Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Women control two-thirds of $18 trillion global spending

The consumer is the queen

A BCG report finds that women control almost two-thirds of the global consumer spending. Marketers must keep that in mind while chalking out their strategies as the needs of women differ substantially from those of men.

Researchers say women behave like foragers and men act like hunters. Even when they shop. While that fundamental truth hasn't changed what has is the kind of control she exercises over the family purse-strings. A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) finds that women control almost two-thirds of the global consumer spending. It talks about a revolution that is taking place today unnoticed by most. "It is a revolution of, by, and for women - driven by a desire for more: For ongoing education, better ways to nurture themselves and their families, increased success as executives and entrepreneurs, higher earnings, and for better ways to manage and leverage their accumulated wealth", says the study. And from what BCG concludes the average Indian woman is falling in line with her global counterparts.
Marketers must keep that in mind while chalking out their strategies as the needs of women differ substantially from those of men, avers Abheek Singhi, partner & director, BCG. That is because women today are more conscious of the products they buy and the need of their family members. Singhi says the average Indian housewife, who is middle-class but aspirational, wants the best for her children. She might shop at the local grocer, who gives her credit and the occasional discount, and buy mostly unbranded products, but she keeps part of the budget aside for the higher quality, expensive products as she is more quality-conscious today.
Women in India constantly face the challenge of having too much to do and too little time for it all-they rue the lack of 'me time'. "And that is the result of the cultural DNA of most Asian countries, where women are largely responsible for the domestic chores and taking care of the children," says Singhi. The study also draws a 'happiness curve' for women, which shows how the happiness levels keep heading down from their teenage years and continues till the time the middle age is over. A major cause of dissatisfaction and stress is, of course, the lack of time and too much work. (Click here for graphs)
But why are these results important for marketers? Because, of the $18 trillion global consumption two years back, $12 trillion was controlled by women. That is two-thirds of the total consumption on an average. While in developed countries the percentage is over 70, in developing countries the figure is slightly less. According to the study, the global women economy is much larger than the total consumer spending in India and China put together. Overall, it is safe to conclude that women have the last word in spending decisions pertaining to most of the product categories. So it makes sense for marketers to keep the ladies happy to stay in the family's consideration set.
Sob story
Women are dissatisfied with many product categories, the study reveals. The worst 10 categories are investment, cars, banking, life insurance, physicians, car insurance, work clothes, hospitals, personal computers and lodging. There are many mistakes, according to Singhi, that men make while marketing to women. Ignoring the emotional appeal, cutting prices mindlessly, overlooking the need for time-saving solutions and dressing up every product in pink are some of the tactics that fail to impress. Of course, there are brands like Dove that seem to truly understand women and are able to establish a connect with them.
The BCG also does a detailed comparison of the needs of women in some Asian countries to point at the similarities and differences. It says while the challenges faced by women of India, China and Japan are somewhat similar, the weightage each group places on the challenge areas tend to differ by country. The aspirations seem to match somewhat; financial stability and having free time score everywhere.
Interestingly, Asian women appear more optimistic than their Western counterparts, but control a smaller proportion of the household spend (figures). Where women from India, China and Japan differ is the product categories they feel need more customisation. The top priorities for Indian women are lingerie, home cleaning services and kids' clothing. For Chinese women, it is hair products, hair care services and skin care products. For Japanese women, it is hospitals, car rental and physicians. Indian women are willing to trade up for food, dairy products and household cleaners. Chinese women can trade up for cosmetics and personal care products; their Japanese counterparts for travel, home and organic food.
The responses of these women to different product categories can offer clear guidelines for marketers about the products that need to be improved upon. "Women worldwide represent the largest pool of growth ever. There is a vast business opportunity to fill the gap between the time at their disposal and the degree of customisation in the products/services they need," adds Yeonhee Kim, senior partner & managing director, BCG. The statement by Kim sums up the challenge for today's marketers.
Here one needs to also take count of the expectations of women from different categories of products they buy. Anand Ramanathan, associate director, KPMG Advisory Services says that depends on where she is coming from. He classifies women consumers into two categories-professionals and homemakers. "Homemakers are aspirational, efficient and are smart buyers. They have a functional and an emotional connect with a particular brand. They do a survey regarding the attributes, benefits and repercussions of a particular brand before buying," he says, adding, "the professional woman relies heavily on time-saving products like ready-to-eat food category."
Attracting women is no cakewalk though. Three factors play an important role, according to Ramanathan: price, packaging and product positioning-three of the proverbial 4Ps of marketing. "The product should give immediate value, it should seem worthy enough to buy. The packaging is important because women are more aesthetically-oriented than men," he says. Talking about positioning at the point-of-sale, Ramanathan says, "A marketer should be smart enough to place the product according to the needs of a customer. For example, 'puja' items and fruits are mostly placed together; that makes shopping convenient for a customer."
That is largely because the way men and women shop is different. "For men, shopping is about finishing the process; women want to prolong the experience," says Kishore Chakraborti, vice-president, consumer insight and HFD, McCann Erickson, India. "Her consumption pattern is holistic. What I mean is that a woman thinks about her family at the time of buying, and buys not just for herself," observes Chakraborti.
Products that offer many benefits, that save on time, and offer the maximum value for money are the ones that succeed in attracting women shoppers. Chakraborti feels marketers should continue to innovate and look for new ways to connect with women. He gives the example of Horlicks, which felt it was necessary to launch a variant especially for women. Apart from expanding the brand franchise it also helped by getting the family more favourably disposed towards the brand. The ad for Women's Horlicks struck an emotional connect with women because it touched upon the fact that women work really hard and therefore need more nourishment.
The other example Chakraborti cites is that of Kellogg's Special K. "The whole idea here is that women don't just want to stay fit, they want to look good as well. So Kellogg's Special K offers both nourishment and helps in weight loss. The thing to remember here is that when the mother starts consuming a brand, the entire portfolio can find a place in that household," points out Chakraborti.
While many of the study's findings do not come as a surprise to companies, the hard data may help them focus better on some of the problems cited by women and help them step up and deliver more sophisticated products and segmented service.

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