Litmus: Gender On The Net
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Gender on the Net: Why It Matters, Where It’s Missing, How It Should Work

Gender on the Net: Why It Matters, Where It’s Missing, How It Should Work

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  • 1. LITMUS Gender on the Net Why It Matters, Where It’s Missing, How It Should Work Gender and E-Commerce: Learning from the 3D World Broadly speaking, WOMEN AND MEN SHOP DIFFERENTLY OFFLINE. Women’s shopping is more hedonic and frequent, men’s is more utilitarian. We know this intuitively from our everyday experience with members of our own gender and the other. We confront both exaggerated and nuanced versions of this truth in the media. In sitcoms, movies, and standup, there is a rich parade of stereotypes that sketch the gender divide: “She be shoppin’, he be waitin’,” in the words of one comedian. We might also recognize that consumerism has female and male guises from the volume and types of print magazines and e-zines successfully targeting women or men as consumers. “There have always been gender lines in magazine publishing, but these days they’re drawn more vividly,” writes Business Week. “Advertising Age just selected its “A-List” of 2005’s top magazines, and...it shouldn’t surprise that the top six are aimed at women.” (Jon Fine, Business Week online, “Where the Boys Aren’t,” November 7, 2005) Finally, we should recognize that advertising addresses and portrays male and female consumers differently, though how effective ads have been in keeping pace with gender trends is the subject of much debate. According to Marti Barletta, AdAge.com columnist and author of the book, Marketing to Women, “The woman of the house is its Chief Purchasing Officer. She makes 80% of household buying decisions—including products most people think of as male-dominated, like cars, computers, and consumer electronics. It’s taken advertisers in these categories a while to catch on, but just recently I’m starting to see advertising which recognizes that women are motivated by different messages, get their information from different sources, and prefer a very different purchase process than men.” If men and women are widely acknowledged to be different kinds of shoppers, to have different relationships with shopping as an activity and as a value, wouldn’t these differences also play out online? Despite early conjecture that the Internet might neutralize gender, don’t we now know from the sum total of diverse online activities that women and men engage, pursue, play, self-invent, explore, escape, and shop in recognizably female/male ways? www.resource.com ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  • 2. Can we prove this with a vengeance for online merchants? Can we also confirm our suspicion that online merchants for the most part treat their web sites as androgynous zones, differentiating along demographic lines quite proficiently but not at all along the he/she line? Couldn’t gender be the simplest customer segmentation there is for e-merchants? Scope of Study These questions provoked an extensive study, which led to a sense of urgency O Spanned four months about a colossal missed opportunity for e-commerce. WE NEED TO GENDERIZE O Tested in San Francisco and WEB SITES. We need to take advantage of the Web’s potential for customization Columbus, Ohio markets and use gender as the springboard from some design overhauls that would vastly O Tracked 326,000 purchases enhance online brand experiences—and conversion rates. over our quarters Involved 250 hours of one- Testing the Prevailing Wisdom O on-one engagement with 25 men and 25 women, Gender stereotypes are indispensable to the media and to the construction of our ages 25-60 identities, so much so that when gender images fail to reflect or depict real-life O Focused primarily on four product categories: complex roles, as a Leo Burnett study, Metros vs. Retros: Are Marketers Missing Flowers/Gifts, Apparel, Real Men?, argues they have recently in advertising, the media becomes less Home Improvement, and relevant and people search elsewhere for reliable touchstones. We decided to test Consumer Electronics the validity of a few prevailing marketing industry notions about gender and retail O First presented as The (both bricks and clicks) and were perhaps not surprised to discover that they too are Gender Agenda as a not keeping pace with the rapidly evolving nature and role of the Internet. keynote at the Shop.org 2005 Annual Summit O Principal Research Partner: True or False? comScore Networks, a Offline and online shopping behaviors closely mirror each other. leading consumer behavior consultancy, whose Global Consumer Panel tracks TRUE, but this has not always been the case. O Paco Underhill observed in 2000 that women seek with single-mindedness and behaviors and attitudes year-round through both then promptly exit the net while men surf in open-ended fashion. Our data self-reporting and passive showed the opposite, that women’s and men’s online shopping is syncing up with observation their offline shopping patterns and preferences, with a few notable exceptions, O comScore Networks described later in this document. provided data from 150,000 online households on their Global Consumer Panel, and conducted a True or False? custom survey of over 1000 Women won’t ever do significant shopping online because they value their online participants. sense of touch and the ability to try on clothes and accessories too much. (A O Jupiter Research and less common, more complex but related assumption is that the Internet was ForeSee Results also and is still primarily programmed by men so reflects a male perceptual mode— contributed custom data. linear, sequential, reductionist, abstract—versus a feminine mode—holistic, simultaneous, synthetic, and concrete [Leonard Schlain, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess]. Hence, women are never going to be that wild about the medium.). FALSE, but the enthusiastic online female shopper is a relatively recent phenomenon. www.resource.com ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  • 3. O There were more women than men online in 2004. (Pew Internet American Life Project 2004) O Women represented 58% of total online spend vs. men’s 42% from April 2004–March 2005. (comScore Networks’ custom Behavioral Panel for Resource Interactive’s The Gender Agenda, June 2005) O Women report higher levels of satisfaction with e-commerce sites than men. (Foresee Results’ custom study for Resource Interactive’s The Gender Agenda, June 2005) O The average Internet user takes three years to become fully net-fluent, and women by and large have been online for three years. (Sarah Lacy, “Holiday Respondent Stats E-tailing’s Year of the Woman,” Business Week, January 4, 2005) O Live in either San Francisco or Columbus, OH for at O U.S. women over the age of 40 spend nearly 50% more time each week playing least five years online games than men (and are more likely to play online games daily than men O Go online more than once or teens.) (AOL 2005 study) a week for purposes other O Women on average complete more transactions than men, 2.9 vs. only 2.3 for than work or email men over the four quarters ending March 2005. (comScore Networks’ Behavioral O Made at least two online Panel April 2004-March 2005) purchases in the three months preceding the study True or False? O Half of the respondents Women or men clearly dominate certain product categories (online and off) due were under 40 years of age, to relatively stable product preferences tied to long-standing gender roles. half over O In Columbus, half of the FALSE, product categories are front and center in the battle of and for the sexes online. respondents came from O In Home Improvement, 54% of online shoppers are now women and they spend household incomes above $177 per buyer as compared to $165 for men. (comScore Networks’ Behavioral $50k, half from household incomes below $50k Panel, April 2004-March 2005) O In San Francisco, the O In Consumer Electronics, women now make up the majority of online shoppers. household income dividing (comScore Networks’ Behavioral Panel, April 2004-March 2005) line was $75,000 O In Consumer Electronics, however, men still spend 38% more per buyer, and generally on higher-ticket items, which they research more than women (39% vs. 31% of women). (comScore Networks’ Behavorial Panel, April 2004-March 2005) O In Apparel & Accessories, women comprise 67% of total online buyers, but men’s and women’s spending per buyer is comparable. Over four quarters ending March 2005, men spent $117 to women’s $128, evidence that shopping online makes even apparel & accessories more enticing to men. (comScore Networks’ Behavorial Panel, April 2004-March 2005) Probing Deeper: Emotional Insights Through Meta4SightSM To reach the emotional substrate of online shopping experiences for men and women, there was ample reason to approach the subject indirectly, and through www.resource.com ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  • 4. nonverbal means. Why? Because though we recognize the necessity and prevalence of gender stereotypes, most people are not entirely comfortable invoking them when describing themselves and the opposite gender. Second, brands live and breathe— and people have relationships with them—through metaphor. Resource Interactive’s Meta4SightSM research method probes the largely unconscious drivers of shopping, since the unconscious, according to some theories, dictates up to 95% of our behavior. The method owes a debt to Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman’s “metaphor elicitation technique,” the first patented marketing research tool in the United States. We drew highly considered responses to questions about shopping offline and online from collages and journals kept over a three-week period, and from probing but open-ended interviews. Cognitive maps were then formed for each gender online and offline as a way to capture and ultimately disentangle the web of positive and negative associations people have with shopping both channels. The most dramatic finding was this: MEN’S PRIMARY EMOTIONAL STATE SHIFTED FROM ANGST-RIDDEN IN OFFLINE RETAIL TO FEELINGS OF POWER ONLINE. To represent their feelings about shopping each channel, men cut and pasted images of traffic jams for offline but of runners triumphantly crossing the finish line for web shopping. For the latter, they talked of deals being sought and definitively won, of possessing the advantage of competitive information, of feeling like the prey offline but the predator online. www.resource.com ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  • 5. Women shifted from chiefly feeling entertained offline, where they viewed shopping as an important social ritual and sensual journey of discovery, to feeling empowered online. They relayed their feelings of empowerment not as the conquest of an invisible foe—as with men, but as the conquering of time, tasks, and personal limitations. Online, women felt self-paced, a positive shift from feeling pressured offline to buy and to make their time invested in shopping pay dividends. They also felt more focused on self-exploration, more uncompromising in their expectations of service and knowledge acquisition, and deeply gratified by those retailers who had anticipated their wants and needs. “I’m searching, you know. I’m trying to envision what I want. You could say I know where I’m headed, but I don’t necessarily know where I’m going to end up, and that’s half the fun.” — Veronica, 32 WOMEN ONLINE “Shopping is great people watching. My girlfriend and I take breaks between stores so we can have a drink and see what other people are wearing. We feed off the energy and ideas and, for a brief spell, we inhabit this fantasy world where fashion is the common denominator. It makes us feel we’re part of this great swirl of humanity, this crazy parade.” — Kathy, 56 WOMEN OFFLINE www.resource.com ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  • 6. “I like the convenience factor of shopping online and the sense of control… the huge power to know…you can comparison shop ten different stores without having to go to ten different places. You can find a lot more information than you would be able to do in a retail setting.” — Clint, 26 MEN ONLINE “There’s so much out there, boy, I’m really heading into the retail wilderness. I practically need a guide. It’s almost overwhelming.” — Mo, 48 MEN OFFLINE Behavioral Insights Through Replay UsabilitySM Resource Interactive’s REPLAY UsabilitySM is advanced usability that pairs the empirical study of videotaped online behavior with participants’ post-shopping narration in order to provoke deeper insights into why and how customers engage with web sites and other online marketing. This practice differs from standard usability in that moderator interference is kept to a minimum, and the videotaped replay of a user’s entire session online has the benefit of capturing what might otherwise be omitted: the less purposive and definitive, and the more meandering, www.resource.com ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  • 7. impulsive, repetitive, and opportunistic. Through several REPLAY sessions, we discovered two fundamental gender behavioral differences: Women Scan; Men Dig O REPLAY UsabilitySM research highlighted two determinants of this behavior. One, confirming the relevance of cognitive psychology and gestalt theory tenets, women do more synthesizing and are more visually oriented, and men do more analyzing online. Two, women are constituent-driven. In other words, they shop as much for others as for themselves, hence their need to move quickly across as many options as possible. O Most of the female participants spoke of their deep enthusiasm for the “View All” option. (REPLAY UsabilitySM) O Several female participants cited their preference (and aptitude) for shopping with multiple windows open simultaneously, clearly a case of “more is more.” (REPLAY UsabilitySM) O 65% of women consider online shopping to be like window shopping vs. 46% of men. (comScore Networks’ 2005 Attitudinal Survey) O Women are 1.5 times likelier to add items to the shopping cart for later viewing (carts are a winnowing tool that accommodates women’s stop-and-start shopping patterns), and are two times likelier to use visualization tools than men. (Jupiter Research 2005 Consumer Study) O Men are 20% more likely to use comparison tools than women, and were observed going to great lengths—and through however many shopping aggregator, retailer, promo code, and manufacturer sites as necessary—to find the price range, discounts, and features of their product. (REPLAY UsabilitySM) O In the Home Improvement product category, men are more likely than women to: compare multiple products, learn more about product specifications, read product reviews, check product ratings, and select a manufacturer or brand as a final shorthand to quality and satisfaction once the other criteria have been met. (REPLAY UsabilitySM) Women Expand the Mission; Men Stick to the Mission O Women are frankly more opportunistic than men online and enjoy the role retailers can play in provoking digressions. Due to their very entrenched multitasking behavior, women responded favorably to triggers such as “unique gifts” because they enable the accomplishment of smaller, less strategic tasks embedded within larger ones. To be paradoxical for a moment, women are simultaneously tangential and purposive shoppers. (REPLAY UsabilitySM) O Women take three times more tangents than men when shopping online, but most female participants spoke of themes, e.g., vacation, that connected diverse items. One woman, shopping for bathing suits, ended up buying a kayak. The www.resource.com ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  • 8. one underlying theme that rarely disappears for women, as we have seen, is their family and/or friends. (REPLAY UsabilitySM) O Men are twice as likely as women to buy online and pick up their purchase instore. This could be explained as a motivation to save shipping charges on large items. But men also rank the availability to ship immediately (and broad selection) higher in the top five relevant features and benefits than did women. (comScore Networks’ 2005 Attitudinal Survey) When queried, men stressed task completion—the need to have the product in hand before it can be checked off the “to do” list. (REPLAY UsabilitySM) By contrast, several women spoke of the pleasure of receiving packages long enough after the purchase had been made for there to be an element of surprise. (REPLAY UsabilitySM) Currently Catering to Neither Gender In searching for salient web site features that could accommodate any of the gendered shopping differences we uncovered, we found that e-commerce is, as we suspected, largely an androgynous zone. Web sites currently take their design cues from the assortment—from what is being sold, and less from what brand is behind the assortment and who is buying it (though persona-based site design is changing this). Many mass retailers’ home pages, for instance, are reminiscent of old five and dime storefronts, where as much merchandise as possible was displayed without regard for unifying principle beyond seasonal promotions. There is much to be learned from offline retail’s merchandising and branding best practices, and even more from offline consumer behaviors and attitudes—particularly as they pertain to the genders, but, again, few online merchants have attained much gender sophistication or differentiation. Recommendations: Fixing First Impressions The best way to begin leveraging the gender divide online is to debunk the myth about the genders’ respective aesthetic preferences: men prefer dense pages of tech specs and women prefer roomy lifestyle-oriented web pages. Resource Interactive’s aesthetic appeal methodology, @aGlance,SM showed that this myth likely derived from online merchants’ typical design treatment of product offers of varying appeal for the sexes. For instance, in Consumer Electronics, where men make the largest purchases, dense pages of tech specs are assumed to be men’s preference. @aGlanceSM demonstrated that the myth contains some truth, but misses the nuances: in terms of priority, not chronology, men are enticed by product, then lifestyle, and women are enticed by lifestyle, then product. www.resource.com ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  • 9. O The genders completely polarized over web sites that lacked a product reference point—men’s least favorite sites, and lacked any lifestyle imagery or text—women’s least favorite sites. Clever copywriting could entirely redeem an otherwise too literal, fact-based web page for women and a product clearly emphasized (whether desirable or not) could redeem an otherwise too inspirational/aspirational ad-like web page for men. O 57% of the men studied recalled product attributes and brands, despite the concealment of logos. They made 20% more “narrow view” mentions, and 15% more mentions of exact wording. O Women mentioned their feelings about overall web site design without prompting 31% more often than men. They also made 44% more “wide view” mentions (e.g., navigation features) and 75% more color-related mentions. The Aesthetic Favorite Of eighteen top-ranking web sites (to minimize bias, Resource Interactive’s clients were omitted and all brand logos were concealed), Williams-Sonoma.com emerged as the favorite of both genders due to two factors. O First, there was a balance between the featured product(s) and lifestyle marketing (context and copy that goes beyond vital statistics). This is the simplest way to cater to both genders. O Second, diverse images on web pages (pages not obviously representing a theme such as gifting or entertaining, a season, or products “in the spotlight” as on williams-sonoma.com) possessed a single-narrative potential. In other words, to borrow from film, there was a logic of montage at work. Generally, in representing several diverse products, their disparity ceases to be an aesthetic drawback or distraction if product images can subtly be woven together as a story, if the lawnmower, deck chairs, and fire pit can be perceived as a montage of outdoor living. Resource’s @aGlanceSM showed that if the retailer doesn’t provide the narrative The @aGlanceSM sessions tested eleven other (antipodal sets of) aesthetic criteria beyond lifestyle vs. product. In all but one set, the genders’ preferences polarized to varying degrees. For example, most female participants preferred a slight degree of variation (compared to men’s preference for consistency), but not so much that navigation, for instance, seemed erratic. Color per se showed up as various other preferences—for lifestyle embellishment of product, for accent (women), and for sharpness (men). Finally, the single exception to the genders polarizing was in unity/ fragmentation; neither responded favorably to fragmentation. www.resource.com ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  • 10. The following chart shows the overall results: MALE AESTHETIC FEMALE AESTHETIC PREFERENCES PREFERENCES SYMMETRY ASYMMETRY SIMPLICITY COMPLEXITY ECONOMY INTRICACY ACTIVENESS STASIS NEUTRALITY ACCENT CONSISTENCY VARIATION EMPHASIS EVENNESS DEPTH FLATNESS SINGULARITY JUXTAPOSITION SHARPNESS DIFFUSION UNITY FRAGMENTATION Building Bi-Gendered Web Sites It is only a slight exaggeration to suggest that factoring in the two genders’ discrete shopping patterns and proclivities is the simplest segmentation available to online merchants. If other customer segmentation schemes are being utilized, male/ female shopping characteristics can be appended to make the former work harder. There are a handful of recently implemented gender best practices online that warrant mention. Restoration Hardware has used customer personas—specifically a male, female, and a male/female couple—to chart task-based paths through their web site. To accommodate women’s tangential tendencies, P&G recently brought the web site experience to their Head & Shoulders banners by offering product samples and seven hair care tips “in-banner,” so that women could multi-task while continuing on their paths. www.resource.com ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  • 11. The newly launched gap.com takes big strides towards bi-gendered marketing by mimicking offline gender shopping habits. Toby Lenk, president of Gap Inc. Direct, the company’s corporate catalog and online division, said the mouse-overs and popup windows eliminated the need to bounce the shopper off her browsing path each time she needed information…”A lot of this was borrowing metaphors from the store experience,” Mr. Lenk said. “When a woman walks into one of our stores, she can process things really quickly. Like when she’s browsing the racks, she takes a quick look at what the sizes and colors are, picks up something and keeps going. We’re trying to let her stay with the fashion.” (Bob Tedeschi, “New Approach From Gap to Cut Down on Clicks,” The New York Times, E-commerce Report, September 12, 2005.) So What Can You Do? O Start by creating gendered scenarios that chart customized paths from home page to checkout while accommodating women’s scanning and men’s digging. Specifically, on these paths, make comparison tools, product reviews and ratings handy for men, and visualization tools handy for women. Enable women to explore and accumulate options, and men to annotate their choices, which they are doing anyway, online and off. O Design “comfort zones” that suggest alternate paths for both genders on pages where differentiation is otherwise not feasible. In these zones, satisfy the female shopper’s desire for inspirational context and color, and the male shopper’s penchant for loving scrutiny of solitary products (instead of one-dimensional white goods on white backgrounds, use photography worthy of a movie close-up, plus ratings, and more complete compare and contrast info). O Finally, reinvent the shopping cart so that it acts as a “Shopping Hub” where both genders can, to paraphrase the Rolling Stones, get some satisfaction. Make the product addition process “drag and drop” and the product deletion and balance adjustment process instantaneous for women. Keep the “hub” itself persistent throughout the site to accommodate better women’s tangents and men’s tireless searches. Enable annotation of choices (for men) and emailing of lists to friends for both genders. Conclusion It could be said that androgyny, while a legitimate fashion stance, is a short-sighted marketing strategy. Online, it is the opportunity cost of those retailers’ web sites designed for the largest undifferentiated audience in a medium whose potential for customized or niche marketing is unprecedented. While there is a new chorus of marketing experts exhorting businesses to cease overlooking some of their increasingly powerful segments—including women, Boomers, and the alpha male redux—there are few businesses focusing on both genders in a differentiated fashion. It is no easy task to reconcile a bi-gendered approach to marketing with the www.resource.com ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  • 12. gender identity of the brand itself, or the dominant target audience, which is often largely one gender or the other. It is a mistake, though, to assume that the Web does not make this task easier. In this medium, the consumer’s every interaction reveals preferences, dissatisfactions, obstacles, infatuations, behind which are male and female shoppers. A phased approach to gendered web site design that culminates in simple he/she scenarios, aided by software platforms like ATG that provide mechanisms to model and manage scenarios based on a customer’s profile and/or actions, will accommodate the very real behavioral differences between the sexes. As we have learned, most of these gender differences carry over from the offline world, but one most decidedly does not: men actually enjoy shopping online. About Resource Interactive Resource Interactive is one of the nation’s preeminent digital marketing agencies, helping Fortune 500 companies thrive in the evolving internet economy with award-winning digital strategy, creative and technology solutions. Known for its revolutionizing consumer insights, leading edge interactive design and technological innovation, Resource Interactive is ranked among the top ten independent interactive agencies in the nation. Unique in the industry as female-founded, owned and operated, Resource Interactive has grown over its 28-year history from its first marketing relationship with Apple to ongoing partnerships with clients such as Procter & Gamble, Hewlett- Packard, The Coca-Cola Company, Victoria’s Secret, Sherwin-Williams and L.L. Bean, among others. For more information, visit www.resource.com. Contributing to this report: Comscore Networks comScore Networks provides unparalleled insight into consumer behavior and attitudes. This capability is based on a massive, global cross-section of more than 2 million consumers who have given comScore explicit permission to confidentially capture their browsing and transaction behavior, including online and offline purchasing. comScore panelists also participate in survey research that captures and integrates their attitudes and intentions. Through its patent-pending technology, comScore measures what matters across a broad spectrum of behavior and attitudes. comScore consultants apply this deep knowledge of customers and competitors to help clients design powerful marketing strategies and tactics that deliver superior ROI. comScore services are used by global leaders such as AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Verizon, Best Buy, The Newspaper Association of America, Tribune Interactive, ESPN, Nestlé, Bank of America, Universal McCann, the United States Postal Service, GlaxoSmithKline and Orbitz. For more information, please visit www.comscore.com. www.resource.com ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  • 13. Litmus Test Circle 3-Yes, 2-Occasionally, or 1-Not at all to evaluate your web site’s gender- friendliness, its gender EQ (Emotional Quotient), if you will. 1. Can your web pages displaying diverse products tell a single, uncomplicated 3 2 1 tale? (Borrowing from the movies, we’ve called this the logic of montage.) 2. Is there a balance between lifestyle and product focus throughout your site? 3 2 1 3. Have you created comfort zones where the gender least likely to be engaged 3 2 1 can find a sympathetic sensibility, an alternate path? 4. Did you employ gender-inflected scenarios when building your customers’ 3 2 1 discrete paths? 5. Can men make product comparisons, read reviews and shipping information 3 2 1 easily, then be reassured about their choices through prominent branding? 6. Can women be tempted by interesting digressions on your site, feel as if they were merely window shopping and still have easy and fast filtering of the widest 3 2 1 assortment possible? 7. Is your shopping cart multi-purpose and persistent? 3 2 1 How Did You Score Over 17? Congratulations! Both genders are at home on your web site. Between 11-16? Room for more gender differentiation—and accommodation. 10 or Less? Your site is one-size-fits-all. You should consider a gender opportunity audit. 343 North Front Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215 ph 614 621 2888 ph 800 550 5815 fx 614 621 2873 www.resource.com FOR MORE INFORMATION, EMAIL: inquiry@resource.com www.resource.com ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.