The Power of the Modern Purse

Yes, women are responsible for 85 percent of consumer purchases. But do we really understand who the 21st-century woman is and how marketers can best connect with her?

The “Women at NBCU” advisory board — a group of 25 high-ranking female executives across numerous industries — recently gathered to address this very question. The discussion was largely based on findings from Maria Shriver’s landmark women’s study, “A Woman’s Nation,” which she presented at the meeting, as well as a new report from Women at NBCU and GfK Roper, “The Female Factor,” about women’s changing economic power.

These studies revealed that women have more power and influence than ever before. Women and mothers are now a major component of the workforce, signaling the largest cultural change of our time, and many are also the breadwinners in their households.

At the same time, women are still viewed as the primary caretakers for their children and often bear chief responsibility for their elderly parents. In other words, women are doing it all.

Here are some key points of advice from the Women at NBCU board on how to effectively market to women.

Talk to women as individuals: Market to women differently than men, but keep in mind that not all women are the same. Marketers need to acknowledge and speak to the different segments of women that exist in society and link their products to the lifestyle relevant to those segments.

Give women the chance to connect more with themselves and their well-being: Women have so much on their plates, caring for their kids, their job and extended families that they rarely ever stop to think about themselves — though they know they should.

Know your best customer: Recognize how multicultural the country has become. For example, 42 percent of women 18-34 in the U.S. are Hispanic.  Marketers need to be aware of women’s customs, needs and passions, which can vary greatly, depending on ethnicity.

Women don’t want to be talked down to or reminded how busy they are: A company’s message should transcend the everyday grind and connect to their thought process on a deeper level.

Don’t pigeonhole women: Give women options and let them decide what they want to get out of it — whether it’s a product, a service or an experience. There are some things very typical to women, but they don’t want to feel like they are relegated to just one category.

Solicit women’s feedback and then use it: What do women want and how do they want to buy? Go directly to the source: local communities, online networks and even customer-service feedback to hear their thoughts firsthand.

Don’t overlook women age 50 plus:  These are women in their prime, have real savings and earn more money than their younger counterparts.

Make your company a role model: Companies must adapt to the way women want to work in order to be regarded as a more attractive place to build a career, as well as a more appealing place to shop.

Actions speak louder than words: Marketers can invest in female-focused campaigns, but if women don’t feel valued or spoken to in the stores, they may not buy your product. Customer service, tailored to women consumers, is critical at the point of purchase.

Community and connections are key: Finding women’s social and community networks is key to reaching women. The explosive popularity of social networks among women in the last decade is proof of that. Marketers need to give women opportunities to connect so they can discuss and recommend their product.

Companies also need to get out in the community and host gatherings for their customers, an idea pioneered by Tupperware and Avon and still very effective today.

It’s important to note that although research shows women have increased authority and oversight, they still trail men in terms of confidence and feel they are taken less seriously than men as purchasers. This is a huge opportunity for marketers. Those that best engage women — speaking to them in ways they can relate to — will garner their loyalty and lucrative returns.

Maryam Banikarim is the senior vp of NBC Universal Integrated Marketing, the group that spearheads targeted cross-platform media initiatives.