If online marketers want to sell to women they must stress convenience, timesaving and value, an Association of Marketing and Sales audience heard in Toronto recently.

Jennifer Evans, president of Sequentia Communications, told the gathering that women want their on-line purchases to be convenient, so presenting them with an endless choice of options is counterproductive because what they want is the right option. Further, said Evans — who has used Grocery Gateway for some of her own shopping — women remain extremely time-stressed and look for a speedy solution, although she pointed out women also want a longer selling process so they understand fully what they’re buying. Women want value, too, Evans pointed out, recommending the savvy online marketer helps them save money with discount coupons or other deals.

In an interview after her presentation, Evans expanded on her company’s research, finding an example that combined all three things that drive women to the Net.

“”I think online banking has changed a lot of women’s lives because the ease of using something like that from home at whatever time of day or night. It’s convenient for them rather than having to conform to banking hours,”” she said. “”If you look at some of the stats on online banking adoption you’ll see that women are the biggest users of these services.””

As for the sectors or companies that are staying on top what women want from the Internet, Evans said there’s a knowledge gap among marketers. There are some companies that get it, she continued, but there aren’t yet a lot of firms doing a good job.

One that is performing well, said Evans, is Ford of Canada, represented on the AIMS panel by Erik Trane, director of Young & Rubicam’s Interactive Practice in Toronto and a Y&R client.

“”They (Ford) really seem to see that the research is going to be done on-line,”” said Evans, “”so the types of communications they’re doing with banner ads, et cetera, allow women to interact with the information in a way that’s convenient for them.””

Another aspect of the women’s market online marketers must consider is women themselves, Evans pointed out. It’s not enough to treat women as women, she said. Each demographic presents its own challenges and concerns and must be addressed in a way that’s relevant to it. A 20 year old who’s just come out of college and a 35 year old professional with two children can have very, very different needs so research is critical, she pointed out.

It’s also crucial that online marketers understand the differences between men and women, said Evans. Men, she said, are impulse shoppers. Women, on the other hand, tend towards a lot more research and that is one of the main reasons they are going online in ever-greater numbers irrespective of whether they want to buy a car, new software or a set of dishes.

“”Informational marketing is very, very effective for women. With men, here’s the lure, here’s the nice shiny flashy thing. It’s more about the lure than the information.””

Drawing on her research, Evans went on to explain that women’s “”fear factor”” about using the Internet has disappeared. There was that first hurdle that they had to get over, but now women are becoming much more comfortable disclosing credit card and personal information over the Web, and because of it they are logging on in greater numbers.

“”As a result we’re seeing (women’s) purchasing power going up drastically.””

In a survey in 2001, Sequentia found that about 50 per cent of women spent less than $50 a year on-line. However, based on a survey this September of AIMS members — admittedly early adopters — 50.2 per cent of the group’s women reported spending more than $500 a year online. That figure can only go up, it seems. Evans said that 86 per cent of the women in AIMS reported being satisfied with their online experience.

Comment: pipeline@itbusiness.ca

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