Many female shoppers appreciate the ability to visualise what role a product will play in their lives, and how it will enable them or their friends and families to enjoy a certain kind of lifestyle. In general, men want to know: What is this technology? Is it cool? Is it powerful? In general, women want to know: What and where does this get me/us?

3. Pay close attention to design and user experience – Female shoppers are generally speaking highly attuned to presentation. In store, marketers should be aware of spaces and messaging according to what women want to know about products, as well as how women buy. For example, the basics are well-lit car parks, clean environments, approachable staff, clear product information and service policies. This can translate online to things like promotions geared to specific female demographics, such as mothers shopping with children or “money-rich, time-poor” heads of households, can help create better user experiences. For instance, Nordstrom has an unconditional return policy that makes it easy to shop quickly and unable to try things on in store.

The future of marketing understands the power of women as consumers but doesn’t merely take that huge demographic swathe as one unit. Taking a common denominator and ignoring other vital information risks alienating your customer and creating a shamefully basic image of their wants and needs.

Women clearly don’t respond to the ‘shrink it, pink it’ mantra of lazy female marketing. Digital marketers looking to tap into the huge consumer power wielded by women need to show a more sophisticated approach to this consumer common denominator. Wise marketers will actively court specialised female customer segments. “Money-rich but time-poor” female heads of household, or older (post-50-year-old) well-heeled career women, are hugely lucrative markets.

Understanding these segments within segments and stereotypes within stereotypes requires better data and better analysis that the male/female catch all allows. Genders become just one aspect in a detailed picture when marketers take this approach. Marketing by stereotype then becomes personalised marketing, where we address the needs of each individual, just they way they are.


By Diane Kegley, CMO at RichRelevance. 

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