by Pallavi Gogoi in New York
Edited by Patricia O'Connell
Are you aware?
We now know based on research from nearly everyone in the consumer electronics industry, including reports coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show that:
Women are involved in 89 percent of all consumer electronics purchase decisions.
Eighty-four (84) percent of women believe that new technologies can help improve their lives.
Forty-eight (48) percent of women age 18-34 own a digital camera.
First of all smart marketers are learning that testosterone doesn't necessarily control the purse strings.
Women 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.
Yet a meager 1 percent of women surveyed thought manufacturers had them in mind when creating products, according to a report, released by the Consumer Electronics Show.
Yet 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 Inc.
Radio 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.
The 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.
Now, almost a third of women consider themselves early adopters willing to buy cutting-edge consumer technology, according to the CEA study.
"The 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."
Epson, 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.
Sony's 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.
Some attempts fall short.
At 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.
It's a challenge, says Laura Heller, senior director of the trade publication DSN Retailing Today.
"There's 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."
A 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. Retailers and manufacturers who get this picture are seeing real dividends.
Folks with whole-house audio systems are often confronted with a strange problem, one that they might not have planned for: Where should we put the system’s receiver and other audio control panels? We take such great pains to hide the speakers and wires so they won’t muck up our décor; we certainly don’t want the large, cumbersome, ugly devices that control it all to show, either.
Marketers warn that retailers and manufacturers assume that marketing to women is as easy as changing the color of a product to pink. "If you're serious about reaching the female consumer, you have to care about her and get to know what she desires," says BCG's Silverstein. It's critical they understand the female consumer's needs and dissatisfactions, and come up with ideas and solutions, as Best Buy has done.
Best Buy and Dell are both optimistic that their women's initiatives of the last six months will boost their bottom lines. And if Apple's success with the iPod mini is any indication, such optimism is well founded. Women are lapping up a majority of the multicolored minis, contributing significantly to Apple's dramatic 74% sales increase in its fiscal first quarter that ended Dec. 25.
Whether their efforts involve retraining sales staff or redesigning products, companies that pay attention to the female consumer could hit the mother lode.