What Women Want

May 28, 2009

True or False:
– All women like the color pink
– All women love to shop
– All women watch Oprah

If you answered false to all of them, congrats- you understand women! (No, the last one wasn’t a trick question- there are women who don’t watch Oprah). If you answered true to any of them, then you should probably keep reading. (Well, please keep reading anyway!) The truth: every woman has her own individual style, tastes and preferences. But guess what? Every man has his own individual style, tastes and preferences, too. Yet time after time, companies try to complicate the matter by separating people into buckets and marketing to them in entirely separate ways.

Take Dell, for example. They recently launched Della, a site built with the intention of creating a shopping experience for women. The issue isn’t that they wanted to market to women. The issue is that they took every stereotype in the book and blatantly displayed it on the site. Language: completely dumbed down; imagery: fluff; layout: overly simplistic. Someone must have tipped them off that women tend to support companies that give back, too, because their cause-marketing initiatives are one of the first four areas you can click on. Women– such do-gooders! I’m not sure if they actually tested the site with focus groups made up of women or if they tested it internally with themselves, but either way, it was a missed opportunity to really connect with women. Someone at Dell must have agreed, because the site has been revamped into a more gender-neutral niche called “Lifestyle.”

One company that has traditionally been thought of as a store for guys but has started to get it right with the ladies is Best Buy. Their evolution from a big box retailer with a one-size-fits-all approach to one that is customer centric– understanding that every customer has unique, individual needs– has helped them weather the storm that their competitors could not (aka, Circuit City). Sure, at first they started out with the Dell approach, but what they have discovered in the process is that by paying attention to what women want, they also enhance the experience for men as well.

Take the in-store experience. Women said that a) the light is harsh; b) the product and store feel cluttered; and c) they can’t easily locate the area they are looking for (and sometimes more importantly, the bathroom). Best Buy’s solution: they softened the lights, stocked product above the shelves, cleared the aisles with few exceptions, and created large aerial signage that prominently displays the various product areas — and the bathroom. If you can’t find the area now, then you’re just not paying attention. The result: a more comfortable shopping experience that benefits everyone. They didn’t have to change the yellow tag to a pink one; they just had to pay attention to what customers were saying.

The biggest lesson in all of this: In creating a separate shopping experience for women, a company is basically saying that its current experience isn’t good enough. Doesn’t seem like rocket science to me, but perhaps that’s the bigger issue?