Ignoring Women is the Biggest Mistake Tech Brands Can Make
Well, ignoring women, in general, is a mistake, no matter whether you are in product planning, marketing, politics or just living with one!
Over the past few years, many marketing experts have been talking about the growing power of female consumers, and a quick search finds plenty of services aimed at upping brands’ game when it comes to selling to them.
It is estimated that in the US, women drive roughly 70-80% of consumer spending with their purchasing power and influence. They also identify themselves as the primary shoppers for their households influencing as much as 91% of purchases according to some recent studies. The vast majority of women also think that most marketing messages show a lack of understanding of what drives their purchase decision.
All of this is not news, especially if you are a woman, but what makes it particularly relevant for tech brands today is that technology is broadening its reach into domains like home, car, beauty, education, shopping where technology will be part of a product and not necessarily be seen as one. Because of that, women will be even more likely to be the primary decision maker or a strong influencer in the purchasing process. So if tech becomes the core product differentiator either because of hardware features, or software or AI, brands better learn how to include female buyers in their thinking.
Targeting Women and Including Women in Your Audience is not the Same
It is fascinating how often tech brands will look at new geographies or adjacent segments to their core as a way to expand their revenue opportunity ignoring something as simple as addressing a part of the consumer base that just does not look like their CEO and head of engineering. Or deciding without any due diligence that a segment that has been ignored in the past should always be ignored. Sadly, female consumers fall often into either one of these categories.
Some of the companies that do not ignore the increased purchasing power women have been displaying, still believe that all it takes to planning and marketing products that speak to women is the old “paint it pink, and they will buy it.” But catering to women, I can’t believe I am writing this, takes more than a pink version of your product!
It certainly helps if your process from product conception, to design, to marketing have women involved. This tends to happen when a product is specifically targeted at women but rarely occurs in tech where, unless you are talking about a connected bra or a smart mirror, women are often an afterthought addressed with small tweaks in design (pink!) or marketing.
I spent my time at CES this year looking for tech aimed at women mostly because I wanted to see how bad it was. I have to admit I did not find much, good or bad, outside of some connection fashion, motherhood and beauty products. What was amazing to me was how pitch after pitch it was clear I was not the intended buyer. Whether I was meeting someone over a connected car concept or a connected pet gadget a man had already been given the buyer leading role, and I was merely a supporting actress if I was considered at all. At times women might be the final users but not the buyer. At the FoldiMate demo, I lost count of the times I heard “you can buy for your wife” as if there are no wives out there who have the purchasing power of buying it for themselves if they needed one.
Women First, Consumers Second
While I warn about the danger of stereotyping, some characteristics tend to be true for women in different countries, and you can see this more clearly today than you ever did thanks to social media.
Women are caregivers which means that whether they are looking after a child, a parent, a partner or a pet they are making decisions that involve others and purchasing tech is no different.
Women are also multi-taskers which means that we appreciate simplicity – not because we cannot handle complex but because we do not want to spend our energy on that if we do not need to.
Women are influencers, big influencers to other women more so than men are to men. Millennial women and Gen Zers have a growing voice in many domains including tech. Just take a look at the increasing number of female tech reporters, female gamers, but also women that are in critical roles such as teachers and educators.
Women care a lot about ethics, privacy, and security all critical topics in today’s tech world. This means that the tech product you are designing might come under higher scrutiny especially when brought into the home. It also means that who you are as a brand and what you stand for will likely play a role in the decision process.
We see good customer service not as a differentiator but as a basic requirement.
We tend to be more practical, which results in a higher appreciation for products that set realistic expectations rather than products that over promise and under deliver.
The list can go on, but you get my point that we are a complex buyer that needs proper attention and consideration. There is always a significant risk when talking about designing and marketing products for a segment whether defined by gender, age or ethnicity. Generalizations and stereotyping creeps in when you are talking about a group as a whole rather than acknowledge all the different individuals that while united by some attributes, remain different and unique. So dear tech brands, you might not always get it right, but you will undoubtedly have a higher chance to do so if you start to acknowledge that not all your buyers are bros.