Men want to go to Sears, buy a specific tool and get out. That’s the message of a study called “Men Buy, Women Shop” in which researchers found that women react more strongly than men to personal interaction with retail sales staff. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to respond to more utilitarian aspects of the experience – such as ease in parking the car, whether the item they came for is in stock, and the length of the checkout line.
The study was undertaken by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business (Jay H. Baker Retail Initiative) and the Verde Group, a Toronto consulting firm. According to Wharton marketing professor Dr. Stephen J. Hoch, shopping behaviour mirrors gender differences throughout many aspects of life:
“Women think of shopping in an interpersonal, human fashion while men treat it as more instrumental. It’s a job to get done.”
In fact, study authors suggest that, after generations of relying on women to shop effectively for them, men’s interest in shopping has actually atrophied.
(I have to say that my own interest in shopping atrophied long ago, about the same time I became interested in going to garage sales on sunny Saturday mornings. There’s nothing like seeing a gorgeous, near-new designer leather purse with a $2 garage sale pricetag – an item which at one time was a must-have purchase for somebody, and bought full-price retail. Plus garage sales include the best of what Wharton researchers describe as most attractive to female shoppers: “interpersonal human” contact with your neighbourhood sellers!)
But for your typical mall shopper, do you know what gets in the way of women who want to “shop effectively”? According to this study, “lack of help when needed” is the top problem (29%). It’s also the likeliest reason that stores lose the business of women shoppers. An analysis of the study’s data shows that about 6% of all female shoppers could be lost to stores due to lack of sales help. Since women make up 83% of North American consumer spending, such shopping-stoppers need to be addressed by retail stores.
Men, however, ranked “difficulty in finding parking close to the store’s entrance” as the number one problem (also 29%). The problem most likely to result in lost business from men is if the product they came to buy is out of stock; about 5% of all male shoppers could be lost to stores for this reason.
Dr. Hoch adds:
“It’s hard to do anything about parking or the mall being too crowded, but stores can do things about their sales associates. What I found interesting about this study’s results is how women tend to be more focused on people, while men act almost as if they are dealing with an ATM machine. In fact, they want to deal with an ATM machine. They really don’t want to deal with a person.”