Women as an economic opportunity
Increasing sales through a better understanding of women consumers
Collette Dunkley, CEO, XandY Communications
By Collette Dunkley, CEO & Founder of XandY Communications
In our current economic climate, marketing departments are likely to have their budgets cut or capped as their companies batten down the hatches. The good news, however, is that there are ways in which the hard-pressed marketer can increase customer engagement and market share without having to spend much more money. One powerful way to do this is to improve the customer experience with women – an area in which most companies tend to under-perform.
In this article I focus on the banking and financial sector to demonstrate that even the most damaged sectors in the current downturn can release significant sales and marketing value by crafting a more effective approach towards women.
Women consumers less satisfied
Not only are women consumers less satisfied than men by the sales and marketing campaigns of many industries but they also generate more word of mouth (good or bad) and brand loyalty. Therefore, it is logical that by developing different sales and marketing approaches for men and women – which take into account the very real gender differences – businesses can create almost immediate increases in sales.
Having trained a number of call centres and frontline sales teams to adapt their sales approach to men and women we have seen increases in sales conversions of over 40% just one week after training.
The power of the purse
The growing economic influence of women is well-documented:
- Over 80% of consumer purchasing decisions are influenced by women (according to various surveys)
- 84% of female wealth in the UK comes from earnings & business ownership
- 40% of UK wives who work full time earn more than their husbands
- 53% of UK’s millionaires will be women by 2020
These figures are not lost on the currently beleaguered financial services sector bosses who know that an institutionalised male approach needs overhauling if they are to provide an appropriate customer experience to increasingly wealthy female customers.
A 2007 survey by Accenture investigating opportunities for UK banks called Banking for Today’s Women – ‘Because They’re Worth It’ revealed that 52% of women would switch banks “if a bank was proposing tailored financial products for a woman’s different life stages” (e.g. marriage, having children, divorce, retirement and becoming widowed).
This contrasts with marketing campaigns about APR’s, lifeless environments in branches and so on, combined with the staid image of a bank manager and a history that didn’t allow women a mortgage without a male counter-signature until the early 1970s. Little wonder then that the UK experience is that female customers remain underwhelmed by the industry, with:
- 31% of women deeming the staff and level of service provided by banks & financial services to be poor/inadequate
- Only 34% of women claiming to devote any attention to financial matters
- 1 in 5 women saying banks and financial services products are more tailored to a male target market
“Having trained a number of call centres and frontline sales teams to adapt their sales approach to men and women we have seen increases in sales conversions of over 40% just one week after training.”
Communicating with women
While accepting the caveat there is a spectrum of male and female behaviour (i.e. some men demonstrate more female traits than other men and similarly some women demonstrate more masculine traits than others), the median points for all men and all women are significantly far apart on the scale.
Gender science research reveals how neurological and physiological differences determine and shape male and female behaviour: PET and MRI scans, laboratory testing, paediatric observations and chemical/hormonal analysis confirm that behaviour is influenced by innate, anatomical variations. Simply put, our brains differ in size, structure and functionality: we are hard-wired in different ways.
Doing it right
Whereas consumers previously accepted marketing campaigns at face value, in today’s inter-connected world, product and service recommendations from family, friends and colleagues matter far more. This is especially pertinent for women: according to another UK survey, 70% say they have heard about a product from another woman before buying it.
Examples of companies that have strategically targeted women include Coutts Bank – the Coutts Woman website provides business features, lifestyle articles and financial guidance without the aggressive hard sell; also, More Th>n Women Drivers Insurance looked at the end-to-end customer journey rather than just changing the product or the advertising, retraining front line staff to communicate differently and thus more effectively with men and women.
Going for growth
Where does this leave our troubled banks and financial service providers? The good news is that a great deal can be done in the short term with immediate, low-cost returns if marketers look at their customer purchasing cycle and consider how each stage can be done differently:
- Messaging can be better attuned with key female traits. For example, the criterion by which women decide how to invest their money differs from that of men – they tend to be more risk averse and take their family’s long term future into greater consideration.
- Product features should communicate to a woman’s multitasking lifestyle such as user-friendly online banking that shuns jargon and techno-babble.
- Promotional campaigns in lifestyle magazines and online forums, which are considerably more cost effective than advertising.
- Sales/customer service training for front line staff – better interpersonal contact yield immediate results.
Banks and financial services, like all businesses, need to look internally for innovative ways to retain their customers and maintain competitive advantage. In this light, understanding their female customers ought to be their number one priority.
About the author
Collette Dunkley is the founder and CEO of XandY Communications, experts in applying gender intelligence to business practice in HR, PR, marketing and sales.
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