Gender Commerce: What is behind the little-known shopping trend?

Until recently, websites and shopping apps were designed and built primarily for men. That should change with gender commerce. Julia Saswito and Marc Schürmann reveal what has happened in recent years and where the journey is headed.

Women and men think differently. This is nothing new and also applies to their behavior in the digital world. What is new, however, is that more and more companies are becoming aware of this fact and are increasingly designing their online shops, websites and mobile apps to meet the needs of female users. If you consider that women make more than half of all online purchases, everything else could safely be described as grossly negligent.

Great progress in recent years

Mostly male developers have designed mostly male websites. Abstract cutouts, technical details, numbers and never-ending product names were commonplace online. Indeed, it took a moment for word to get around that this depiction was more likely to deter half the population than to motivate them to buy. A lot has happened in recent years.

In the meantime, various studies have made it clear to what extent the online behavior of women and men differs, and service providers made recommendations as to why and how these findings can be incorporated into the design of websites and online shops. For example, it has been found that women are fixated on subjects, not objects. So if the exempted product works for men, women prefer the representation in the context of people.

For this reason, brands are telling stories more and more frequently and showing the portfolio in connection with people and everyday situations. And what works for women doesn’t have to be bad for men: Both target groups can clearly see the actual size of the product and its functions or advantages in the picture. Since it is often women who do initial research on a particular product on the Internet before discussing the details with their partner, this strategy ultimately has a positive effect on the entire buying process.

Offering inspiration instead of giving away potential

In addition, the field reports, testimonials and influencers that are so important for women are now in greater use. The fact that women are looking for inspiration online is also increasingly being taken into account by shops. For example, the provider suggests other pieces that match the outfit for the selected trousers.

This large selection of different products helps women to weigh, compare and ultimately find the “perfect solution”. For shop owners, this means making shopping lists and shopping baskets accessible for a long time and understanding them as a kind of pause for reflection. Because while the man searches and buys specifically, women constantly check and adjust their selection criteria. If shop operators no longer display the products that were “parked” on the watch list a few days ago, they are wasting great potential. Perhaps after much deliberation, the customer has come to the decision that she would like the parts stored there after all.

Even more satisfied customers thanks to innovative technologies

In addition to various studies, the topic of data analysis in particular has advanced gender commerce. Thanks to it, marketing managers can now understand much more easily what is working, how and why on their side. In addition, social media also makes an immense contribution to understanding the needs of customers and often even responding to them in direct exchange.

It is currently difficult to guess where the journey in gender commerce will take us. New technologies such as AI (artificial intelligence), conversational interfaces or virtual reality are currently finding their way into the shopping area and have to assert their effect on customers only in the long term. The use of new technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), for example, is still in its infancy in shopping. However, since women have a spatial vision and imagination designed for 2D and men for 3D, innovative technologies are more likely to score points with male customers from a scientific point of view. In addition, the latter are naturally technology-loving and significantly less affected by the “motion sickness” that occurs when using VR.

Nevertheless, there are already AR examples from the fashion sector that are particularly popular with women: In spring this year, the Zara fashion label tested an AR application in 120 branches around the world , with which Zara customers can experience the new collections of models to themselves to see certain pieces of clothing in motion. Of course, the look could then also be placed in the app’s shopping basket.

Conversational interfaces make it possible to chat with an employee or bot while shopping in the online shop. Since we now know that women are particularly keen to seek advice from women, this area could have a beneficial effect on the buying process for female customers.

The topic of linking brick-and-mortar retail and the online shop is also gaining in relevance when you consider the gender-specific differences. Women naturally have a finer sense of touch and therefore place greater emphasis on the quality of the material and structure of the product. Since you cannot touch the products shown online, women often make their first impression in the store. Brands and companies have to take this so-called “reverse ROPO effect” – research offline and buy online – into account in their concept. Pure online providers are doing well with offering new types of commerce and retail. Stationary retail, on the other hand, has to internalize this holistic purchasing process and develop solutions for it.

Conclusion

The design and UX design in e-commerce have increasingly oriented themselves towards the needs of female users in recent years, without neglecting male consumers. We expect that the awareness of those responsible for marketing for the different online behavior of women and men will grow steadily and that it will also come into play when new technologies are used. In general, one can say that every new technology can also open new doors and that the success of the application can often only be assessed after a certain practical test. Above all, it is important that brands and companies keep the needs of the target group in mind with every decision and weigh up whether and to what extent innovative technologies contribute to the positive relationship between customer and brand.

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