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Marketing to women is not new. However, how companies market to women is rapidly evolving as more women control or influence purchasing decisions. The companies that proactively engage female consumers on their terms are poised to reap the rewards of increased sales, customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
“Forget China, India and the Internet: Economic growth is driven by women,” says the British newspaper, The Economist.
The women at the helm of some of these companies are leading the charge to tap into the female psyche and, ultimately, into their purses.
Who Are These Female Buyers?
Smith-Dahmer Associates finds that women directly purchase or have a controlling influence in the purchase of 91% of all new homes.
“Women are becoming increasingly powerful,” said Melissa Morman, vice president of customer experience for Builders Digital Experience (BDX), “and the numbers that back that up are staggering.”
Morman’s presentation, “She-Conomy: What Women Want,” includes the following statistics:
- Women outspend men by two to one.
- Women earn six out of 10 college degrees.
- 51% of managers and professionals are women.
- Women own 40% of all businesses in the U.S.
- 75% of married female executives with a vice president rank earn more than their spouses.
- Women control 51% of private wealth in the U.S.
- 47% of market investors are women.
Understanding that women comprise a powerful consumer group is only the first step. Beyond that, women fall into vastly different categories and, naturally, are motivated differently to make purchasing decisions.
According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, 25% of homes are purchased by unmarried women. Among the characteristics of women who are not married:
- 31% are single moms.
- 20% live with other adults.
- Of the balance, who are living by themselves, 18% are under the age of 45, 17% are 45 to 64 and 9% are 65 and older.
Women Home Buyer Profiles
Smart companies are delving beyond the statistics to truly discover what motivates women. “Now more than ever, we try to understand the female consumer as much as possible,” said Tricia Esser, CEO of the architecture firm KTGY, where consumer research is a key factor in the design and development process.
One common theme Esser has found is that woman perceive their homes as a reflection of themselves.
Beyond that, KTGY has identified three different profiles of the women who are driving new home design:
- The Sophisticated Entertainer
She ranges in age from 20 to 80 and is an early adopter of home technologies and all things swank.
She truly views her home as her showplace and wants the best quality and latest styles and models of everything for her home.
Her ideal home has open, comfortable spaces that are conducive to entertaining.
She looks for great room combos, a high-end gourmet kitchen and outdoor areas suitable for entertaining, with an outdoor fireplace.
- The Serenity Seeker
She is your garden-variety, super-busy woman looking for serenity, relaxation and calm.
To meet the demands of her daily life, she needs a place to recharge — in private areas of the home, such as a master bedroom suite, and over-the-top luxuries, such as a Jacuzzi and yoga room.
She views her home as her sanctuary and looks for design elements that control clutter and create boundaries.
- The Modern Urbanite
She is a hip city dweller who lives in small quarters and values function over form for a simplified life.
In addition to a common area such as a living or family room, rooms with a specific function — such as a kitchen and office — are a must.
Design elements that foster organization, storage solutions and built-ins — from desks to garbage and recycling — are needed to help stave off domestic chaos.
Armed with this research, Esser provides her home builder clients with unique designs that are targeted to female home shoppers and effectively compete against resale properties.
Making Women Feel at Home
Kristen Shellenbarger, a designer and blogger for Midwest Cabinet & Counter, also takes a highly personalized approach when working with her female clients.
“Each client has her own personal wants and needs for her space, and it's so important to be able to provide that,” she said.
“Working woman to woman is also a comforting element when talking about designing their personal spaces, whether in the kitchen or bath,” Shellenbarger said.
“With female clients, the devil is in the details,” she added.
“We love to go through and talk about every single element of their home’s kitchen design, storage, function, look, etc. It's part of the fun of envisioning it, and it's a very important step for a woman to know and feel comfortable when creating a new space.”
Midwest Cabinet & Counter is developing a fully operational kitchen showroom where it plans to hold “ladies’ night” events, complete with wine and cheese.
The goal is to create an entertaining environment that will provide a hands-on experience in helping female consumers envision their future kitchens — down to cabinetry, color and interior organization choices — as well as see how the kitchen will perform in social situations.
Recognizing that modern women are “generals of multitasking,” Shellenbarger strives to provide personalized service by being readily available via her clients’ preferred communication method — whether it’s by email, phone or social media.
An easy style of communication allows her professional women clients to check items off their lengthy to-do lists and move projects along at a pace that is right for them.
Working With Both Men and Women
While researchers are working to understand what women want, men have not been cut out of the equation.
“We target both men and women with the same house,” Esser said.
She has found that women are more interested in the home as a reflection of who they are, whereas men are more concerned with the exterior — the landscaping, the neighborhood and the garage.
PulteGroup Inc., a multi-brand home building company, focuses on a general market approach encompassing both genders because it finds as much interest in its products from men as from women.
“Within our general approach, we have been inspired by the needs of our female customers to provide services and design that our general market loves,” said Deborah Meyer, CMO of PulteGroup.
With the burgeoning popularity of buying, decorating and designing homes, PulteGroup is engaging consumers with lifestyle staging in its model homes.
An in-house design team handles model merchandising that is focused on modern lifestyles, and consumers are offered furniture resource guides to engage them in the design process.
In addition, the company has introduced the Pulte Planning Center, a centrally located, multifunctional room to help families manage the demands of modern life.
“Interestingly enough, in the past this might have been targeted as a ‘woman’s’ area, but today we find that all members of the family are interested in this space,” Meyer said.
Morman agreed. “Men and women are beautifully complementary,” she said.
The bottom line is that it makes good business sense to design for the women who will be living in the house.
Understanding women on a personal, individual level will strengthen any outreach. Take the time to find out who your client really is to offer her the product that will make the most sense — and will be something she will rave about to her friends.
“Women know they have buying power,” Esser said. The extent to which your company effectively taps into that buying power will set you apart.
Though written for the female consumer, “Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions,” available at BuilderBooks.com, is a valuable resource for housing professionals to gain perspective on ways to better serve and market to this growing segment of customers.
According to a recent Harvard University study, women control 91% of home buying or remodeling decisions. “Trillion Dollar Women” provides builders and other housing professionals with a detailed look at the motivations, objectives and viewpoints of female buyers.
To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.