Different Priorities When Walking Down The Aisles Cultural Studies Essay

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Women are happy to meander through sprawling clothing and accessory collections or detour through the shoe department. They like to glide up glass escalators past a grand piano, or spray a perfume sample on themselves on their way to, maybe, making a purchase. For men, shopping is a mission. They are out to buy a targeted item and flee the store as quickly as possible, according to new Wharton research.

In a study titled, "Men Buy, Women Shop," researchers at Wharton's Jay H. Baker Retail Initiative and the Verde Group, a Toronto consulting firm, found that women react more strongly than men to personal interaction with sales associates. Men are more likely to respond to more utilitarian aspects of the experience -- such as the availability of parking, whether the item they came for is in stock, and the length of the checkout line.

"Women tend to be more invested in the shopping experience on many dimensions," says Robert Price, chief marketing officer at CVS Caremark and a member of the Baker advisory board. "Men want to go to Sears, buy a specific tool and get out."

As one female shopper between the ages of 18 and 35 told the researchers: "I love shopping. I love shopping even when I have a deadline. I just love shopping." Compare that to this response from a male in the same age group who described how men approach retailing: "We're going to this store and we buy it and we leave because we want to do something else."

Price says women's role as caregiver persists even as women's professional responsibilities mount. He speculates that this responsibility contributes to women's more acute shopping awareness and higher expectations. On the other hand, after generations of relying on women to shop effectively for them, men's interest in shopping has atrophied.

According to Wharton marketing professor Stephen J. Hoch, shopping behavior mirrors gender differences throughout many aspects of life. "Women think of shopping in an inter-personal, human fashion and men treat it as more instrumental. It's a job to get done," he says, adding that the data has implications for retailers interested in developing a more segmented approach to build and maintain loyalty among male and female customers.

Feeling Important vs. Checking Out Fast

"Men Buy, Women Shop" also found that women are more likely to experience problems while shopping than men -- 53% vs. 48%, with women over age 40 reporting more problems than men in the same age group.

For women, "lack of help when needed" is the top problem (29%). It is also the likeliest reason that stores lose the business of women shoppers. Indeed, according to an analysis of the study's data, about 6% of all female shoppers could be lost to stores due to lack of sales help. Men, however, ranked "difficulty in finding parking close to the store's entrance" as the number one problem (also 29%). The problem most likely to result in lost business from men is if the product they came to buy is out of stock; about 5% of all male shoppers could be lost to stores for this reason.

Male and female shoppers also have different reactions to sales associates. For men, an associate's interest in helping them find an item is most important, followed by the sales associate's effort in getting them through checkout quickly. For women, store loyalty is related to sales associates' familiarity with the products in the store and an ability to determine what products best suit the customer. Women shoppers also value sales associates who make them feel important, according to the survey.

In an interview with researchers, one woman in the 18 to 35 bracket described the employees in a favorite store. "The sales associates are always great. They always show me different styles. They will show me something new that's come in." Meanwhile, a man in the same age bracket said this: "I haven't had much interaction with most sales people. I don't really need them -- as long as they're at the checkout."

Paula Courtney, president of the Verde Group, suggests that the attitudes expressed toward sales associates reflect subtle, but important, differences between men and women. When asked what problem would make respondents so angry they would never return to a store, women cited employees who "acted like you were intruding on their time or their own conversations." Men were most miffed by employees who were "lazy, i.e., would not check for additional stock or take you to the item you were looking for."

Courtney points out that for women, it's more personal. For men, problems with associates are still linked directly to getting the item they need. "Women are more apt to be angered by a lack of engagement behavior from the sales associates. For men, while engagement is still important, it's not as important as the product and getting in and out quickly."

Retailers can use the study findings to tailor services to build sales, she said. "In a highly competitive market, where people are price-sensitive and there are tons of choices, if you can get one more strategy up your sleeve that gives you that edge, then why not?" she asks. "If we treat men and women differently, then we are going to be more successful." Erin Armendinger, managing director of the Baker initiative, puts it this way: "Men and women are simply different," she says. "It's important for retailers to remember it's not only what they're purchasing, but how they're doing it."

Price suggests that retailers who want to improve their ability to reach shoppers based on gender can take some concrete steps. First, however, they must be sure that their operations are running as smoothly as possible in order to avoid irritations, such as out-of-stock merchandise or a lack of advertising circulars that diminish the shopping experience for men and women both. He also says that efforts to reach out to women shoppers cannot be superficial, such as simply putting up signs or changing the color of uniforms.

Communication is critical to reaching women shoppers, Price adds. Sales associates need to understand whether the shopper is looking for a product that will come out of disposable income, such as cosmetics, or a more essential and difficult to understand product -- such as an over-the-counter drug or first aid treatment. Helping shoppers in those two different categories requires different styles of communication. Sales associates must be trained to recognize and react to shoppers' cues.

Retailers hoping to appeal to women shoppers also need to devote attention to editing their assortment of items, Price says. Managers may be tempted to offer a wide swath of products, but he cites research showing that women who have to balance many responsibilities prefer stores with limited selections, such as Coach, Trader Joe's and Sephora.

Finally, he says, hiring women throughout the ranks will bring retailers more in touch with what women want. At his company, women make up the majority of sales associates and are heavily represented in the marketing department. No idea gets floated too far before a woman can reflect on how it might impact her own life, he notes.

The Many Faces of the Sales Associate

Women spend $4 trillion annually and account for 83% of U.S. consumer spending, which makes up two-thirds of the nation's gross national product, according to WomenCertified, a women's consumer advocacy and retail training organization headquartered in Hollywood, Fla., which also worked on the study.

The "Men Buy, Women Shop" study is based on a random, national sample of 1,250 shoppers who were asked about a recent shopping experience in telephone interviews conducted from October 20 to November 4, 2007. The sample was dominated, two to one, by females.

While many of the study's findings do not come as a surprise to retailers, the hard data may help companies focus better on some of the problems cited by men and women, according to Delia Passi, founder of WomenCertified. She says retailers have long sensed the differences between men and women as shoppers. "It goes back to gatherers versus hunters. Women are gatherers. Men are hunters. Women walk into a store and scan. Men look for a specific aisle." Scientific research, she notes, shows women have better peripheral vision than men, which would benefit them as gatherers.

Passi says the underlying attitudes that frame the shopping experience for men and women -- with women more focused on the experience; men on the mission -- do not necessarily play into sexist stereotypes of women as more emotional and weaker. "When it comes to the retail experience, men and women both go into the store to buy something, only she wants more. She wants more interaction. She wants more eye contact. He wants quick answers while she's looking for support and collaboration in the buying process." Passi acknowledged that many of the observations revealed in the survey still reflect generalities and that many women and men do not fit into the broader patterns. Indeed, as the owner of her own business, she is pressed for time and often behaves more like the survey's male respondents when shopping.

According to Hoch, the recent study, along with other Baker research, indicates that sales associates are critical to retail operations because employees are one way competitors can differentiate themselves from one another to gain market share. "It's hard to do anything about parking or the mall being too crowded, but they can do things about the sales associates," he notes. "What I found interesting is how women tend to be more focused on people while men act almost as if they are dealing with an ATM machine. In fact, they want to deal with an ATM machine. They really don't want to deal with a person."

Courtney acknowledges that responding to the study's findings adds another responsibility for sales associates who are often already juggling many different priorities on the retail floor. "At the end of the day, a sales associate has to be multifaceted," she says. "They have to be an engager, an expediter and an educator. They must be authentic, but what this study tells us is those buttons have to be turned on and off -- or turned on more or less -- depending on whether you are dealing with a man or a woman."

She says retailers need to step up and deliver more sophisticated, segmented service, not only taking into account gender, but also age, ethnicity and regional differences. "There's no such thing as customer homogeneity. We're not a homogeneous bunch at all. Yet as organizations, we end up treating customers as one big happy family. You've got all sorts of demographic and psychographic forces at play."

Gender, she notes, is one of the easier customer attributes to address in a strategic fashion. Truly sophisticated marketers could get into attempting to differentiate services by gender and age or between professional women and those who manage households full-time. "At some level, what is practical and ideal start to diverge, but I think gender is a pretty simple segment to do differently."

Women as a market segment, have become increasingly important to marketers, as women buy or influence the purchase of 80% of all consumer goods including family health care and other major purchases. Women own 48% of all shares in the stock market. According to the U.S Census Highlights of Women's Earnings in 2000, the number of women in occupations with high earnings is still growing. In 2000, 47 percent of full time wage and salaried workers in executive, administrative, and managerial occupations were women. There are more than 9,000,000 woman-owned businesses in the U.S, generating 3.6 trillion dollars in annual revenues. Still, many marketers haven't adjusted their strategies to effectively appeal to women.

Studies by researchers across 37 countries confirm women are generally able to read body language and facial expressions better than men. Medical researchers have discovered the corpus callosum fibers connecting the brain's left and right hemispheres are more developed in women than men, resulting in women being more receptive to contextual and intuitive brand messages. Therefore, when both a woman and a man view a commercial, their perceptions of the message may be altogether different.

Men and women even respond differently to identical environmental influences.

According to a study conducted at the University of Wisconsin, women notice and recall 70% more detail in their environments than do men. Also, women hear, acquire, and use language in a unique way, accounting for the fact that little girls speak earlier than little boys and articulate their feelings more easily.

Men tend to see life as a series of contests they must conquer to maintain personal status. When a man sees a beer commercial he thinks, "How can I achieve that lifestyle?" A woman who sees the same commercial thinks something completely different. Men are also likely to think in a linear manner and validate themselves though their accomplishments, while women are likely to validate themselves through their relationships.

Men and women differ in just about every way including their buying behavior. Women do have a greater affinity for what we think of as shopping - walking at a relaxed pace through stores, examining merchandise, comparing products and prices, interacting with sales staff, asking questions, trying things on, reading labels and ultimately, making purchases. Even when shopping for mundane everyday necessities, even when the shopping experience brings no particular pleasure, women tend to do it in a thoughtful, agreeable manner. Women take pride in their ability to shop prudently and well. What makes women such heroic shoppers? According to a study conducted by British psychologist David Lewis, "nature-over-nurture" advocates make out that the prehistoric role of women as homebound gatherers of roots, nuts and berries, rather than roaming hunters of game, prove a biological predisposition towards skillful shopping.

For many women, there are psychological and emotional aspects of shopping that are absent in men. Women tend to evaluate the pros and cons of every purchase. Men spend less time looking. It's difficult to get them to look at anything they hadn't intended to buy. They usually don't ask questions such as where things are. They shop to complete a mission, so to speak.

When shopping online, however, it's a different scenario. Women now comprise 63% of all online buyers, according to Tiffany Bass Bukow, founder of MsMoney.com. Men typically use the Internet for entertainment, whereas women use it to save time. Today's woman is time-starved and must assume the roles of mother, business executive and "household CEO," while still making time for themselves. Netsmart's survey of 1,000 US households found most women rely on the Internet to save time, simplify their lives, and help them make smarter decisions. Online shopping accommodates those needs. When shopping online, women look for a relationship in addition to convenience. Women enjoy websites where they can browse, chat, ask questions and feel a sense of community. Women are more likely to provide personal information online if, in return, they feel it will build a relationship. For example, Land's End's site enables "registered" shoppers to exchange ideas and build relationships with each other. They offer four-hour response on customer service inquiries and a virtual model where customers can actually pick their body type to see how clothing might look on them. Repeat visits and customer loyalty are encouraged through these devices. Bottom line, the Internet has empowered women. As a group, they're more demanding shoppers and seek more information and advice than their male counterparts. So the most important aspect of pleasing a woman online is to develop a site where they can build relationships and feel respected as a customer.

Here are a few important things to keep in mind regarding gender differences and the marketing disciplines:

Women want to feel cherished, whereas men want to feel needed.

Men make impulse purchases; they don't clip coupons, and they don't work from lists.

Due to decreasing estrogen levels, post-menopausal women become more assertive, confident and demanding as customers, but they also don't like to be differentiated from younger women since it makes them feel like they are being categorized as older.

Women tend not to bond with aggressive brands.

Working women are more pressured than men. When men shop, it's usually for themselves, when women shop it's for themselves and their families.

Women consider technology a tool and aren't afraid to use it to seek the information and merchandise they need.

Campaigns that educate, empower and provide reassurance are the most successful campaigns within the women's markets.

When considering gender, there are many differences that must be carefully considered. The ability to market to both men and women successfully can be a difficult task. Successfully appealing to women is the next step for marketers. Some companies are actively reaching out to women with segmented and carefully executed campaigns. But many companies still use a "one size fits all" approach. Times are changing. Men's and women's roles are changing. Marketing must change too.

Mark Levit is managing partner of Partners & Levit Advertising and a professor of marketing at New York University. Partners & Levit's clients include Procter & Gamble, UnitedHealth Group, and GE Commercial Finance. For more information call 212-696-1200 ext.101 or visit www.partnerslevit.com

Motivation Skills of Women vs. Men

It's just like "he said, she said". Men and women both interpret and give information differently. This translates into different motivations. Once you get past the gender differences, you can better understand how to motivate your employees and have a more productive office.

To begin, let's take a look at men and women and how they give information. Keep in mind that not all men and women will fit into these categories. The most important thing to keep in mind when motivating your employees is to get to know their personalities and what their personal goals are. When you understand who you are working with, and what they want from their job, your employee retention increases.

However, studies show that there are many obvious differences in gender and how they react to different situations. Understanding this information can help you when planning to motivate your team.

Men vs Women

Let's take a stereotypical look at men vs. women in the workplace:

* Men tend to like power, control and strength.

* Women are more emotionally driven.

* A man tends to jump in when he comes face to face with an issue and take over. He will deal with it then and there and get it over with.

* A woman ask questions first, make sure she understands the task, and then completes it to perfection.

* Men like to work alone.

* Women prefer to help each other.

Giving Information

Men and women share information differently.


Men tend to say exactly what they mean. If a man wants steak for dinner, he says, "I want steak." If he doesn't care one way or another, he'll tell you, "Do it how you feel looks best." When a man thinks a dress is OK, he'll tell you, "That dress is fine." Now this may seem simple, but to most women, who share information differently, it can be very confusing. To a woman, "fine" means not great.


Women like to "sugar-coat" information. When a woman tells you something, you often have to read between the lines. For example, if she wants chicken but she knows you want a steak, she'll tell you "Steak or chicken is fine. If you really want steak, we can have steak, but I can make chicken." If she tells you "Do it how you feel is best," she still wants you to ask her opinion before submitting your work.

When a woman sees an ugly dress, she will talk around it in, "That is an original looking dress." If she says "fine," her friend knows it is not the best choice in dress.

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Interpreting Information

Males and females interpret information differently. Many books have been written to help couples get over this different planet mentality. Gaining an understanding of these differences can also help you motivate employees in the workplace.


Men hear what you say, and take it for face value. They will not read between the lines. If you say, "Let's go watch a movie. I'd like to see the movie that won the awards, but it doesn't matter." They think, "Great! Let's go see that new horror movie."

If you tell them something doesn't matter, then they move on. To them, the situation is over.


Women however read between the lines. This is what frustrates men. Men tell you what they want, and a woman will try to interpret the information. If you tell a woman she "looks nice," she may agonize over the definition of "nice."

Back to Motivation

Now that you understand how men and women interpret and give information, you can better take a look at the motivation skills of women vs men.

A woman often works more towards her emotions. Often, a "You are doing a great job" can mean a lot to keep her motivated. Simple gestures, like a gift basket can make a huge difference in making her feel appreciated. Remembering her birthday or recognizing her achievements are great motivators.

Though men like to hear they are doing a great job, a man often lets his work speak for itself. He doesn't need the same reinforcement as women. Men like to be the best, and competitions can often play at their male ego and motivate them to work harder. He wants something to show for his hard work. If he did great, he wants a title, or parking place, to show it.

Motivation skills of women vs men can be used to your advantage. Men and women are motivated to be better than each other, so friendly competition can get them involved and working their best.

Use your knowledge of gender differences to motivate your employees and keep them on task and feeling appreciated.

Men and women have different shopping habits. Every retailer knows that. The challenge is developing an offering that recognizes these differences.

University of Michigan professor Daniel Kruger has told The Telegraph that it goes back to prehistoric times. He says men were hunters, women were foragers. As a result, women would spend hours trying to find the right outfit, present or object, because they had in the past spent ages trying to find the best quality foods. But men decided in advance what animal they wanted to kill and then went looking for it. Once it was found - and killed - they returned home.

It comes down to a simple difference: women shop, men buy.

"When gathering, women must be very adept at choosing just the right colour, texture and smell to ensure food safety and quality" Kruger said. "They also must time harvests and know when a certain depleted patch will regenerate and yield good harvest again. In modern terms, women are much more likely than men to know when a specific type of item will go on sale. Women also spend much more time choosing the perfect fabric, colour and texture."

A Wharton study found that women go for personal interaction with sales associates. Men are more likely to respond to more utilitarian aspects of the experience. For men, it's more about the availability of parking, whether the item they came for is in stock, and the length of the checkout line. For women the biggest turn off is "lack of help". Men are more likely to get annoyed when the product is out of stock.

The message for retailers is pretty clear - don't have items out of stock and make sure staff are helpful, and not in a superficial way either.

The hunter vs forager line comes up again in another interesting finding: men outspend women when it comes to online purchases. Like hunters, more men shop online and they love the quick efficient nature of the Internet which allows them to go in for the kill.