By Kimberly Blaker
Women today account for or influence a significant percentage of all buying decisions. As a result, many businesses have taken heed.
The total global earnings of women today are in excess of $13 trillion dollars, and as of 2011, 37 percent of family income now comes from working wives. In 2012, women wielded a whopping $7 trillion dollars in buying power. These statistics reveal the crucial role women play in keeping the economy afloat—in good times and in bad.
Unfortunately, some businesses and corporations still fail to see the power this segment possesses. Most women can remember occasions when their gender negatively affected the service and attention they received. Additionally women are still taken advantage of because of their lack of knowledge in certain industries.
Women, however, have become increasingly educated consumers, and businesses that don’t recognize this are learning the hard way. Many women, offended by these biases, walk away from a purchase, and go elsewhere, demanding to be treated with respect.
Advertising and marketing specialists are also catching on. Advertising that stereotypes women and marketing geared specifically to male audiences doesn’t set well in the minds of women today. Stereotyping and the absence of recognizing women as potential consumers for traditionally male products is off target, offensive, and fails to give these large consumers the information they need.
House and home
It is probable women today account for much more than half the spending on household goods and personal items because they take more interest in shopping for these items, especially nonessentials. Women control most of the spending not only on décor, linens, and kitchen gadgets, but furniture, cabinetry, carpeting, lighting, and more.
Furthermore, women play a major role in the purchase of real estate, the biggest investment most families make. Also worth noting, according to a 2014 report by the National Association of Realtors, 16% percent of homeowners are single women as opposed to only 9% of homeowners being single men.
Married women also markedly influence real estate decisions. Although, according to David Powers Homes of Houston, Texas, couples ultimately agree on the purchase together, research conducted by the company found that women make almost 80 percent of the home-buying decisions in the company’s $180,000 to $500,000 price range.
Also of interest, men and women each look for certain features when buying a home. Women are most concerned with floor plan and design and how these factors will accommodate their lifestyle. Specific features of importance to women include large closets, kitchen space and design, space needs, and overall comfort. Men focus mainly on technology, energy-efficiency, and garage functionality.
Probably one of the most under recognized areas of women’s buying power is in the tool and home improvement industry. With the surge in do-it-yourself remodeling, women are fast becoming one of the big spenders in tool departments and home improvement aisles. Kimberly Stevens, staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal explains, “We’re talking buzz saws, routers and power sanders.”
The growth of female tool shoppers isn’t minimal, Stevens points out. A survey by the Home Improvement Research Institute, found that women are outpacing men in their involvement in do-it-yourself projects. According to a female industrial designer at Porter-Cable of Jackson, Tennessee, as reported by Daily Gist, “Women are using these tools on a regular basis.”
Also increasing female tool sales has been the large increase in women working in the construction field, which has nearly doubled in the last 15 years.
Women’s voices are gaining prominence in the healthcare industry as well, making at least two-thirds of the healthcare decisions in U.S. households, according to Amy Ertel Bellcourt, vice president of corporate communications for MVP Health Plan. Recognizing this, healthcare systems are paying special attention by improving maternity wards and focusing a portion of their marketing on services affecting women.
Women are equally important to the travel market making seventy percent of all travel decisions. In addition to women being the larger clientele of adventure travel, business travel has seen marked growth by females who make up nearly half of all business travel, according to research by Judi Brownell, Ph.D., professor of Cornell University’s Management & Organizational Behaviour Program.
Because over 75% of women traveling on business are college educated and more able than men to articulate their needs, participate in more leisure activities while traveling on business, and are much more likely to order room service while traveling alone, they have a great impact on this industry.
While the percentage of women who own stocks still lags behind men, ample research has found women make better investors. According to an investment management firm, SigFig, women outperformed men in their investments by 12 percent in 2014.
Another area in which women play a crucial role is the automotive industry. “Women,” according to a report by the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence, “are not only becoming more influential in deciding what car to buy, they are also taking over the traditionally male-dominated responsibility of maintenance and repair,” making up between 65 and 80 percent of auto repair and service shop customers.
While women are responsible for almost half of new car sales and slightly over half of used-car sales, according to Art Spinella, of CNW Research, an automotive marketing research firm, women influence 80% of all sales, and 95% of women have the power to “veto” an automobile purchase, according to Ford Motor Marketing.
What women want from this industry, experts say, is not to be treated differently, but with respect. Because “women ask more questions, inquire about details, and are more willing to look under the hood, or check out parts,” says Diane Hohman, an automotive aftermarket consultant in Herndon, Virginia, they are beginning to get the respect in this market they deserve.
Sports and entertainment
Women are not only spending increasing amounts on clothing, but on entertainment and electronics.
Furthermore, since 2010 spending on women’s sports apparel has risen 76% according to the NFL, and 17% of all sports apparel is now made for women, when only a decade ago it was nearly zero. In fact, a whopping 44% of NFL TV viewers are now women.
What this all boils down to is two-fold; being America’s biggest consumers, women not only keep the economy from becoming stagnant during times of stability, but they keep the economy from collapsing during recession. Furthermore, it means women are gaining the upper hand in the way the business industry treats them, demanding not preferential treatment, but equal treatment and respect.