sea of big-screen TVs at the electronics store may still be
tuned to football games and NASCAR races, but smart marketers
are learning that testosterone doesn't necessarily control
the purse strings.
actually spent more on technology last year than men,
according to the Consumer Electronics Association. It
says women accounted for $55 billion of the $96 billion
spent on electronics gear.
electronics stores have been slow to catch on. Nearly 75 percent
of women surveyed by the industry group complained about being
ignored, patronized or offended by sales people when shopping
percent of the women said they were treated better when accompanied
by a man. And more than half said advertisements for electronics
were confusing — though half the men surveyed felt the same
meager one percent of women surveyed thought manufacturers had
them in mind when creating products, according to the report,
released at last week's Consumer Electronics Show.
growing number of companies are starting to target their wares
toward female buyers, or at the very least peddle them in
a more gender-neutral fashion.
designed its flat-panel TVs two years ago with women in mind.
It called the product line AQUOS to connote fluidity and a
softer touch. It expanded its TV ads beyond sports and prime-time
slots to Lifetime, the Food Network and The Learning Channel.
Last Mother's Day, a Circuit City ad prominently featured
one of the sleek TVs in a kitchen.
it came to consumer electronics, we noticed that the female
population was being ignored a bit," said Bob Scaglione,
Sharp's vice president of Marketing. Today, Sharp claims more
than 50 percent of the LCD flat-panel TV market.
who get this picture are seeing dividends.
Electronics, Inc., a high-end audio-video store in Conover,
N.C., installed a children's area, replaced the utilitarian
atmosphere with a homier layout and burgundy paint, and even
offered tours of the store owner's home, complete with dirty
dishes in the sink, to show the products in a real-life setting.
Revenues have been climbing since, said co-owner Sibyle Hager.
Myers, who bought a $5,000 plasma TV at Tri-City, entered
the store angry at the unequal treatment she felt when she
shopped for a new set last year at national electronics retail
was ticked off," said Myers, a retired customer service
manager of a fiber-optics cable maker. "Every time you
go to these places, they think women don't know anything,
and they don't tell you the same features as they would when
my husband goes with me."
worse, she added, "some of them talk to your husband
even though you're standing right there, too."
women are involved in almost 75 percent of all electronics
purchases, and they are increasingly interested in gadgets,
from DVD players to digital cameras, for themselves or their
families, according to the survey, which was based on telephone
interviews with 1,002 U.S. adults in October and done in association
with the independent market research firm Rockbridge Associates
Shack's customers have shifted from 20 percent female seven
years ago to 40 percent female today. In response, the 7,000-store
chain began actively recruiting female store managers last
year, and now one of every seven stores is managed by a woman.
evolution of technology is behind the trend. Computers are
now common household items, and the digital lifestyle — from
doing e-mails to picture taking — is no longer the sole realm
of early adopters, who once were predominantly male.
almost 33 percent of women consider themselves early adopters
willing to buy cutting-edge consumer technology, according
to the CEA study.
products themselves are becoming all-around easier to use,"
said Barbara Kotsos, senior marketing manager for Epson's
printing supplies division. "They aren't as intimidating
as they would have been for Mrs. Cleaver 50 years ago."
a leading maker of scanner and printers, recently homed in
on the female-dominated scrapbooking market, so successfully
that it plans to aim more products at women this year.
products targeting women include its LIV line, sold exclusively
at Target stores, which includes CD players for the kitchen
and shower radios in colors from stainless steel to lime.
The smaller designs should fit better in a home — characteristics
desired by consumers in general and women in particular, said
Ellen Glassman, a director of design at Sony.
attempts fall short.
CES, organizers hung big pink banners saying "Technology
is a Girl's Best Friend," even though the group's own
research found a third of women surveyed don't like products
with girlie colors.
a challenge, says Laura Heller, senior director of the trade
publication DSN Retailing Today.
a fine line between marketing to women and talking down to
women," she said, "and I don't think people have
found what that is."