In the United States today, women handle 75% of family finances, control $14 trillion (51%) of private wealth, and account for at least $2 trillion in consumer spending each year. Women make or influence 80% of consumer purchases, buying 81% of electronics, 75% of over-the-counter drugs, and 65% of new cars. As a result, marketers are now finally wooing women in nearly every consumer category, even those that have traditionally targeted men (such as automotive, financial services and home improvement).

As documented by Martha Barletta, author of Marketing to Women (2002), women not only make the lion’s share of consumer purchasing decisions, they also constitute a majority of corporate purchasing agents and managers. In addition, female entrepreneurs account for 70% of new business startups. In other words, companies that pay attention to women prosper.

In a special report on marketing to women, author Emily Fromm explores five ways companies are reaching out to women consumers:


The number of women homebuyers has more than doubled in the past decade (National Homebuyers Association). Women make 80% of the home-buying decisions in the under-$500,000 range (David Powers Homes). Single women now account for 21% of home sales, making them the second-largest segment of homebuyers after married couples, who buy 59% of homes (National Association of Realtors).

Home designers and builders have taken notice of these facts and are taking women’s unique desires and concerns into consideration. These include a focus on both form and function, such as spacious and modern kitchens and master baths, and aesthetic details such as granite countertops, ceramic tile, and attractive paint and finishes. Single women look for safety features, affordability and easy maintenance in a property, and homebuilders are providing what the market demands.

Other industries reaching out to women consumers through product development include automotive (Volvo touts its YCC as “the first car designed by women for women”); telecommunications (Nokia designs its cell phones as both lifestyle necessity and fashion accessory); electronics (Epson’s scrap-booking tools, Sony’s baby monitors and Radio Shack’s heart-rate monitors are all designed to appeal to women); and financial services (J.E Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Merrill Lynch and Charles Schwab all have products and services specifically designed for female executives, entrepreneurs and investors).


The National Association of Realtors now emphasizes the particular needs and desires of female homebuyers in its sales training. In the home improvement sector, both Home Depot and Lowe’s offer do-it-yourself workshops that have attracted tens of thousands of women. In fact, Lowe’s purposely designs its stores to be spacious, bright, colorful and well-organized in order to appeal to women customers, who initiate 80% of home-improvement projects.


According to Martha Barletta, women buy 68% of all new cars and 53% of used cars, influence 80% of car purchases, and make 65% of service and repair decisions. Automakers are ramping up their marketing efforts towards women by entering marketing partnerships. Hyundai, for example, sponsors the Ladies Professional Golf Association and the Women’s United Soccer Association. BMW partners with the Susan G. Kormen Breast Cancer Foundation on the “Drive for the Cure” program.


The efforts cited above have been accompanied by advertising which is much more friendly to women in both content and tone. In commercials for the National Association of Realtors, you see a lot of women on both sides of the transaction. In Home Depot ads (a $350 million print, TV, radio and Internet campaign), couples and families are depicted taking on home-improvement projects together. Advertisements for electronics products pursue female consumers by emphasizing aesthetics and usefulness, not just technical specs.


Women are powerful consumers of media. Magazine readership among women increased 6.1% from 1998 to 2002, compared with an increase of 4.3% among men. There are 110 million TV-watching women in the US, compared with 101 million men, and 52% of cable TV subscribers are women. Women and girls make up 50.4% of the US Web audience, and 85% of women shop online.

Advertisers are starting to take advantage of these numbers. Home Depot advertises on Lifetime (“the woman’s cable network”), and in magazines such as Oprah, Redbook and Good Housekeeping. Women’s Entertainment, another cable TV network geared toward females, has opened a sales office in Detroit to go after automotive advertisers. Sharp Electronics has advertised its products on Lifetime, The Learning Channel and the Food Network. Panasonic has advertised in Self, ElleGirl and other women’s titles. And Citigroup targets women with at least $100,000 in investment assets by advertising on the wedding pages of The New York Times.

Copyright FutureScan Feb 2005

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