Natural Foods Merchandiser
Bridget Brennan discusses gender differences in shopping habits

Bridget Brennan discusses gender differences in shopping habits

Q&A with Natural Products Expo West speaker Bridget Brennan, CEO of Female Factor, a strategic consulting firm in Chicago, and author of Why She Buys: The New Strategy for Reaching the World’s Most Powerful Consumers (Crown, 2009)

Q: How important are gender differences in shopping habits?

A: Gender is the most powerful determinant of how a person views the world and everything in it. It’s more powerful than age, income, race or geography. Women buy or influence the sale of 80 percent of consumer products, while men serve as senior management in the vast majority of companies. In a global economy driven by female spending, male-dominated companies that don’t overcome this blind spot risk getting left behind. There is an enormous opportunity for companies that master female psychology—they give themselves a significant competitive advantage because in all likelihood, their competitors aren’t studying the gender issue as closely as they should be.   

Q: In what ways are retailers coming up short when it comes to serving female shoppers?  

A: Too often, shopping environments are utilitarian and uninspiring. Women look for a positive emotional experience when they’re shopping, complete with great service. They want salespeople to be knowledgeable and enthusiastic about what they’re offering. Of all the different strategies a company can employ to reach women, improving customer service is number one, hands down. Women perceive the customer service bar to be so low in almost every industry that those companies that commit to customer service may find themselves having an immediate impact on sales to women customers. Look at Zappos, look at Amazon (which now owns Zappos), look at Nordstrom, look at Apple. They have committed themselves to customer service, and they are winning. 

Tips for reaching women shoppers

Q: Can you offer other suggestions that retailers can implement to better reach these shoppers? 

A: Oh, I’ve got a few up my sleeve. But you’ll have to come to my speech on Saturday, March 12, at 9 a.m. in Ballroom A at the Anaheim Convention Center to hear all about them.

Q: Why haven’t all businesses embraced these principles?

A: Most of us aren’t taught about gender differences in any significant way in school or on the job, so sometimes it can be challenging to convince people that something that seems obvious—that men and women are different—actually warrants deeper study because it can make a difference to their businesses. There are only two sexes in the human race, and one of them does a majority of the shopping.

If you’re not successful with women consumers, you’re not successful.

Q: What are the biggest factors affecting female consumerism?

A: There are six major trends driving women’s buying behavior that I will be covering in my Expo West speech, and they range from more women in the labor force to women dominating the aging population and women fighting the obesity issue for themselves and their families. These six global demographic trends provide an important road map to determining women’s wants and needs for the next 20 years.

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