Editorial: Women, Shopping and the Web - Publication: Professional Marketing Magazine

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From an elitist domain as a military network, through to mainstream communications tool, the Internet’s use has spilled into an assortment of market sectors. Nowadays, everyone from baby boomers to Generation D* are harnessing the web for everything from e-banking to on-line retail

In tune with the wider reach of the Web as an everyday communications tool, on-line shopping is now a mainstream passtime, no longer the exclusive bastion of catalogue or "unique" purchases.

Competitive pricing plays a key role in the growth of on line shopping. Specialist sites such as amazon.com (books), ChaosMusic (CDs) and dvdplanet.com.au (audio equipment) typify the ability of on-line retailers to offer a compared to greater range of products at better prices.

The Internet has also radically transformed the way established demographics do their shopping. Unlike the previous era of bricks and mortar retail, things have changed. Nowadays women aren’t necessarily the dominant gender pounding the pavement- or rather brousing their search engines for goods and services.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, (ABS Catalogue No 8147.0) 39% of women have access to the Internet (Use of the Internet by Householders Australia report ) and 6% of Australian adult (803,000 people) used the Internet for on-line shopping
In the US, studies by the likes of Web research firm, Media Metrix show women are about to surpass men online and when they go shopping, while on a local level, a similar proportion of men and women are shopping online. Overall, market analysis on an international scale suggests that as women feel more at ease with online shopping, and as the web's dynamic becomes more user friendly, women shoppers are expected to eclipse men for most consumer goods.

According to web industry analysts www.consult Australian online shoppers spent some $139 million online in the 12 months to July 1998. The largest product categories continue to be books, music and software.

Further, in a report compiled by Consult titled the Australian Online Shopping Report, (July - December 1999) Online Shopping in 2000 is expected to more than double. The report also states that the Online Shopping market is expected to grow to 3.8 million users (20% of the Australian population) by the end of 2000, representing a significant potential market for online retailers.

While Consult have little to say about gender, they believe Australian online shoppers are on average 25-35 years old, highly educated, "early adopters" of the Internet & typically in professional occupations.

"There is a slow increase in the proportion of female Internet users, who make up less than 20% of users. Although significant proportions of Internet users have tried online shopping it is still not a driver of Internet use. According Ramin Marzbani, www.consult principal and Internet industry analyst.

It’s a contentious point. Are more Australian women than men shopping online? Having gleaned response from a variety of sources, finding a clearly defined verdict is difficult, though a recognisable trend suggests women are beginning to outnumber men when it comes to shopping on-line.

According to Melissa Taylor, spokesperson for on-line retailer, DStore, there are increasingly more women than men shopping on-line, though at present, the ratio between men and women is now closer to fifty/fifty.

John Giro, Chief Marketing Officer with GreenGrocer.com.au says over 70% of GreenGrocer.com.au users are women, with over half of them having children at home. “They like the fact that online shopping offers them the ability to shop at a time convenient to them, so they can do it from home or work, or after the kids have gone to bed. They can also control their budget and select a delivery time that suits.”

Tracy Francis, marketing spokesperson for Blue Dingo believes that the ratio using the net has increased from 21% to 39% of women between 1998-99. “We believe that the major driver of women using, and particularly transacting online is the convenience and price savings that are available”.

Our experience has been that women use the net where its functionality actually does provide these benefits, rather than as an entertainment medium. In contrast, men appear to be more likely to surf for hours”.

Making women aware of what is available on-line is they key. A number of marketing strategies and techniques have been utilised to attract women and keep them coming, from advertisements through to physical design.

Liz Mandle, marketing manager with of specialist women's site, The Lounge says that their research has found that women consider the site's user-friendliness as the most important feature of a website.

In response, we have created a website that is comfortable and easy to navigate, with a warm but stylish look and feel. Our content is also practical and enjoyable and is written to be informative, entertaining, thoughtful and easy to read. We aim to provide ‘virtually all a woman needs’ and present it in a way that women want.”

Melissa Taylor, marketing spokesperson for DStore is keen to reaffirm the notion that strategy plays a key role in marketing sites to women. “Women respond quite differently to the web than men. To be successful in this market you need to be more than an on-line catalogue.It is important to clearly show the depth of range, convenience and complete customer experience.”

Taylor cites the most popular sites for women on-line to include dstore.com.au, thelounge.com.au, ninemsn.com.au, and shesaid.com.au

Women like the web as they can browse before they buy, and in turn, gather thorough information about a product before they make a purchase. Women look to the web for additional information not a rehashed version of their traditional magazines.”

Specialist women’s site, The Lounge, offers a broad range of products for sale including beauty products, maternity wear, cosmetics, gifts, homewares, baby products and select books. Lounge marketing manager, Liz Mandle, believes women predominately use the Internet as a time-saving appliance.

As women’s lives are getting increasingly more complicated, women are becoming more and more attracted to e-commerce sites. They are looking for sites that make their lives easier and help them address the demands of work, home and family”. Research has found that the most popular sites for women are sites that provide information, research and entertainment, online banking sites are also popular”.

Women feel that the Internet saves them time,” Mandle says. “It provides convenience, lets them bank and shop after retail hours, conduct research, keeps them up to date with current events and is entertaining. Women also like sites which are easy to navigate and quick to download. User friendliness combined with quality local information and services are key”.

In terms of the web’s defiance of traditional media, Mandle believes online magazines have created a new market niche,. “In contrast to conventional print media, online magazines offer not only immediate content, but also interactivity, and immediate feedback, all features traditional magazines are unable to offer.”

Written by Craig Stephens

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