an understanding of how others perceive, consider, emote, and finally act with
regard for their experiences. Coming from a design orientation, we call these
individuals designers of experience.
Designers of Experience. The designer of experience’s job is to coordinate the
touchpoints – gossip mills, online blogs, broadcast TV advertising, planes towing
banners, riding a mountain bike, listening to a radio account, climbing a mountain
– to leave the customer with an impression that Company would like him or her
to remember and act on, now or in the future. This is an imprecise science. In
any situation, themes and touchpoints are many. Since the customer can mix
and match touchpoints and meanings (even unintentionally); and because the
score can be interrupted or disturbed by “noise” in the phenomenal environment
– the customer’s momentary gestalt, his or her Buying Experience, may differ
from what the designer of experience intended.
This is true of conventional marketing, too, however. There is no absolute
certainty when dealing with human beings
Although our tools for designing experiences are still primitive, it is possible to
imagine a future when the company or the customer can turn on or turn off the
machinery of experience. But the overall Buying Experience will remain,
because it does not rely on technology but is created of human perception,
cognition, memory, anticipation, and action, loops of meaning continuously
Merlin’s Buying Experience
Trend Analysis. With it’s most recent sale, Merlin recovered financial stability.
It now has an opportunity to craft a Buying Experience that resonates with its
customers precisely as it desires. The process for doing this is fairly
1. Collect information that describes the company and its environment: local,
global, or both. These are its coordinates.
2. Identify and describe trends in the larger world that bear on the company
based on its coordinates.
3. Divide individual and small groups of trends into clusters that we shall call
4. Using the meta-trends, brainstorm all of the ways that a company can be
affected by these meta-trends.
(Scenario Planning. At this point, we have the option of creating scenarios
against which we can test our assumptions regarding the company’s future
performance. We can select an optimal path into the future using business
wayfinding techniques and also describe paths that may not be optimal but which
are more likely. By the time the exercise is over, weeks or months later, we are
prepared for every contingency and operating as a team – which are the two
essential purposes of scenario planning.)
Let’s continue on without engaging in scenario planning at this time, though we
likely will return.
Theme Creation. This time we use the meta-trends for another purpose, to
choose themes that describe the company as it wishes to be in the future,
keeping in mind the environmental conditions described by the trends. The
themes are its corporate “marching orders.”
Themes can be as broad in Merlin’s case as “the leading retail high-tech vendor
in Northern Europe” (or “the world”) or as narrow as “the most woman-friendly
retailer in Denmark” or some entirely different category of aspiration (“a good
corporate citizen” or “ecological by design”). These are reputational markers. If
customers then report on being asked that Merlin is the leading retail high-tech
vendor in Northern Europe, it tells us that the Buying Experience we have crafted
for Merlin, based upon that theme, is soundly constructed.
If that isn’t what customers tell us, then after listening to what they do tell us, we
may be able to fix that aspect of the Buying Experience that isn’t producing the
correct impression. Perhaps service needs improvement or dealing with a
certain supplier is dragging the company down. If we have available a previously
researched, baseline Buying Experience – an inventory of how people feel about
the company on different dimensions – we can compare what changes have
taken place and attempt to alter the overall gestalt.
One of the unintended consequences of this type of design is that it
transformational; that is changes may occur in the customer, but they also occur
within Merlin. It may become more sensitive to its customers’ needs; or it may
become philanthropic, eco-sensitive, or greatly concerned with quality. Individual
human beings can set these processes in motion, but often they occur
serendipitously, the company mirroring the changes it is promoting in its
customers via its Buying Experience.
* * *
Before it can set about designing its Buying Experience, however, Merlin has a
serious problem to resolve. How to entice more women and girls to become
customers more than just one time?
It’s a difficult goal that few retailers have attained. If Merlin can find a way to
attract and keep female customers, it can vastly increase its customer base, its
sales, and its ability to influence the business environment, a key to industry
Merlin: Innovating to Acquire and Retain
Women and Girls as ITC Retail Customers
A Report to Merlin by Gemba Innovation
Robert Jacobson, Ph.D., Senior Consultant
Introduction and Mission Statement
Merlin management wants more women and girls as customers. This
correct goal sounds simple. But it’s not. Many computer and high-
tech retailers have tried to get women and girls onboard as regular,
loyal customers; few have succeeded. This report discusses the the
trends that led to this conundrum, describes efforts by companies to
escape it, and concludes with recommendations for innovations and
innovative methods that Merlin can use to breaking out of the ITC1
industry’s cultural trap ahead of its competitors.
Women and girls comprise a majority of computer, cellphone, and
high-tech entertainment users; clearly they are buying, or getting
others to buy for them, these products and services. But since no
vendor has crafted a reliable strategy for attracting and keeping
women and girls as customers, they tend to buy in ad hoc fashion,
responding to the environment and situation in which a purchasing
decision has to be made: a physical store or online store.
ITC stands for “Information Technology and Communication.”
In short, women and girls go where they know products and services
are on sale and, holding their noses, do what they must to acquire the
things they need. Any store will do because they collectively fail to
speak to women and girls. This behavior leaves retailers and the
manufacturers who supply them scratching their heads.
Merlin is right to address this question, even if a strategy isn’t there
for the taking from a computer/high-tech supplier or competitor. The
numbers of women and girls who use computers and gear – and in
the case of cellphones, services – is skyrocketing, in Denmark as it is
around the world. If it can reach women and girls as its competitors
have not, it will have access to purchasing power that the typical
male-biased retailer does not. If in so doing it transforms itself
internally to become more “female friendly,” Merlin may have another
competitive advantage: with women and girls as its informants,
Merlin may be able to more quickly and accurately detect and market
new uses for products and services across all customer segments,
because women and girls are sure innovators.
Most retail computer and high-tech users favor social applications of
technology over technical applications, but women and girls excel in
this regard. But not all social applications pass muster. Although the
videogaming industry regularly trots out female exceptions to the rule,
in fact women and girls do not gravitate to highly competitive, sexual,
or violent videogames. Similarly, they may use office technology on
the job or in school, but women and girls tend not to be major fans at
home of technical software (like spreadsheets and project
management tools). These male-oriented products take a distant
second place to tools for socializing and network-building, like photo
software, cellphone services that support rather than defeat
communication (as do the many services pitched at “18-34 year-old
males,” a minority among cellphone users).
This situation is indicative of the trap in which Merlin and other
computer and high-tech retailers are held captive: products and
services created by manufacturers and service providers
overwhelmingly staffed and led by men embody male behaviors and
perspectives. In fact, the entire computer industry is seen by most
women and girls as hostile; even alien. (The mobile industry is a little
different, as its basic commodity – ease of communication – plays
directly to the No. 1 capacity sought after by women and girls: the
ability to socialize. More on this later.)
Merlin thus faces several challenges as it prepares to address the
female segment of its existing and future customer base.
• First, Merlin must deal with its own corporate persona and how
it currently speaks to women and girls – or doesn’t.
• Second, it must contend with the retro attitudes expressed by
manufacturers, suppliers, and other competitors in the products
and services they produce and dispense; and the way they sell
them. (Admittedly, change is in the air, but so far efforts in this
direction have been token and often counterproductive.)
• Third, it must replace the focus on technology historically
associated with the sale of technology with a concern for the
uses of technology, and in particular how women and girls use
technology – or would, if it served their needs.
• Lastly, Merlin may wish to reexamine its core business: is it
selling stuff or enabling lifestyles? Merlin’s current slogan, “A
magic world of low prices,” is ambiguous at best and irrelevant.
For most women and many girls, daily life isn’t about magic.
(Maybe magic in the sense of love for partner, children, friends,
and community.) Daily life is about getting things done:
running a household, raising children, and keeping in touch with
valued communities of family and friends. Price is important,
but not all determining. Communication is more important.
Later in this report, we will suggest innovations (and methods of
innovating that Merlin itself can employ) to meet these challenges.
First, however, we examine some of the trends that are elevating
women and girls as a primary market segment and that form the
context for Merlin’s new strategies. We then investigate how other
companies and organizations, in and out of the retail computer and
high-tech business, are coming to terms with selling to women and
girls or otherwise facilitating their participation as producers as well
as consumers in the sector. The innovation suggestions are this
report’s conclusion, a taking-off point for Merlin in the 21st Century.
Trends Bearing on Women and Girls as
Participants in the Information Society and
Consumers of Computers and High Technology
Two meta-trends – coherent aggregations of individual trends –
intersect to create a primary nexus, a conceptual/social space that
Merlin inhabits and in which it must develop and implement its next
The first of these meta-trends is, of course, the emergence (and
convergence) of computing and communications as a giant,
fundamental retail industry commonly known as ITC. This trend
began in the 1970s with the creation of the first personal computers,
accelerated in the 1980s with the introduction of competition to the
telecommunications business, and went into hyper-drive in the 1990s
as the Internet became a global utility, an enabler providing great
value at relatively low cost. In the 2000s, it can be argued, ITC
shares economic dominance with the energy, transportation, and
food industries (each of which relies heavily on ITC for its operations).
Unlike these other mega-industries, however, ITC also has a
personal dimension: individuals and small organizations can
participate as ITC producers as well as consumers of ITC products
These trends are best summarized in the many Pew Foundation research
studies found online. A well-known and heavily cited Pew study that describes
the different experiences of men and women online is attached to this report. Its
findings in many ways apply also to men and women’s (and boys and girls’)
experiences with “offline” technologies: TVs, GPS, MP3 players, and so forth.
and services – of value itself.
For the most part, men have precipitated, planned, and implemented
the strategies that led to this meta-trend’s occurrence and its
The second meta-trend is the new respect given women and girls in
modern societies and its consequences for how women and girls now
live, learn, work, play, and act in civil society. Throughout history,
individual women have occupied privileged and even leadership
positions in society. But this meta-trend affecting all women (and
girls) in modern societies got its start with the official abolition of
slavery, the diminished authority of male-hierarchical religions, and
the entry of women into the workforce and citizenry, all occurring
more or less in the late 19th and 20th Centuries. In the 1960s,
feminism became a driving force that through cultural influence and
political action created conditions that enable women and girls to lead
fuller, self-determined lives.
Many men may have sympathized and collaborated with this
movement, but essentially it was women themselves who forced the
Thus we might say that the intersection of ITC’s rise and women’s
empowerment is also where male and female values collide.
This collision has created the social and economic context within
which Merlin must conduct its business and evolve to maximize its
Descending from the lofty heights of meta-trend spotting, at ground
level we can identify specific trends that bear on Merlin’s operations.
In the ITC realm, the development of personal technology enlarges
the population of buyers from a relatively few large companies and
agencies to encompass nearly everyone. As consumers of
personalized products and services, individuals now wield enormous
power to accept or reject new products and services, and to demand
and create markets for products and services that do not yet exist.
In the realms of business and government, large organizations may
still exercise control; but in the realm of personal technology, the
balance of power has shifted to the individual.
Theoretically, each individual in the market exercises power
regarding the availability of products and services, and how they are
sold, based on his or her buying power. And based on the second
meta-trend, we might expect that women and girls, even if they have
not yet achieved full economic parity with men and boys, now
exercise buying power they did not have before. In fact, they do,
directly as buyers for themselves and as determiners of family
purchases. Hard evidence is coming in that to support the conclusion
intuitively reached by many retailers that women in family situations in
fact exert greater control over these decisions then their male
partners. (This is true for almost every type of business that sells to
The problem for Merlin and its peer retailers is that the lines of social
communication within the ITC industry are addled. Two separate
cultures and languages exist among men and women (and boys and
girls). Men often value technology as an end in itself, that one
conforms his behavior to what technology makes possible. Women,
on the other hand, value behaviors – particularly social behaviors –
more than they do technology; technology is useful only to the extent
that it accommodates valued behaviors. In other words, the two
genders have reversed means and ends.
Of course, this is a gross generalization, but it is sufficiently true to
produce the current loggerhead that has kept women from entering or
enjoying those environments in the physical world and online (the
virtual world) that glorify technology. When women as consumers
express their needs, either directly or by withholding their business,
their expressions are often misunderstood or not understood at all by
the men who run the ITC industry.
This dichotomy is palpable. A great deal of energy has been invested
to create professional organizations like Women in Technology
International (WITI) and institutions like the National Center for
Women in Technology (NCWIT) in North America. These marshal
corporate, academic, and government resources to find common
ground for men and women with regard to ITC. They rely on a mix of
cultural influence and concrete action to bridge the gap separating
men and women in the ITC community (for example, by encouraging
girls to consider careers in ITC and by sensitizing male executives to
women’s ways of seeing things from within and outside the ITC
So far, these initiatives have achieved marginal success. In North
America at least, women remain vastly underrepresented in the ITC
community in every subsector – academic, government, and
corporate – with two exceptions. One is the entrepreneurial
subsector: women occupy proportionately more commanding
positions in small companies than they do in larger ones. In
Scandinavia, where social norms differ, women also hold more power
in government institutions. The other exception is the “C” of ITC,
communications. Particularly in mobile services and new media,
women often occupy influential positions, as for example the chief
designer for Nokia, who is a woman. But often these women’s
influence doesn’t trickle down to the world of retail.
Consequently, retailers like Merlin who perceive a problem frequently
turn to their design and marketing divisions, and their advertising
agencies, to hammer out company-specific programs for attracting
women and girls as customers. Because women have been
important actors in design, marketing, and advertising since the
1970s, they are more abundant and influential in these “soft” but
important business fields then they are in, say, manufacturing,
operations, and finance. More recently, social scientists including
ethnographers have been called in to provide the design, marketing,
and advertising professionals with a sounder knowledge about
women and girls as customers. Probably half of these social
scientists are women.
Nevertheless, the success of these company-specific campaigns has
been problematic, perhaps because being in business inherently
encourages formulating concrete objectives based on empirical data
and discourages intuitive decisionmaking based on subjective
analysis. That is, women in business may “tune down” their
identification with women in general and therefore not provide
sufficient countervailing force to men’s limited understanding and
positions regarding how best to attract women customers.
Again, this may be less true in the communication and media
industries, where subjective judgments are more the norm. But so
far, the ITC industry generally, including retailers, has had mixed
results for its efforts.
Remedying this situation within Merlin’s own organization and among
its service providers will be important as Merlin prepares to innovate
its way out of the ITC industry’s self-made cultural trap.
We now summarize some representative efforts made by companies
to attract women and girls as customers and their outcomes to the
extent they have been reported.
Women and Girls as Customers: What’s Been
Tried, Accomplished, and Learned So Far
Without being mystical about it, women (and girls) have a special
relationship with technology. This relationship isn’t based on fear or
disinterest, which was the prevailing cliché in the last century and
right up to today. It’s based on an understanding of technology as a
means to an end, that end being in most cases to create and sustain
important social relations, educate children, or locate and secure the
necessities of life for the family and one’s larger circle of friends.
For different reasons at different times, agencies and companies
have tried to cater to women’s relationship with technology. In the
1930s and 1940s, this relationship was glorified as women’s labor
became essential to national security. In the post-war years, it
ceased to be about production and became about consumption, so
that women were “demoted” intellectually: so long as they could buy
things, it was less necessary that they know how things work. Never
mind that many men were just as baffled by ITC and its workings.
Women were given a special dispensation to be unknowing.
Now that the ability to produce value has become so widely
distributed across modern societies, women’s and girls’ relationship
to technology has once again become problematic. In most people’s
hearts, women’s ability to deal with technology on equal terms with
men is desirable in terms of “fairness,” important to their ability to
earn a living and have a role in civic society. There are laws on the
books to ensure that technology doesn’t become a divisive social
factor – for example, requiring equal access to communications
media. But the fact remains that men and women are different in the
way they see and act in the world, and how they speak about it – and
this flavors everything, including the way they respectively participate
in the buying experience.
The Buying Experience is a term Gemba uses to describe every
experience, intentionally devised or otherwise, that contributes to the
decision to buy – or not buy – a product or service. It is also known
as the customer experience. Sometimes it is more narrowly defined
as the shopping experience. Whatever we call it, understanding and
shaping the buying experience to fit the needs, wants, and behaviors
of desired customers is important to commercial success. For years
this has been known intuitively; some businesses got it and
prospered, others didn’t and went away. Today, knowledge of and
fascination with the buying experience is at the cutting edge of
modern business, abetted by the fact that with the ITC now available,
it’s possible to shape and manipulate the buying experience as never
Why is it, then, that companies struggle to reach women as
prospective customers and to retain their loyalty despite being better
equipped than ever to amplify the buying experience? Based on the
experience of companies that have tried, and pollsters’ and other
researchers’ conversations with women, we know that women, when
confronted with technological buying opportunities, want these things:
1. First and foremost, women want to be acknowledged as
having their own perspective on technology and its value,
which is different from but as valid as men’s. Anything less
and the rest of the prescriptions go out the door. Obviously,
there needs to be an expression on the part of the retailer that it
understands and respects women on this point. This isn’t just a
philosophical position. Individual women often express this
exact sentiment when surveyed by market researchers.
2. Women want to be spoken with – not “to” – on their
own terms. It may be that most men are incapable of doing
this when it comes to technology as a thing to own and use for
reasons that are organic. Whether men can or can’t is a
subjective question with no easy metric, only whether a woman
or women feel the dialogue is going well. Extrapolating to the
store setting (physical or online), the quality of the collective or
synthetic conversation becomes at issue: whether the people
staffing the store and their trainers, or the individuals who built
the website, are able to speak on the women’s terms.
3. Women’s own terms include “comfort,” “objective,”
“not condescending or patronizing,” and “understanding
of my wants, needs, and resources.” Comfort means being
able to converse without language or manners getting in the
way. Objective means discussing the products or services at
hand from a critical perspective, which really is the best solution
for a customer’s need. Not condescending or patronizing
means meeting the woman customer as an equal who isn’t
fooled by false sincerity. Understanding means empathizing,
being able to put oneself in the woman customer’s shoes to get
the full measure of what she has to say or what her needs and
wants might be.
4. On a buying mission, women want to know where they
are; where what they need is located; and how best to get
there, acquire the product, and use it. In new environments,
women want navigational aides – online, via technological
assists; and in the store or at home (perhaps having a
computer repaired) in the form of human helpers and guides.
5. Women appreciate style and beauty in ways different
from men. This is reflected in art and recreation as well as in
the commercial sphere, but it is in the commercial sphere that
this difference is often accentuated, sometimes to grotesque
dimensions. The classic case is the “pink everything” solution
for “feminizing” a product line, which reliably produces an
opposite reaction to what the product manager had in mind. On
the other hand, in informal interviews, professional women,
customers working in the IT field, express appreciation when a
vendor like Dell makes an honest gesture toward them as
women Frequently cited is Dell’s offer of computer bags in
colors other than black, that can be matched to one’s apparel.
6. Women prefer to speak with women, and this is true of
ITC as it is in other sectors. Not that men’s advice isn’t
welcome, but women’s words are more easily exchanged.
This extends from the showroom floor where the customer and
a sales person speak about an item up to the highest levels of
corporate management, where policies are devised that affect
in one way or another how the woman customer is treated and
her needs met.
7. Without help, women and girls will solve their own
problems their own way – only, their ends and means may
not be the best, seen from the retailer’s point of view.
Often, while a woman customer is struggling with a problem,
obviously in need of assistance, there is a moment to
intercede…and then it passes. Once it does, not only is the
problem solution no longer the retailer’s to manage, the
opportunity for creating a loyal customer through meaningful
interaction or joint activity is gone, possibly forever. This has
been the case in the mobile phone industry, where unless there
are financial shackles keeping customers tied up, they fluidly
move between and among vendors of service. Loyalty to a
mobile provider is now almost unthinkable as a customer
strategy, although mobile as a service does get women’s and
especially girls’ close attention.
Top Ten Recommendations for
Merlin’s New Buying Experience
In this section we suggest 10 strategic and tactical ways that Merlin
can attract and serve a large female clientele. These
recommendations are based on the trends identified earlier in this
report and the empirical evidence of key firms as described online
and in the press.
These suggestions are presented as action items without specifying
exactly the sequence that fits Merlin’s agenda. Several can be
1. Re-theme “Merlin.” The legacy of the Merlin name is an
historical accident more than 80 years old based on the
founder’s last name. The name has value because it is
recognizable and a beacon for people searching for computer
and other high-tech gear for personal and home use. But that
value is degraded by the “magic” theme that turns it into a sort
of fairytale pun. Also, magic is not something to which many
women may relate given their concrete, day-to-day
responsibilities. For them, technology isn’t magical. It’s a tool,
useful for more efficiently carrying out tasks and staying
connected with significant others. Similarly, competing on
price confuses Merlin’s real message to women, which is that it
has the tools necessary to live a better life. Ideally, a better life
comes without a price tag. If Merlin’s prices are lower,
customers will know it when they compare Merlin’s products
with its competitors.
2. Enable women customers to speak with other women
customers. Assuming that their experiences are favorable,
this is one way to build customer loyalty. But the worth of this
enablement goes deeper. Through forums online and at events
that provide an opportunity to meet other women also working
with technology which they buy from Merlin, women customers
have a chance to exercise their inherent ability to make
connections that provide good feelings and reassurance. This
hyggeligt will carry over to the rest of the Buying Experience.
3. Train staff to understand how women think about
technology, computer and other high-tech products, and
the Buying Experience; and then to learn how to
demonstrate and use this understanding through fruitful
conversations with women customers. This has two
benefits. The first is that transactions with women customers
will be more satisfying and productive, which translates into
happier customers, confident staff, more and larger sales, and
higher revenues with lower costs. The second benefit is that
staff turnover will be reduced. Salespeople thrive on closing
sales, cash rewards aside. Every transaction that does not end
well is source of disappointment for a salesperson and one
more reason for him or her to terminate employment with a
company, Merlin included.
4. Provide after-sale support for customers, targeted to
women. Like Best Buy’s Geek Squad, with its natty uniforms
and VW Beetle squad cars, a Merlin support team can provide
assurance to women customers that even their own partners
may not. Besides being a source of revenues, the support
team extends Merlin’s presence from the store into the home in
a tangible way, on a continuing basis.
4. Recruit for and elevate more women to managerial and
executive positions. As TDC discovered after extensive
research, women managers and executives in most
circumstances greatly increase the success of a company and
its competitive position. It may have to do with women’s social
skills or another innately female ability, or it may just be that
women managers and executives try harder, since leadership
positions are harder for women to come by and are more
valued by women than by men who may feel entitled to these
positions. Whatever the reason, a company feels better when
women are involved in management, especially to women
customers. As a corollary, Merlin should encourage its
suppliers – manufacturers and manufacturers and service
providers – to do the same. This will facilitate inter-company
communications and planning. Also, products designed with
women in mind will contribute to more female clientele across
the board, lifting all boats in the process.
5. Make sure women customers have the guidance they
want when shopping. On the website store, this can take the
form of an interactive, informative online experience including
readily available assists (like ask-me chat rooms). In the
physical stores, informative signage and shelf tags should
speak to women in the context of the things that they have to
get done, not about the technology per se. Trained and well-
equipped salespersons, especially those who are designated
as “concierges,” can make a very positive difference in women
customers’ satisfaction. This is one key to the Apple Stores’
success. Apple’s concierges, with advanced technical training,
are designated as “Geniuses.” Its floor personnel, who also are
well versed in Apple’s product line, are provided with
technology – for example, networked iPhones (used as Internet
and intranet portals) and handheld card readers – to quickly
make and close sales on the spot. For a technology vendor like
Apple or Merlin, this additionally demonstrates that the vendor
is technologically competent and a good source of knowledge,
advice, and products.
6. Give women and other customers a place to meet within
Merlin. These needn’t be a formal space, although a café and
bookstore would set a good tone and probably result in
additional customer time spent in the stores – and
consequently, sales made. It just needs to be a space in the
store not given over completely to merchandising, a kind of
oasis amid the activity that should be taking place everywhere
else: “the pause that refreshes.” Women have few such places
in the workplace or at home.
7. Participate in the community outside the physical stores
and off the Internet. Merlin needs an outreach program. Its
managers are available to receive email via the website, but
they can also go out into the community to build personal
relationships with groups and individuals who could be potential
buyers. Also, Merlin can participate in programs for local
schools, libraries, community centers, and retirement homes.
These mean a great deal in Nordic societies. Merlin’s presence
would be taken by all customers, but especially by women, as a
sign of an open heart…from which more sales would result.
8. Create a virtual version of No. 7. Plan and manage all of
the ways that Merlin and its social environment (and the
people within that environment) come into contact with and
influence one another. Mapping these “touchpoints” and
optimizing them to create a compelling Buying Experience will
be more productive than advertising, which simply throws words
and images into onto various media. Advertising is best used
for reinforcing impressions of a company’s identity and
products, not establishing public awareness in the first place.
Mattel, which is revamping its line of toys for children, has
decided to forego additional advertising and concentrate its
resources on creating powerful websites that effectively,
interactively, and entertainingly reach children and teenagers,
and their parents. These websites extend the Mattel Buying
Experience the time before a purchase is made and after it is
9. Become ecological. The high-tech industries are notorious
polluters, in their factories and as producers of products that
become toxic waste, picked apart in unhealthy ways by children
in the Third World, for recycling. Why not recycle locally, in
partnership with manufacturers and organizations set up to fight
pollution and waste. Women repeatedly poll higher on
measurements of sensitivity to corporations’ and agencies’
“tredding lightly on the earth.”
These are the strategies and tactics that Gemba recommends and
that Merlin can implement immediately. Gemba is available to help.
Our last recommendation transcends strategy. In the future, Merlin
needs to be more than just a retailer of electronics, an increasingly
crowded and competitive field (with competition coming from
overseas as well as locally).
10. Take advantage of transformational opportunities.
Merlin is 85 years of age. It has a long legacy as a trusted,
family-owned retailer of photographic equipment. Only
relatively recently did computers and high-tech products and
services become its mainstay. In the last decade, Merlin has
gone through several changes of ownership. With each
change, it had a chance to make fundamental changes to the
way it did business. There have been a few, mostly technical
changes (financial structure, branding, and additions to the
product line), but nothing substantive; no breakthroughs. After
85 years, it’s probably time for more fundamental changes to
the business, bringing it up-to-date with 21st-Century realities.
This includes changes that will appeal to women and girl
The Merlin of the future, to remain viable and to grow, must
perpetually reinvent itself to keep up with changes in the business
environment: transform itself through innovation. What those
changes will be are beyond the scope of this report, although they
can be anticipated – but preparing Merlin for them is something that
Merlin’s management can begin immediately. As always, Gemba is
here to help.
REFERENCES FROM THE PRESS
Following is content found on the Web that pertains to the gender conundrum facing
retailers of personal computers and high-tech gear for home and worklife. This survey
begins by surveying the institutional factors creating the male-female dichotomy facing
retailers, starting with the organizations founded to integrate women in the ICT industry –
and their success or not. It then examines how individual companies have tried to crack
the gender barrier in the physical world and also in the virtual world, online. The most
attention is paid to Best Buy, the store most like Merlin (though physically and in terms of
stores, personel, customers, and revenues, it is quite a bit larger) that has consciously
addressed the issue of making its stores and services more appealing to women and girls.
The survey then presents articles about a cross-industry selection of companies, some in
high-tech and some not, that have in one way or another contributed to the solution of
making women loyal customers; or that have had just the opposite effect.
WITI (Women in Technology International) website
Carolyn Leighton founded WITI to help women advance by providing access to - and support
from - other professional women working in all sectors of technology. (Read the story or watch
the video.) WITI started in 1989 as The International Network of Women in Technology and, in
2001, evolved into The WITI Professional Association, the nation's leading trade association for
tech-savvy women. Today, WITI is the premiere global organization empowering women in
business and technology to achieve unimagined possibilities.
With a global network of smart, talented women and a market reach exceeding 2 million, WITI
has powerful programs and partnerships that provide connections, resources, opportunities and a
supportive environment of women committed to helping each other. Along with its professional
association of Networks throughout the U.S. and worldwide, including Hong Kong, Great Britain,
Australia, and Mexico, WITI delivers value for individuals that work for a company, the
government or academia, as well as small business owners.
NCWIT: How can unbiased software facilitate girls’ interest in IT?
ES often has embedded gender stereotypes that reinforce different male and female social roles
and may promote gendered career interests. These embedded stereotypes can also create
discomfort or anxiety that lead to under-performance and less interest and self-efficacy in IT.
Women in IT go east, data shows, Computerworld, October 2, 2007
David Leighton, president of Women in Technology International in Sherman Oaks, Calif., said he
is surprised by the lower percentages of women in IT in tech-centric areas such as San
Francisco, San Jose, Santa Clara and Seattle, but he added that it could be misleading.
"When you look at some of the numbers on women-owned businesses, so many women in the
technology industry leave to start their own businesses. That could definitely impact a lot of the
numbers" in California compared with the East Coast, he said. "They fall off the radar as an IT
person" and are classified as business owners rather than IT professionals, Leighton said.
Another trend that's occurring, Leighton said, is that many more women are moving into executive
rather than hands-on IT roles, which changes their job categorizations, even if they remain in IT.
"A lot of what we view as the technology parts of a business are widening," he said.
Leighton said that a recent book on women in business, How She Does It (Viking Adult, 2007), by
entrepreneur and writer Margaret Heffernan, points out that an average of 280 women-owned
businesses start up each day in the U.S. And many of those, he speculated, are being started by
women who are moving away from direct IT roles into business leadership roles where the IT
component is no longer their prime job.
BBC News, “Women put off by ‘gadget shops,’” Sep 10, 2007
Women are put off spending money in electronics shops because of the way they are treated, a
Contrary to popular myth, female consumers are interested in technology, the study found – but
they do not feel confident asking questions in stores.
In the poll by Saatchi and Saatchi, a third of women Internet users said they would spend more
on gadgets if retailers learned how to approach them.
One respondent said electrics shops reeked of a "strong scent of men". However, only 9% of
those questioned felt it was important that gadgets looked feminine.
In addition, many said that they felt patronised by pink digital radios and diamante-encrusted
The Female Factor Corporation: Strategic Consulting on Marketing to Women
Mencyclopedia: of Women’s Speech
It’s not always easy to decode women’s speech. For one thing, women speak a lot more than
men do – 20,000 words a day on average, versus 7,000 per day for men.
So what in the world are women talking about all the time? In an effort to bridge the gender gap,
we’ve compiled the following glossary of terms to help serve as a translation guide for how to
TFF cites the Geek Squad as a case of successful marketing to women.
Vive le Difference
Men and women have different brain structures that determine how we each view the world.
These differences shape our reactions to everything we see, touch and feel, as well as how we
form our opinions of others. The crux of the issue is that each gender believes its own behavior
is the normal one.
Men think racing the car next to them off of a stoplight is normal.
Women think complimenting strangers on their clothing is normal.
Your instincts about what constitutes normal behavior and what motivates people is based on
your brain chemistry and the gender culture in which you grew up…male or female. From the
moment you were born, you were taught the appropriate ways to interact with others based on
your sex. As an adult, your gender culture lens is the invisible, unconscious filter you use to judge
the world around you.
The Purse String Podcast
Podcast on selling to women.
M2W: The Marketing to Women Conference (annual)
Being held in Chicago, May 8-9, 2008
About.com, Retail Industry, “Selling to Women: Five Rules”
Small Business Branding blog (UK), “Selling to Women: The New Pink Pound”
RTO Online, “Customer service wake up call: sell effectively to women and land
consumer loyalists,” Nov 29, 2007
Although women are more likely to experience problems, the issue can be more detrimental to
retailers' business when male shoppers are involved. Men are nearly 20% less likely to
recommend a store where they experienced problems than women.
When it comes to purchases for the home, women are the undisputed decision-makers. Women
contribute $4 trillion dollars annually to U.S. retail spending, and with the National Retail
Federation recently reporting that the average consumer spent 3.5% less this Black Friday as
compared to last year (see story), retailers need to cater to the needs of women more than ever.
"In a year in which retailers need to work extra hard to attract customers, it's clear that delivering
a great shopping experience is going to mean short term sales and long term benefits for the
retailer in the form of loyalty and positive word-of-mouth," said Delia Passi, Founder of consulting
company WomenCertified. Passi, author of Winning the Toughest Customer: The Essential Guide
to Selling to Women, is the nation's leading authority on selling to women.
In a recent survey, WomenCertified asked female consumers a series of questions about how
they cope with the retail environment. The results show that high quality service and stress-free
shopping is essential in achieving shopper satisfaction.
"The women we talked to reinforced their need for a sales environment in which they could easily
find what they needed and could get the help they were looking for," explained Passi.
"Sometimes something as simple as ensuring there are clean bathroom facilities or making eye
contact while conversing with the shopper can make the difference between a positive sales
experience and one that has women promising never to return to the store."
RTO Online, “Women, Thirty Somethings Drive Increased Game Console Sales,”
Jan 25, 2008
According to the data compiled by the NPD Group, overall U.S. video game console software
sales reached $6.6 billion (153.9 million units), computer games sales were $910.7 million (36.4
million units), and a record $2.0 billion (77.5 million units) in portable software sales. In terms of
total units sold, approximately 267.8 million computer and video games were sold in 2007.
"NPD's consumer demographic data verifies that two non-traditional consumer groups grew over-
proportionately to the whole: females and individuals over the ages of 35," said Anita Frazier,
industry analyst, The NPD Group.
Engadget, “Survey says women patronized by pink tech,” Sep 10, 2007
Normally we don't go in for the whole "listening to what surveys say" thing, but when it comes to
the cause of questioning the logic behind endless lines of pink gadgets designed to appeal to the
female "market," we'll gladly pass on the criticism. There's a clear British slant to the story -- the
survey was commissioned by Saatchi and Saatchi after all -- and it would be ludicrous to say that
all women find pink / diamond encrusted gadgets and the atmosphere in gadget retail stores
patronizing, but it's clear that the technology industry is tipped towards satisfying male buyers. To
prevent this post from collapsing into a psychoanalysis of the gender associations with the color
pink, we'll open this up to the floor.
RTFA - it's a real piece of work:
• Women are put off spending money in electronics shops because of the way they are treated,
a survey suggests.
• Contrary to popular myth, female consumers are interested in technology, the study found -
but they do not feel confident asking questions in stores.
• In the poll by Saatchi and Saatchi, a third of women Internet users said they would spend
more on gadgets if retailers learned how to approach them.
• One respondent said electrics shops reeked of a "strong scent of men". However, only 9% of
those questioned felt it was important that gadgets looked feminine.
• In addition, many said that they felt patronised by pink digital radios and diamante-encrusted
Marketing to Women Online, “Women and Mobile Gaming,” July 7, 2006
Donchaluvit? Another "women don't use technology" stereotype smashed. A recent report by
Telephia, a mobile industry performance measurement reporting company, found that in the
mobile gaming space, four of the top five revenue-generating titles were in the Puzzle/Strategy
category. These mobile games do very well with women.
Sixty-five percent of mobile game revenue is driven by female wireless subscribers who
contribute 72 percent of the total share of revenue, while men contribute 28 percent. Women
dominate revenue generation for all mobile game categories with the exception of
Action/Adventure mobile games, in which men drive 60 percent of the revenue for that category.
Ad placement in mobile games is a rapidly growing industry. Don't make the mistake of thinking
young men are the only target market.
Marketing to Women Online, “Should a Man or a Woman Design Your Site?” Aug 10, 2005
Thanks to Michael Martine for turning me on to a short but interesting article Web Sites Have Sex
Appeal. A study at the University of Glamorgan in the United Kingdom found that the sexes
reacted very differently to sites when surfing the web.
The study found members of each sex preferred websites designed by their own sex. Not a big
surprise since so many web designers design what they like, as opposed to what’s truly best for
Nevertheless, a look at the web sites of 32 higher education institutions found 94 percent
displaying a masculine orientation and just 2 percent a female bias, the study said. This was the
case, even though all the schools' target audience was almost equally balanced between the
I’d love to know what criteria they’re using for “masculine orientation” and “female bias”. But my
guess is, the numbers probably aren’t too far off. Be sure to check out Michael’s take on men
designing websites for women.
This all begs the question - should you design your website differently for men than for women?
The answer – YES YES YES – so much of a yes I could write a whole book about it. But what do
you do when you’re trying to appeal to both sexes? There are ways to do that, too. (also another
books worth of info on this) Note – when I say design websites I’m talking about more than just
the template, I’m talking about navigation, usability, content, copy, etc.
Here are just a few things to keep in mind
• Men don’t ask for directions. They’ll fumble around your site for a while til they find what they’re
looking for. Women won’t waste the time. If they don’t find what they’re looking for, they’re gone.
You better make darn sure your site has clearly defined pathways to get visitors to their relevant
• Women are gift givers. (when was the last time your hubby went out and bough Christmas gifts
for your relatives? When was the last time he bought Christmas gifts for his relatives) Your site
has to have clear pathways to gift certificates, clear options for including gift messaging, and an
easy way to bill one address and ship to another.
- Women categorize products differently than men. You can’t just say “shirts” and “dresses”.
Women think of big picture categories – like “summer cocktail outfits.” Look at how you
categorize your products.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I mention it because I think there’s a very big issue here.
Should companies hire more women to design their websites? Well, I guess that’s one way. But
I’d suggest companies do a better job of understanding what their female website visitors want. I
have a few thousand ideas on that subject.
CMA Management, “What women want: gender-based marketing is a risky business, but
it's a risk companies can't refuse,” Dec 1, 2003
Nineteen fifty-five. The United States and Panama sign the canal treaty, James Dean dies in a
car crash, and Scrabble makes a dramatic entrance into the board game market. With 20 million
American women now licensed to drive, Chrysler rolls out the Dodge La Femme and hails it as
the first and only car designed for "your majesty, the modern American woman." A hardtop
custom coupe version of the Royal Lancer, the Dodge La Femme features "Heather Rose"
exterior, upholstery and trim, and an eyebrow-raising set of accessories that includes a raincoat,
umbrella, purse, lipstick and compact. But it's not, apparently, what the 1950s modern American
woman had in mind; the Dodge La Femme bombs and is pulled off the market the following year.
Today, almost half a century later, the Dodge La Femme lives on as a vintage car--a collector's
item that offers both sentimental value and the intriguing appeal of a somewhat tainted past. To
marketers, however, the Dodge La Femme is highly valuable for a very different reason: it's a
shining example of what companies shouldn't do when trying to create and market products that
they hope will appeal to women.
"Marketing to women should be transparent, not pink," says Martha Barletta, president of The
TrendSight Group in Chicago and author of Marketing to Women: How to Understand, Reach and
Increase Your Share of the World's Largest Market Segment. "Companies who want to reach
women need to really show that they're sensitive to the needs of this market and that they're
taking it seriously. Because if they think that it's all about decor and all they need to do is paint
their brand pink, that will backfire on them 99 out of a hundred times."
Know your customer
Even with the lessons learned from the Dodge La Femme fiasco, and the supposed evolution of
marketing principles and techniques over the last five decades, gender-based marketing--a term
that almost always applies to marketing that is directed to women--remains a risky undertaking for
most companies. Get it wrong and you're certain to offend. Miss the mark and your targeted
audience will ignore you. Either way, you're looking at a very costly mistake.
But as marketing experts like Barletta will tell you, gender-based marketing is a risk that
companies simply can't afford not to take. Consider these numbers: women account for more
than half the population in North America--15.4 million women versus 15.1 million men in
Canada. They make up almost half the workforce in Canada and are responsible for more than
half of business trips taken each year. Women are also leading the entrepreneurial charge in the
country; according to Industry Canada, four out of five businesses are started by women. Most
significantly, research has shown that women control 80% of consumer dollars spent in North
"Marketing to women represents opportunities for all companies and is imperative for companies
in key industries like automotive, computers, consumer electronics and financial services," says
Barletta. "Women represent the largest market in the world. By not talking to women, you're
leaving a lot of money on the table."
So how does one talk to the largest, most powerful market in the world? Doreen Menaker,
national manager of corporate and marketing research at Sears Canada Inc., where women
account for up to 70 per cent of customers, says it really all boils down to a basic marketing tenet:
understanding your customer.
"Gender marketing is not about male versus female," she says. "What it's about is understanding
how your customer wants to use your product, how they shop your store, the level of service they
expect, the style they want and the price level they're comfortable with."
By taking this approach, says Menaker, Sears has avoided the assumptions and generalizations
normally tied to gender. Instead, the company focuses on actual findings from customer research.
For instance, Sears learned from its studies that the quality and level of service in fitting rooms is
very important to its primary buyer. Unlike male customers, whose sole purpose in trying on
clothing is to ensure it fits, Sears' female buyers try on clothes to scrutinize how the colour looks
against their skin, how the waist fits and whether the neckline is cut in a way that is flattering to
"Women have more demands and, when they're trying on clothes, they often need to have
someone assisting them to get another size or another colour," says Menaker. "We recognized
this fact and employed a different service strategy for our female customers."
Beyond focus groups
Joanne Thomas Yaccato, president of the Toronto-based consulting firm The Thomas Yaccato
Group, and author of The 80% Minority: Reaching the Real World of Women Consumers, says
companies that want to reach women need to start looking at the world from a woman's point of
view--in essence putting on what Yaccato calls a "gender lens" and filtering everything through it.
Some marketers have successfully gained insights into what women want by conducting market
research in "girl-friend groups"--where all participants know each other and belong to the same
social circle--or Oprah-style talks. Unlike the artificial and contrived atmosphere often produced
by focus groups, these settings encourage candid exchanges and often yield surprising gems of
While this type of research is valuable, Yaccato thinks companies need to go even further. More
precisely, they need to locate their gender lens closer to home--right in their own management
"The vast majority of decision makers in companies--from human resources, advertising and
sales training--are predominantly male executives," she says. "Well, you need to have a balance
of what I call x and y chromosomes in the company by having women in every one of these
departments. And I'm talking about having women in roles as decision makers."
Yaccato cites Bank of Montreal as an example of a company that understood that the best way to
promote its services to women was to create an equitable working environment. In the early
1990s, Tony Comper, BMO Financial Group's chairman and CEO, formed the Task Force on the
Advancement of Women. The task force's mandate was to remove the barriers that had, for many
years, prevented female employees from moving up the ranks. It obviously succeeded; today,
women comprise 35% of executives at BMO, compared to just 9% in 1991. Women also run
three of the company's five Canadian divisions.
And just as Comper had predicted--that women would respond positively to a corporate culture
that values equity, respect and dignity--BMO's female customers have overwhelmingly expressed
their approval. Ongoing customer tracking reveals that female customers are more loyal to the
bank than their male counterparts and have placed a larger share of their assets--5% more than
"The bank must 'get it right' with employees," Comper is quoted in Yaccato's book, "who in turn
will get it right with customers, who in turn will reward the bank with more business, which in turn
enables the organization as a whole to get it right with share-holders."
What men want too
One of the most common arguments against gender-based marketing is that it might alienate the
male market. The fact is, what women want often turns out to be what men also wanted but just
never bothered to ask for. Take Home Depot, for example. The big-box hardware retailer had
known for some time that, while women accounted for 50% of the company's sales, their
influence on overall purchases was even higher. Recognizing that women focused more on
projects and out-comes and less on products and their features, Home Depot installed design
showrooms that presented "room vignettes." It also trained its sales associates to double-check
that customers had everything they need for a project, and made its stores brighter, cleaner and
"We have more of a decor focus than ever before," says Pat Wilkinson, director of marketing for
Home Depot Canada. "But while the improvements we've made may appeal particularly to
women, they also benefit our male customers and increase their satisfaction with the shopping
experience. Because in home improvements, the motivations are the same whether you're a man
or a woman. It's about pride of home."
Over the years, Home Depot has built a reputation as a company sensitive to the needs of
women. Last year, it launched "do-it-herself" workshops--ongoing women-only clinics that aim to
demystify the power tool.
"We've had a huge response," says Wilkinson. "In the U.S., some stores had turnouts of 700
people. One of the things we did in Canada is we limited the number of people who can
participate to 25 people. But one store in Quebec had sign-up sheets with almost 200 people, so
they split that up and did five workshops instead."
Like Yaccato, Wilkinson believes that the companies that succeed in marketing to women are
those whose own cultures are based on diversity and inclusion, and whose executive ranks
"One of the things people ask us all the time is 'how did Home Depot get to be this kind of
company?' Part of it is having a female leader," says Wilkinson. "And 40% of our senior
management is made up of women."
In spite of the sound rationale behind a marketing strategy that includes--if not specifically
targets--women, many companies today are reluctant to acknowledge that, yes, they've noticed
women as a distinct segment within their market and are talking to them directly for the first time.
Coors Beer recently released an ad that showed a collage of real "empowered" women, including
a firefighter, a professional dirt biker, surfer, cowhand and black belt karate instructor. The TV
spot, which rolls out to the tune of Tom Jones' She's a Lady, is conspicuously devoid of that one
constant in beer advertising: the cliched babe in a bikini.
Hillary Martin, Coors' manager of external communication, insists that the ad is simply part of a
"tapestry" approach to addressing different demographics. "It's not intended to be solely a
commercial directed towards women," says Martin. "We don't want to alienate; our goal is to have
broad acceptability with our market."
Whether or not Coors was targeting women with its new ad, Barletta at The TrendSight Group
says the beer company is on to a good thing. "All the other beer companies are focusing on their
male customers and ignoring women," she says. "Well guess what's going to happen to the one
company that actually starts talking to women the way they want to be talked to? Even if you
increased your share of the women's market by only 1% with that one ad, you're still looking at a
lot of dollars. And the dollars are incontrovertible proof that marketing to women is well worth the
RELATED ARTICLE: A world of difference: Women versus men
In her book Marketing to Women: How to Understand, Reach and Increase Your Share of the
Largest Market Segment, Martha Barletta identifies four key ways in which women differ from
men. By understanding these differences, companies can communicate better with women and
develop products that meet their needs.
1. A collective versus an individual perspective: According to Barletta, men typically look at the
world from the perspective of the individual, whereas women look at it from the perspective of the
2. Maximizing versus prioritizing: Various studies out of Canada and the United States show
women wear more hats than men. Consequently, women tend to maximize their time by trying to
tackle as many tasks as possible within a given period. Men, on the other hand, prefer to prioritize
and do their tasks in order of importance.
3. The works versus the bare bones: When it comes to perceiving and processing the information
required to make decisions, women are more likely to look at all the details than men. "Men's
orientation is towards the essentials--broad strokes, top lines," says Barletta. "When men make
decisions, they want to strip away inessentials. Women approach decision making, perceptions
and mental processing in exactly the opposite way."
4. Affinity versus competition: Women communicate and make connections through affinity and
establishing links. Men connect through competition and challenge.
USA Today, “Best Buy gets in touch with its feminine side,” Dec 20, 2006
Women now influence 90% of consumer electronics purchases, from the type and look of the big-
screen TV to the color of the iPod speakers for the living room, Best Buy says. The Consumer
Electronics Association estimates their influence is less, but still significant and growing. It says
women influence 57% of purchases, or $80 billion of the $140 billion spent on consumer
electronics this year.
Instead of hitting high-tech hysteria at Best Buy (BBY) this holiday season, shoppers may notice
a softer, more personal atmosphere. Music is quieter. Lights are lower. Salespeople talk to
customers about their lifestyles, what they want the technology to do for them — or the person
getting the holiday gift — and how they want it to fit into their homes, offices, cars. In some
stores, a "personal shopping assistant" will help with everything from designing a home
entertainment system to picking a digital camera. If you need more help, one of thousands of its
"Geek Squad" techies will come to your home to hook stuff up.
The company also is beginning to promote more women. Since January, it has increased the
number of female store general managers by 4% and the number of women in training to be
general managers by 4%. It has doubled the number of women working in home theater
departments in the past four months, it says. The company does not release specific numbers.
"Women consumers are seeing a lot more women in our stores, and that makes it less frightening
and less intimidating," says Anna Gallina, general manager of Best Buy's North Palm Beach, Fla.,
store, which has 40% female employees. She says she's seen big changes in the company since
she joined 10 years ago as assistant manager of a store in Miami.
"We don't just say a camera has 10 megapixels," she says. "We concentrate on how the
technology fits into a customer's lifestyle and needs."
Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune, “Women’s Warrior at Best Buy,” Dec 18, 2007
Coverage of SVP Julie Gilbert, women’s advocate within Best Buy
Best Buy, which historically has focused on young, male shoppers, has already widened aisles,
toned down loud music and harsh lighting and added personal shopping assistants in some
stores. Until about a 18 months ago the retailer controlled $10 billion of that $90 billion female
market, Gilbert said. But recent efforts have increased that by $3 billion, in part because of work
she has done through a program she started in 2003 called WOLF, or the Women's Leadership
The program is the keystone of her seven-year career at Best Buy. And though she may not yet
be hearing widespread cheers, as in the childhood story, she has taken WOLF from a dream --
literally -- pounded out on a laptop computer in the wee hours of the morning, to a program that
includes about 20,000 of Best Buy's 140,000 workers.
"My goal was to unleash the talents of employees who don't have official power ... by purposefully
creating an environment where we'd support each other, instead of picking each other apart,"
said Gilbert, who worked on WOLF in addition to her normal duties for the first 18 months.
She started by forming "WOLF packs," small groups of women and a few men (who had to apply)
who met regularly. Pack meetings taught women better business skills -- such as reading profit-
and-loss statements -- helped them make contacts with other women who had different or more
advanced skills, and tapped the power of many minds to generate specific ways to make Best
Buy a better company -- inside and out -- for women.
Reuters, “Liz Claiborn to design gadget fashion for Best Buy,” Aug 15, 2007
The Liz Claiborne Accessories line will be sold in about 250 U.S. Best Buy stores beginning in
October. It will feature laptop bags and protective sleeves, business totes and cases for cell
phones, music players and cameras. Prices will range from about $25 to $200 depending on the
"We know many of our customers want technology to be more than a simple necessity, they want
their devices to reflect their sense of style," said Liz Haesler, vice president at Best Buy, in a
Best Buy “Wii for Women” in-store event website
Blogging Stocks, “Best Buy (BBY) woos women (again),” Aug 14, 2007
Describes how Studio D, a separate boutique for women, failed and has been supplanted by a
store-wide initiative to embed selling to women in all BB stores and departments.
Shiny Shiny (women’s gearhead blog), “Best Buy Wii for Women event;: positive or
patronizing?” April 2, 2008
Now I understand that Best Buy is trying to get women into the store to look at the Wii, my
problem is that this is just a patronizing way to do it. There wasn't an event in my city for me to
attend, however, one woman who was able to attend an event says that the whole thing came off
even creepier than the advertising made it sound. Apparently they were handing out chocolates
and roses to the women in attendance and I just don't know how in the world that would get me to
want a Wii.
Destructoid (gaming blog), “The only thing missing was a roofie cocktail: Best Buy's Wii
for Women event,” March 20, 2008
Not so coincidentally, Best Buy had fifty Wiis on hand at the event. I saw about five women in line
for the console, and forty-five men. I asked the ladies if they were buying the system because
Best Buy made them feel so wanted. All of them said they were buying it for sons.
PR Newswire, “Circuit City Creates Fashionable Totes for Women to Carry Laptop
Computers and Electronics Gear,” Feb 3, 2005
The women of Circuit City are a driving force behind the Anika line. These associates saw a
need for fun, colorful laptop bags and decided to take the idea from the drawing board to the
sales floor," said Doug Moore, senior vice president, general merchandise manager at Circuit City
“Research and development approval here at headquarters and analysis of the marketplace was
all our design team needed to develop an entire line of laptop bags and bags for other electronic
products such as cameras and camcorders.”
The Anika collection, available in six designs, features custom yarn-dyed, rubber backed fabrics,
splash-proof zippers and quilted linings to protect computers, accessories and files. The line
includes carryall bags, laptop bags, camera bags, camcorder bags, CD wallets and a wheeled
"Anika serves an important, underserved market segment-women," added Moore. "In addition to
Anika's fashion forward product designs, we were inspired to move forward b market research
about women's consumer electronics purchasing power and their business travel needs."
News on Women, PR Newswire, “Irynne MacKay Made SVP at Circuit City,” Dec 2006
MacDaily News, “Avon CEO Andrea Jung joins Apple’s Board of Directors,” Jan 07, 2008
Apple today announced that Andrea Jung, chairman and chief executive officer of Avon Products,
was elected to Apple's board of directors. Andrea also serves on the board of directors of the
General Electric Company and is a member of the New York Presbyterian Hospital board of
trustees and the Catalyst board of directors.
NY Times, “Inside Apple Stores, a Certain Aura Enchants the Faithful, Dec 27, 2007
pple now derives 20 percent of its revenue from its physical stores. And the number is growing. In
the fourth quarter in 2007, which ended Sept. 30, Apple reported that the retail stores accounted
for $1.25 billion of Apple’s $6.2 billion in revenues, a 42 percent increase over the fourth quarter
Apple stores generate sales at the rate of about $4,000 per square foot a year, according to a
report last year by Sanford C. Bernstein analysts.
As other electronics makers like Dell, Nokia and Sony still struggle to find the right retail formula,
Apple seems to have perfected it.
Not only has the company made many of its stores feel like gathering places, but the bright lights
and equally bright acoustics create a buzz that makes customers feel more like they are at an
event than a retail store.
The close attention paid to detail in the stores’ designs, such as the maple veneer tables used for
product displays, gives the impression that Steven P. Jobs himself, the company’s co-founder
and chief executive, signed off on every square aesthetic inch of every store.
“Apple’s retail offering is very compelling,” said Andrew Neff, senior managing director at Bear
Stearns, “but the other key is the product. The retail concept ties in very much to the product.”
But the secret formula may be the personal attention paid to customers by sales staff.
Relentlessly smiling employees roam the floor, carrying hand-held terminals for instant credit-card
swiping. Technicians work behind the so-called genius bar, ministering to customers’ ailing iPods,
MacBooks and iPhones. Others, designated “personal trainers,” give one-on-one instruction and
Personal shoppers are available by appointment, and last month the company took the concept
of personalized service to a new level, with concierge teams stationed throughout each store.
“They’ve become the Nordstrom of technology,” said Michael Gartenberg, vice president and
research director at Jupiter Research, referring to the department store that is known for its
Meanwhile, the Sony flagship store on West 56th Street, a few blocks from Apple’s Fifth Avenue
store, has the hush of a mausoleum. And being inside the long and narrow blue-toned Nokia
store on 57th Street feels a bit like being inside an aquarium.
The high-end Samsung Experience showroom, its nuevo tech music on full blast one recent
morning, was nearly empty. And although that store professes to encourage hands-on exploration
of its products, the showroom has a clinical, forbidding feel. (Nothing is actually sold there; it’s just
Consumerist blog, “Hey Apple, women buy computers, too,” Feb 2008
(Excerpts from a reader’s letter)
“I had a horrific customer service experience in your Bellevue Square store that has me
rethinking buying a Mac Air. I will certainly never set foot in that store again, and I hope I never
have to deal with any of your Apple Store employees in person, if this is how they're trained to
“First of all, Bill DID NOT LOOK AT ME. He did not greet me. He greeted my husband, introduced
himself, and shook my husband’s hand... and completely ignored me. He didn't ask my name,
what we were there to buy, or whom the new computer was for. He did not make eye contact. He
simply behaved as though I were not there, and steered my husband through the crowded store
— ignoring me and leaving me behind….
“I hope you'll let the managers at the Bellevue Square store know that women use computers,
too, and that if a couple comes into a store to buy one, perhaps it would be a good idea to ask
which of them is making a purchase. And if the answer is "a girl", please tell the employees to talk
to her, and not her partner, brother, spouse, or some random guy standing ten feet away from
her, as I believe Bill might have done.”
Dell Computer website, Culture and Best Practices
Dell’s Women’s Initiative
At Dell, we are committed to understanding and responding to the challenges women face around
the world in balancing their professional and personal needs. We understand the importance of
providing meaningful opportunities and resources to support women's success in our business.
Our focus on building a global Women's Strategy across all Dell locations provides us the tools
we need to fully access and leverage female talent globally….
… Dell recognizes that a diverse workforce is critical to the exploration of new ideas and the
creation of innovation. We are committed to ensuring our managers identify the best and brightest
diverse candidates in the marketplace to join the Dell team. Our relationships with diverse
partners are what help us reach multicultural consumer groups across the world and recruit the
best and brightest talent.
Dell actively recruits women and minorities by sponsoring professional conferences, career fairs
and community events with minority organizations. We partner with a number of organizations to
identify new talent [list provided].
Future Tense/Wavelength blog, Minnesota Public Radio, “Is ad for Dell Computer sexist?”
December 5, 2007
An attractive young woman in a short black dress kneels lovingly in front of a Dell 's all-in-one
computer, the XPS One, in an ad in the Dec. 1 issue of U.S. News & World Report. The caption
reads, "Dell. Now available in beautiful."
I've just heard from a Future Tense listener who finds the ad offensive. She writes:
"As a woman and as a mother, I am so TIRED of seeing ads like this. I won’t put up it with it
anymore. I have called Dell and shared my response. I will not purchase Dell. When I help my
less-than-tech-savvy friend purchase a PC later this month, it won’t be Dell, and I’ll tell her why.
My mother is set to retire and is also looking at PCs – it won’t be Dell. When I go to my next
professional association meeting, I will bring up this ad, my decision not to buy Dell, and why. I
will email my friends about this. I will talk to family members about this.
“I realize that Dell hopes to appeal to a certain demographic by running this ad. What someone in
Marketing missed is that they’ve managed to offend another, larger group of existing and
potential customers whose purchasing power extends beyond the home."
Posted by Paul | December 6, 2007 6:25 AM
Would the mother have been offended had the model been male instead, I wonder?
Posted by Kate | December 8, 2007 7:41 AM
In response to the comment posted by Paul, I would have the same response to this if it were a
male model positioned and used in such a suggestive way. My issue is with the sexualization of
products as a means to sell them.
Women at Microsoft, Microsoft website
Microsoft is committed to attracting talented women to the company and the high-tech industry at
large. We pursue this commitment with vigor through a comprehensive offering of benefits and
opportunities designed to help each and every one of our employees realize their potential.
[Followed by extensive services and employee testimonials.]
Seattle P-I Online, “Women at Microsoft, by the numbers,” Aug 16, 2006
While reporting today's story on Microsoft's DigiGirlz, an annual camp designed to interest high-
school girls in technology careers, I spent some time looking into some of the statistics on women
employees at the company. A few factoids:
• Women make up 25 percent of the company's U.S. work force. That's down from the 27 percent
that the company was reporting at the end of 1998.
• Less than 15 percent of Microsoft executives at the level of corporate vice president or higher
• Two of the 21 executives on Microsoft's senior leadership team are women (Lisa Brummel,
human resources senior vice president; and Mich Mathews, marketing senior vice president).
Seattle P-I Online, “Microsoft camp shows technology is womens work, too,” Aug 16, 2006
REDMOND -- Men outnumber women by a 3-1 ratio among Microsoft Corp.'s U.S. employees
and by even more among its top executives. This week, the company brought in 73 high school
girls to try to alter that balance.
They are attending "DigiGirlz," an annual, weeklong day camp at Microsoft's Redmond
headquarters that seeks to address the scarcity of women in technology by getting more girls
intrigued about the profession.
"I like computers -- maybe as a career, but probably not. I'm just sort of exploring. And some of
the stuff is pretty crazy," said DigiGirlz camper Jessica Askew, 17, of Bellevue, referring with
admiration to a demonstration of futuristic fingerprint-reading and facial-recognition technologies.
As possible career choices, Askew said she's particularly interested in theater and writing.
That illustrates one of the challenges technology companies face. Despite the industry's efforts to
demonstrate infinite possibilities of software, the field often isn't viewed as a natural choice for
women and girls who favor creative jobs.
MIG on Marketing and Sales, “Bradford to run MSN,” Nov 18, 2006
Microsoft announced this past week the elevation of Joanne Bradford, the company’s top ad
sales exec, to run MSN. A good move - this is a market driven category and needs market
awareness in the driver’s seat. At MIG we applaud the move.
Fujitsu Siemens Computers, Women in IT South Africa newsletter, Dec 2005
The IT industry has been dominated by men. IT hardware manufacturers have recognised this
and have designed their product offerings around a male-orientated market, with masculine
attributes like power, performance, speed and efficiency the key selling points. Very little thought
was paid to the emergence of Women in management in all areas of commerce, and thus design
and portability were listed way down the list of priorities in new product development.
About three years ago, Fujitsu Siemens Computers took cognisance of the growing number of
Women using their products. In researching this market, Fujitsu Siemens Computers uncovered
some interesting information and began to adapt their product development to make the products
more acceptable (and user-friendly) to women.
Not only did aesthetics and design receive some attention, Fujitsu Siemens Computers also
looked at functionality and portability, developing computers that were slimmer, lighter, and better
looking, and yet which did not compromise on performance.
Mobile88.com, BenQ-Siemens AL 26 Cellphone
The BenQ-Siemens AL26 in inventive butterfly look is the perfect fashion accessory for young,
style-conscious women. Delicate purple butterfly motifs adorn the shimmering white casing of this
compact slider phone, making the mobile into a top-fashion eye-catcher – and not just for
romantic women either. Butterfly motifs are currently setting trends and can be seen on almost
every catwalk around the world. Both in Eastern and Western cultures, the butterfly is regarded
as a symbol of evolving femininity. Thus the BenQ-Siemens AL26 represents the perfect
companion for young style conscious women in an unparalleled manner.
Feminine refinement is also visible in the decorative accessories that are supplied with the BenQ-
Siemens AL26. The beautiful charm in butterfly design made of pearl shell is an eye catching
decoration for the mobile that is guaranteed to draw admiring glances.
Easy to operate for speech telephony, messages and organizing appointments, this mobile does
not just exude up-to-the-minute fashion awareness; but also allegorizes a reliable companion,
featuring user-friendly configuration and intuitive operation. As soon as the phone is turned on,
polychromatic butterflies appear on the large color TFT display (130 x 130 pixels) and glimmer in
65,536 brilliant colors, a choice of wallpapers in beautiful butterfly design complete the theme.
A diary giving an overview by day, week and month as well as a reminder function for important
events are on board, as is a high-quality handsfree speech system. Polyphonic ringtones and a
practical currency calculator round off the versatile features package. Precise four-way navigation
above the keypad guides the user quickly and conveniently through the clear menu. All telephone
numbers, appointments and other data stored on the mobile can be synchronized with a PC in an
The BenQ-Siemens AL26 will be on retail sale from mid-September 2006 in Europe and Latin
America . Prices will be determined locally.
AT&T Website: The External H&S Site: Women in Business, 1998
More women are starting businesses than ever before. In fact, surveys show it won't be too long
before women are expected to represent half of all small business owners. And small enterprises
need to think about innovative ways of doing business.
For all these reasons – and, yes, also because AT&T looks forward to getting business from
business women – AT&T last year set up a special website called AT&T Women in Business
(WIB). Here we offer women free business advice from experts; inspirational stories of women
who've succeeded in their own businesses; solutions to business problems; and, tips on doing
AT&T Website, 2008
Women make up 41 percent of AT&T's managers, above the average of most Fortune 500
Yet of the 12 top executives who run AT&T, only one is a woman, the SVP for Marketing. Of the
14 individuals who constitute AT&T’s board, six are women.
TDC Online, “Diversity at TDC is about achieving a better balance between men and
women in strategic management positions, Elizabeth Fiensted-Jensen, 2003
This PDF is of an excellent policy research document explaining why it is in TDC’s best interests
strategically and operationally to encourage greater numbers of women to enter the managerial
and executive ranks. They better fit the profiles of excellent managers described by other
employees and bring group skills to play that male managers haven’t the capacity to muster.
Also, there is an expectation that they will be TDC’s best “ambassadors” to the world outside of
TDC in terms of how they shape TDC’s product offerings, service, and overall responsiveness to
customers, men and women.
In the end, it’s TDC, not the women who are candidates for positions, that must undergo a radical
transformation from a company based on organization charts and individualized responsibility to a
more collective model of organization that recognizes women’s value as resources and not as
people “outside” clamoring to enter. The research cited is simple but compelling. Still, at the time
of the study, among 300 top managers at TDC, only 14 percent were women.
iVillage vs. Glam Media
NY Post, “Online Catfight: Glam Media Challenges Web Queen iVillage,” June 18, 2007
Still, it shows how hard the 12-year-old iVillage and other dot-com survivors have to work to stay
on top of the online ad space with upstarts like Glam constantly gunning for them.
Comstock had hoped a companion TV show, "iVillage Live," would jumpstart traffic, but the site
appears to have peaked at a high of 17.7 million visitors since being acquired by NBC.
Glam aims to be a younger, more stylish version of iVillage. It owns the flagship Glam.com, but it
also represents more than 300 female-centric Web sites and blogs covering fashion, beauty and
Glam has also struck partnerships with magazine publishers such as Hearst to bring articles from
popular magazines like Marie Claire to Glam.com.
"It's this combination of authority, as well as a distributed network of publishers, that create the
tone and voice that women are looking for," said Samir Arora, Glam's chairman and chief
executive. Glam sells ads to big brands including Reebok, Max Factor and Herbal Essences, and
it recently struck a deal with Google to sell its small text ads across Glam's network.
This is a different model for both users and advertisers than the one espoused by iVillage, which
is viewed as an online community for women.
IVillage is a centralized site with the vast majority of its traffic coming in through its main
homepage. In contrast, Glam aggregates traffic across many sites and gets just a fraction from
the flagship Glam.com.
IVillage execs said their approach is safer for advertisers, allowing them greater control over the
content and placement of their ads than they would have on Glam's sprawling network.
"Advertisers run the risk of ending up on sites that they don't have much control over," said
iVillage CEO Deborah Fine.
Marketing to Women Portal, “Yahoo takes ‘Shine’ to women: A source of relevant
information,” 6 Apr 2008
Yahoo Inc. is launching a new site for women between ages 25 and 54, calling it a key
demographic underserved by current Yahoo properties.
Last week's launch of Shine is aimed largely at giving the struggling Internet company additional
opportunities to sell advertising targeted to the key decision-maker in many households.
Yahoo said advertisers in consumer-packaged goods, retail, and pharmaceuticals have
requested more ways to reach those consumers.
Amy Florio, vice president for Yahoo Lifestyles, said internal research also shows women are
looking for a site to aggregate various content and communications tools. "These women were
sort of caretakers for everybody in their lives," she said. "They didn't feel like there was a place
that was looking at the whole them - as a parent, as a spouse, as a daughter. They were looking
for one place that gave them everything."
Yahoo is entering a market already served by Glam Media Inc. and iVillage, a unit of General
Electric Co.'s NBC Universal. It is Yahoo's first site aimed at a single demographic, although other
Yahoo sites like Finance and Sports already draw specific audiences. With Shine, Yahoo plans to
expand its offerings in parenting, sex and love, healthy living, food, career and money,
entertainment, fashion, beauty, home life, and astrology. In yesterday's Shine Jodie Foster was
WebProNews, “Men are from Google, Women are from Yahoo,” Dec 29, 2005
On the Internet, as in life, men and women have different motivations for doing what they do.
According to a recent report from Pew Internet and American Life, women view the Internet as a
place to extend, support, and nurture relationships and communities.
Do Different Genders Use The Web Differently
Men tend to see it as an office, a library, or a playground--screw the community, this is about
function not family.
The report found that women are more enthusiastic communicators, using email in a more robust
way. Not only sending and receiving more email than men, women are more likely to write to
family and friends about a variety of topics, sharing news, joys and worries, planning events, and
forwarding jokes and stories.
While both sexes equally appreciate the efficiency and convenience of email, women are more
likely than men to value the medium for its positive effects on improving relationships, expanding
networks, and encouraging teamwork at the office.
"Women also value email for a kind of positive, water-cooler effect, which lightens the
atmosphere of office life," reads the 54-page report.
The report found that women are more likely to use the Internet for emailing, getting maps and
directions (after all, we men always know where we're going), looking for health and medical
information, seeking support for health and personal problems, and getting religious information.
Men tend to be more intense Internet users than women, being more likely to go online daily
(61% of men and 57% of women) and more likely to go online several times a day (44% of men
and 39% of women).
Men also tend to go online in greater numbers than women but for a much broader variety of
reasons. Men are more likely to use the Internet to check the weather, get news, find do-it-
yourself information, acquire sports scores and information, look for political information, do job-
related research, download software, listen to music, rate a product/person/service through an
online reputation system, download music, use a webcam, and take a class.
Note there was nothing about "nurturing relationships."
Marie Claire website, “The Women of Google,” May 2008.
Geek-chic set, guess again. Google's lineup of women execs proves that pocket protectors are
no longer emblematic of this industry. Overseeing everything from business operations to online
sales and product management, these dynamic women are company and community leaders.
With one of the best-educated work forces in the world, the company places a high value on
continuous learning. Employees regularly enjoy visits from outside speakers; Eve Ensler, Sally
Ride, Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Diane von Furstenberg, and most of the 2008 presidential
hopefuls have all dropped by Google offices. In fact, Google credits much of its success in
creating innovative technologies with its emphasis on diversity of perspective, cultures and ideas
in the workplace.
And then there are the perks — everything from gourmet meals, shuttles, and massages to
annual ski trips. Good news for moms-to-be: They offer a generous maternity leave. Click here to
learn more about working at Google.
Brandweek, “Tickle Me Barbie: Remaking An Icon,” Nov 14, 2005
A TOUR through my local Toys 'R' Us as the holiday shopping season begins tells a sad story
about Barbie, once the world's most favorite doll. Instead of Barbie's signature pink color
dominating important front-of-the-store displays, the shelves are black and purple—the colors of
Bratz, a pack of dolls that have challenged Barbie's No. 1 position for the past four years.
Such dominance on the shelves reveals in Technicolor drama just how much Mattel has failed to
fight back against MGA Entertainment, the scrappy little company that launched Bratz in 2001.
More importantly, the power of its potent younger rival shows that Mattel still hasn't learned how
to make its most important brand, Barbie, relevant to today's 21st century girls.
Avon also had to rethink its market position and ask if its products and even its iconic Avon lady
were still relevant to a new generation of women. For some, she simply wasn't working. Avon's
evaluation led to the creation of an all-new line called "mark," designed for young women who
weren't interested in conforming to the notions of beauty promoted by Avon and others over the
past 100 years. Nor were they going to be home when the Avon lady came to ring the doorbell.
The lessons from McDonald's, Avon and rivals in the toy industry that Mattel must now learn is
that young girls today are different enough from the girls of even a decade ago. Yes, they still
want to play, dream and evolve. But what used to work with girls doesn't necessarily resonate
today. Finding what does work and how Barbie can adapt to this very different world for women
and girls is the only way that the iconic brand will survive—and bring back Barbie pink to the toy-
BuzzMachine, Glam: “The Success of the Network,” Nov 12, 2006.
The chart requires some explanation. Bear with me; it’s worth it.
The yellow circle on the right represents iVillage, which had been the largest women’s site in the
U.S. After only a year and a half, Glam has overtaken it as the new No. 1 with 23 million uniques
(vs 18m for iVillage) and 600 million monthly pageviews.
iVillage was our deadly competitor when I worked at CondeNet and we often sniped that much of
its traffic was junk. This illustrates that: The largest circle inside iVillage is astrology traffic and the
dark circle in that represents people who come to iVillage for horoscopes and nothing else. That
may bulk up your traffic numbers, but it’s not saleable to advertisers. iVillage is built in the Yahoo
model of sites it owns or controls; it tries to lure people in and then bombards them with ads.
Glam, represented by the larger circle on the left, is a network. You’ll see clusters made up of
smaller circles, representing their content areas: fashion, beauty, fashion, lifestyle, celebrity, teen.
Inside each of those clusters, if you squint, you’ll see a small yellow circle. Those are Glam’s
O&O (owned and operated) sites. All the many purple circles around those in each cluster
represent outside, independent blogs and sites in Glam’s network. That is the secret to Glam’s
quick growth without the cost and risk of doing everything itself.
Glam finds the good blogs and creates a relationship. It features good content from them on
Glam and also sells ads on the blogs, sharing revenue with and supporting those bloggers. It now
has about 400 publishers creating about 600 sites and Arora said that some make multiple six
figures a year. They’ve fired only one.
IKEA founder calls for more women
The founder of Swedish furniture giant Ikea, Ingvar Kamprad, wants to see more women in the
group's management positions, he said in a documentary to be aired on Swedish television on
"We ought to have more women in various management positions, because women are the ones
who decide almost everything in the home," Kamprad said, according to excerpts published in
daily Dagens Nyheter.
"It's very strange that we don't have more women decision-makers and women in positions of
power," he said.
According to Ikea spokeswoman Charlotte Lindgren, the company today counts 50 percent
women among all of its employees globally, while 30 percent of store managers and 20 percent
of top management are women.
Out of the group's 11 board members, two are women.
"In Sweden things are much better. Here there are more female store managers and (women in)
top management than men," she told AFP, adding that about 60 percent of such positions are
held by women in the Scandinavian country.
Edmunds.com, “What Are Automakers Doing for Women? Part II: Toyota Takes an
American Approach,” current website
Toyota may hail from a country where men make most of the decisions, but its success in the U.S
depends on the attention it pays to the tastes and concerns of women buyers.
Women purchase about 55 percent of all Toyota vehicles and 60 percent of all Toyota passenger
cars sold in the U.S. Consequently, "Women are extremely important to us from a product and
marketing standpoint," said Sandi Kayse, Toyota's national advertising manager.
While manufacturers don't design cars specifically for women, Toyota, like several other car
companies, conducts market research to learn what features women want most. Then it
incorporates those features into future models as either standard or optional equipment.
What is it about Toyota women find appealing?
Not surprisingly, Toyota's focus groups revealed that safety and security are top priorities for
"When asked what features they want in a car, one of the first things out of women's mouths is,
'airbags,'" Kayse said. "Of course front airbags are mandatory, but women want side-impact and
head-protecting curtain airbags."
Kayse noted that Toyota's reputation for quality and reliability always comes up in women's focus
groups. "For them, reliability is a peace-of-mind issue," she said. "Women want a car that will get
them where they're going and not leave them stranded."
Other features that appeal to women (especially those with families), she said, are features like
power door locks, LATCH child-seat anchors, restraint systems and child-safe window buttons.
But women aren't just about safety and security, Kayse said. They're also into styling and interior
ergonomics. "Because women tend to be more diminutive in stature, they appreciate things like
telescopic steering wheels and grocery-bag hooks in the trunk," Kayse said. "I'm 5-foot-2, and I
can't reach the back of the trunk, so it's nice to have hooks to keep the gallon of milk from sliding
to the back."
How about adjustable pedals?
"We do offer adjustable pedals, but quite frankly we get a very low install rate — less than 1
percent of our buyers actually order vehicles with them."
Toyota's research also reveals that women are sensitive to noise, vibration and harshness, and
are concerned about the comfort of their passengers.
The contrast between men's and women's priorities showed up clearly during a recent mixed
(male and female) focus group of the new Avalon.
"The women were all over the interior of the car, whereas the men looked at the exterior and
talked about the sleek styling and the horsepower of the great engine," Kayse said.
"The women were all about the 'hosting opportunities' inside of the car — the flat rear floor, the
spacious and reclining rear seats, the rear heat/air conditioner vents, and the optional heated
front and rear seats. They also liked the easy ingress and egress offered by the wide-opening
rear doors, as many of them have to load child seats or are caring for elderly parents."
Toyota research also reveals that the environmental-friendliness of hybrids appeals strongly to
women, which bodes well for the hybrid Camry that enters production next year.
Wooing Women: Advertising
To reach out to women, Toyota sticks to traditional marketing methods: placing ads in
mainstream media and women's specialty magazines, as well as sponsoring several female
athletes, who in turn serve as company spokespeople.
This year, the company is promoting its vehicles and its new "Moving Forward" ad campaign by
serving as automotive sponsor of Glamour magazine's "Woman of the Year Awards" and O, The
Oprah Magazine's "Live Your Best Life Tour." In conjunction with both events, Toyota has created
its own "Moving Forward" awards programs to honor women who are working to create positive
changes in the world. Winners of the Oprah contest will receive a series of life-coaching
seminars, while the three winners of the Glamour contest will win a 2005 Toyota, either a Camry,
Prius or Solara.
"Some of our vehicles naturally appeal more to women," Kayse said. "We skew our media buys to
target the audience the vehicle most appeals to. For instance, in Good Housekeeping we'd place
an ad for the Sienna, not the Tacoma.
"We don't position any vehicle car as a woman's car. Most of our TV ads include both males and
females, because there's the old adage that you can sell a woman a 'man's car,' but once you
label something a 'woman's car' you'll never sell it to a man. We have to walk a very fine line to
reach out to women while appealing to men at the same time."
But Marti Barletta, an expert in marketing to women who has consulted with major automakers,
disagrees. "Toyota's use of gender-neutral ads shows they're not understanding one of the
fundamentals of advertising and marketing," she said, "which is that you can't talk to all of the
people all of the time if you want to appeal to a specific market segment. Women and men care
about different things, and you can't address them all effectively in one ad."
According to Dr. Michael Bernacchi, professor of marketing at the University of Detroit, the issue
isn't Toyota's use of gender-neutral ads. After all, he said, "in Toyota ads, the focus is always on
the car, not the people. But the real work needs to be done at the dealership level. Nobody likes
to buy a car — it's a heinous experience — least of all women. Toyota has these extraordinary
vehicles, but that quality message doesn't carry through to the dealership."
Dealerships: Dealmakers or Breakers?
Indeed, no matter how appealing a company's cars are, a customer's perceptions of an
automaker will be most directly affected by their experience at the dealership.
In J.D. Power and Associates' 2004 Customer Service Index (CSI) Study, Toyota ranked below
the industry average in terms of customer satisfaction with dealership service departments.
"Women are better car buyers than men," said Bernacchi. "They're smarter and more astute, and
they should be treated and catered to as such."
In a recent survey of 500 female customers from six Chicago-area Toyota dealerships, Toyota
found that women are much more loyal than men to dealerships where they feel they've been
treated right, and are quicker to abandon dealerships where they feel they've been treated poorly.
The survey's most surprising finding, according to Greg Kitzens, corporate manager of the Toyota
college of dealer education and development, "was that 76 percent of the women surveyed said
they brought someone with them [90 percent of whom were male] when they went shopping for a
car. Why? Because they thought having a man with them would increase their chances of getting
a better deal.
"This tells us that women are intimidated by dealerships. So we stress that our salespeople
should address the male and female equally; never turn all of their attention to the man, even if
he's asking all the questions, when it's the woman who's buying the car.
"Our findings reinforce what we've been telling dealerships all along — to treat all customers,
male and female alike, with the same courtesy and respect. Women especially want to feel
listened to; they tend to ask more questions than men, and they want more thorough answers."
The dealership facility also plays a key role in customer perceptions.
"Customers place a great deal of importance on the cleanliness and comfort of a dealership," said
Nancy Davies, Toyota's vice president of retail market development.
To this end, Toyota recently launched "Image USA II," a program aimed at upgrading dealership
exteriors and interiors, with special emphasis on customer "touch points."
"The idea is to have every aspect of the facility focused on the customer," Davies adds. "We
recommend every dealer provide a children's play area in the showroom and a coffee bar in the
service area for waiting customers. We also encourage dealers to upgrade their restroom
facilities. Focus groups reveal that many customers, especially women, judge a dealership on the
cleanliness of its restrooms."
Of course, how much of Toyota's philosophy, training and recommendations are actually
incorporated into each dealership will vary from location to location.
Attesting to this fact is Dawn Carrington of Granite Bay, California, who said she received
excellent treatment at three Northern California Toyota dealerships and horrible treatment at
"Three of the dealerships were outstanding," she said. "The people were very friendly and
courteous, and I would recommend them to anyone.
"Then a few years ago I was shopping for a Land Cruiser and took a test-drive at a Toyota
dealership in San Jose. After the test-drive, the salesman said, 'OK, let's do this deal,' and I said,
'I'm not sure I'm ready to make a decision.' And he actually took the keys to my car and threw
them across the desk and said, 'You are wasting my time.'
"I was flabbergasted. I told the manager I wouldn't so much as get my car washed at that
dealership. He started to chase me to the parking lot, but I said, 'Don't bother.'"
Corporate Grassroots Support
Outside the dealership, on a corporate level, Toyota USA supports several programs that benefit
For the past six years, Toyota USA has sponsored and participated in the Revlon Run/Walk for
Women, Los Angeles' largest fundraiser for women's cancer research. Toyota pays its
employees' entry fees and provides matching funds. Last year Toyota's 6,120-member team
raised $173,797 — the largest amount ever raised by one team in the event's 11-year history.
Toyota also sponsors and participates in the California Governor's Conference on Women and
Families, an annual event featuring high-profile speakers and workshops on topics ranging from
"How to Balance Family and Career" to "How to Start Your Own Business." Speakers at last
year's conference included Maria Shriver, Queen Noor of Jordan, Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger and two Toyota female group vice presidents. More than 130 Toyota employees
and guests attended the event.
In addition to women-focused programs, Toyota supports children's safety campaigns, such as
SafetyBeltSafe, a national non-profit organization dedicated to child passenger safety.
Women at Toyota: Not Exactly the Fast Lane
While Toyota espouses "moving forward" in its ad campaigns, how actively does it encourage
women within its own ranks to move up to leadership positions?
The answer, partly, is in the numbers. At Toyota's U.S. headquarters in Torrance, California,
women hold 21 of the 77 upper-management positions (corporate manager level or above); men
hold 56. Unlike several other major automakers, Toyota has never appointed a woman to head a
As is the case industry-wide, women Toyota dealers are in the minority. Of the 1,462 Toyota and
Lexus dealerships operating in the U.S., only 38 — 2.6 percent — are wholly owned by women.
Women have a financial interest in another 166 dealerships (for a total of 13/9%).
While Toyota has long sought women's input on vehicle design, it is just beginning to address
their treatment at the most crucial contact point of all — the dealership. And while the company
has shown increasing support of women and women's causes, it lags in terms of acknowledging
women's importance as decision makers within its own ranks. The Japanese transplant is making
steady progress, but it still has miles to go.