When running any type of business, catering to your base audience is key in attracting and retaining customers.
For pet retail owners, that means having a clear understanding of what women want.
According to the American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey 2011-12, 76 percent of the primary shoppers for pet products are women. Combine that stat with the fact that women account for 85 percent of all consumer purchases, including everything from autos to healthcare, according to an article on TheNextWeb.com, and there is no doubt that retailers must know how to market to women.
“Women tend to be very visual,” Christy Hill-Howard, owner of Three Dog Bakery in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, said. “I personally tend to do better with someone that can present the visual of what they are marketing and selling better than someone that will cold call me. I think industry tradeshows are very beneficial; it’s a key for me to touch, see and feel.”
Hill-Howard’s Three Dog Bakery has two pet boutiques with a full in-house bakery, as well as a large selection of toys, leashes and treats. When selling a product to a woman, she notices they want to touch, feel and use the product before purchasing it.
She knows what she likes, and dislikes, and uses that knowledge when interacting with her own customers.
“I like people to be honest with me, I don’t like people trying to sell based on things they think I want to hear,” Hill-Howard said. “Naturally they want to sell all of their products in the store, but I respect you more if you flat out tell me, this product wouldn’t work in your store. Don’t try to sell to me just to sell to me.”
Likes and Dislikes
Brad Hines, a digital marketing strategist and social media consultant from Boston, said the first step to successful marketing to women is knowing where they hang out, what they read, what they do and the music they listen to. He recommends viewing Forbes’ list of the top 100 websites women are on.
That is exactly what Catherine Simms, owner of WhinerandDiner.com, an online retailer, did when she decided to use the social networking site Pinterest as part of her marketing strategy.
“I found out that there are mostly women using this site; we get a lot of customers from it,” Simms said. “Mainly people are posting up cute pictures, or giving customer reviews. The reason we know is because after they see it, they call me asking what the right color is, what the height is, and all the things you wouldn’t be able to tell from the photo.”
When Simms sells to women, she notices most of them look for the same common traits for the product to have.
“They want something that isn’t just functional but is also attractive,” Simms said. “When they shop around they only find bowls that are metal or plastic. They want something that is unique and will match everything else in their house, something they don’t have to put away when company comes over. Male customers know exactly what they want and they don’t care about things like colors.”
Simms also found that women will spend a little more time on the phone discussing the purchases, as well as looking for guidance.
“Just sometimes you need to almost make the decision for them,” Simms said. “Many times I would say, ‘If I were you I would go with this,’ I would put myself in the customer’s shoes. When the customer calls, they need some kind of guidance.”
Understanding the Dynamics
Yvonne DiVita, the author of “Dick*less Marketing: Smart Marketing to Women Online,” and the founder of Lipsticking.com, said some people feel that marketing and selling to women is no different from any other marketing, that you identify your market needs and meet them.
But, it’s not always that easy, she explained, adding marketers need to talk with women, rather than at them.
“Women are complex creatures,” DiVita said. “We’re very much social beings who love the experience of a good conversation. When you market to us, you must keep in mind that you are always talking to a collective, not a ‘person.’ While we have our differences, as all human beings do, we do things in a ‘together mode’ more often.”
When comparing the difference between marketing to male and female shoppers, DiVita said men are solitary, quick in and quick out kind of shoppers.
“Even online, where they tend to comparison shop, they are still focused on those three vital goals, or four, or five, whatever is important to them, they are seldom distracted by their surroundings,” DiVita said. “Women want to see all, not only the sweater or shoes or purse we’re shopping for, but all the accompaniments and we are into those reviews other women have left for us and we definitely want color choices. Please, folks who offer products only in pink will lose out to folks who offer a variety of products, with pink as a choice.”
When marketing to women who have pets, according to DiVita, it’s important to remember they are a community, a unique community.
“In the pet universe the emotional connections are so strong, outsiders would do well to tiptoe up to the door and request admittance, because we’re somewhat suspicious of newcomers,” DiVita said. “Women in this community are as emotionally attached to their pets, for the most part, as other women are to their children. And that’s not just saying so, it’s not just a cute little ditty, ‘Oh, my dog is just like a kid to me.’ It’s the truth.”
“So, appeal to the Mom in us. We are focused on health, nutrition and fun for our pets. We want to help shelters and rescues and see that all pets get good care, good food and lots of love. We may have differing opinions on how to give that care, and on other issues, but in the end, we’re a collective whole using our voices to bring the strength and power of the human animal bond to the conversation.”
DiVita said marketers need to build strong relationships with influencers in the community.
That doesn’t mean getting more female sales associates, but instead zeroing in on the influencers in a community, getting them to be loyal customers and talking about you. They will spread the word to their immediate community, who will in turn spread your message.
Men vs. Women
Experts say everything from the music playing in the background to the smell of a store can make the difference between creating a repeat customer, or not. While it may be cumbersome to think about all those details, it could pay off in the end.
Bridget O’Brien, owner of Bridget O’Brien PR and Events in New York City, and marketing and public relations expert, said marketing to a woman is different from marketing to a male because many times you are addressing the needs of a whole family, or household.
“In marketing to men you are only marketing to them,” O’Brien said. “You, most of the time, do not have to show the benefits a product has for children or spouses.”
So, is marketing to women harder than marketing to men? Not necessarily, Hines says.
“Marketing to women is only harder in the ways that they tend to be savvier than men, for example, they tend to have a better appreciation for aesthetics, certain language styles, and interpersonal communication in general,” Hines said. “With men, you can use more coarse language, or hard speak. With women, a better approach to have is an appreciation for poetic and expressive language, not necessarily flowery however.”
Hines also noted that marketing to all women in the broad respects may be similar, but that retailers also have to look at other factors when creating their plan.
“Like any market segment, there are sub-segments you must understand and pay attention to: income, race, age, location and religion,” Hines said.
The most important thing to remember, Hines said, to is not to patronize them.
“Women, now more than ever, are beginning to become leery of marketing that is pandering to them – like always using Dakota hand script font as an example,” Hines said. “Especially Generation Y women who are more and more marketing savvy than any generation before them.”