Driving more than 70 percent of consumer spending with their buying power and influence — unsurprisingly, it’s women in control.
Here, WWD speaks with Bridget Brennan, author of “Winning Her Business: How to Transform the Customer Experience for the World’s Most Powerful Consumers.” Brennan is also founder and chief executive officer of Female Factor, a strategic consultancy.
WWD: Why do women hold the most spending power?
Bridget Brennan: Women are the majority of primary caregivers for both children and the elderly in nearly every society in the world. In the marketplace, this means that women are often buying for multiple constituencies that may include everyone from spouses and partners to children, parents, in-laws, friends, and businesses. This is a key reason women have a “multiplier effect” on sales: they are typically the gateway to everyone else in the household and beyond.
WWD: What are the top trends impacting women’s purchasing?
Six of the influential trends I cover in “Winning Her Business” are:
• Double Duty, Half the Time: The blurred lines between work life and home life are one of the factors driving an increased appetite for helpful services, not just products.
• The Mini-Me Effect: Witness the multigenerational appeal of everything from couture brands to Converse: moving up and down the age spectrum is an opportunity for many brands.
• Visual Storytelling: Women dominate most of the major social media networks. The opportunity for brands is to get in the picture.
• Health and Wellness as a Lifestyle: From functional food to functional fashion, wellness is now a decision-making factor across industry categories.
• Sixty is the New Forty: Toss out the old stereotypes about age: Maye Musk is a CoverGirl model at 70; reinvention is becoming the new normal as people embark on second and third acts in their careers and personal lives.
• Personalization: From beauty products to funeral services, personalization drives emotional engagement. I call this trend, “I am my own brand.”
WWD: How can retailers avoid alienating women as customers?
Stereotype avoidance is crucial. Make it your business to learn how factors like language, attitudes and social roles are evolving in the culture. These can impact your customers’ perceptions of everything from sales interactions to in-store signage and marketing campaigns. Women are a compass for how the market is changing.
WWD: What companies are doing it right, in regards to selling to women?
A company doesn’t have to exclusively sell to women to provide a great experience for them. Some of my favorite examples are Lexus, Nordstrom, Sephora, Trader Joe’s, Southwest Airlines and Apple stores. The unifying aspect among these brands is a focus on service and the customer experience.
WWD: How has e-commerce changed expectations for buying in-store?
E-commerce has eliminated many of the variables we encounter when shopping IRL (in real life). There are usually no surprises during a standard online transaction: from start to finish, we know what’s going to happen. This is both a challenge and an opportunity for brick-and-mortar businesses. How can real-life variables — including the kind of service we receive from an individual — be transformed into memorable moments of engagement that keep customers coming back for more? The more time we spend behind screens, the more we crave experiences.
WWD: What are actionable solutions to jump-starting customer engagement?
• Find out and reaffirm how your customers define great service.
• Reverse-engineer the customer experience to deliver positive emotional outcomes.
• Identity what’s already working — and do more of it to prioritize diversity and inclusion.
WWD: What role will women-owned businesses play in the coming years?
I predict that emerging female-founded or cofounded brands will continue to innovate and change the way established brands go to market. We’ll see creative problem-solving with both products and business models: consider the half-cup bra sizes at ThirdLove and the powerful combination of algorithms and human curation at Stitch Fix.
We’ll also see innovation in the way these brands market to women. For example, intimates brand Knix showcases real customers instead of professional models in its marketing. Finally, we’ll see an increase in the money these businesses are able to raise. Female cofounded ThirdLove just raised $55 million in a fundraising round that included prominent women investors. [The funding will be used to build out product sizes, presently the company makes 78 different sizes].
Retailers and brands aligning with innovative, authentic marketing can better reap this “multiplier effect” women have on consumer spending.