In my experience of the UK motor industry, the gender of the customer has everything to do with customer service yet many businesses are still proud to tell me ‘We treat men and women the same here…’ as if that’s a good thing.
And all the time, women are increasingly the gender spenders with their own needs and expectations. Too few businesses are getting service levels right for us, for fear of being seen as sexist in any way perhaps?
When Mary Portas was appointed to save shops in town centres not one of her 28 solutions recognised that women do the majority of shopping and have different needs from men.
Even the British Retail Consortium preferred to focus on the costs of doing business rather than on ways to improve the shopping experience for women.
Research into gender shopping habits
Professor Gloria Moss, reader in management and marketing at Buckinghamshire New University, wants High Streets need to recognise that women are responsible for 83 per cent of all shopping purchases, and their facilities need to acknowledge this.
Much of her research applies equally to the male dominated motor industry including garages and car showrooms where an increasing number of customers are female…
Prof Moss, who has been researching gender habits for more than 18 years, says her work shows that many shops are designed by men who don’t give enough thought to women and ignore the fact that they hold the lion’s share of buying power.
According to her research, women buy 93 per cent of all groceries, 92 per cent of holidays, 96 per cent of beauty products, 60 per cent of all new cars and 55 per cent of home computers.
“Mary Portas was brought in to recommend business solutions and she produced a longlist of 28.” she said. “Not one of these refers to one of the most obvious facts about town shopping: the bulk of it is done by women.”
Prof Moss adds that women’s shopping preferences are often poles apart from those of men, who tend to dictate retail and local and national government policy.
Based on her data, she conducted experiments on how high-street shops could use this information to their advantage.
“In experiment after experiment, my studies have shown that women prefer graphic online and retail interiors designed by women, with distinguishing features being the use of circular lines, colour, decorative surfaces and informality, while men prefer the spare, dark, straight-sided and modernist look.”
Prof Moss believes many shops are designed by men and the interiors reflect male aesthetics.
“In terms of the shops themselves, many retailers could benefit from an understanding of male and female design aesthetics. A new science uncovering major differences in male and female perception, hardwired since hunter-gatherer days, shows ‘he’ likes straight lines, few colours and little detail; and ‘she’ likes rounded shapes, lots of details and colours. If high-street shops can crack this one, they would have an enormous edge over anonymous out-of-town shops.”
Patrick Ballin, a management consultant and lecturer in international retail management at Brighton Business School, agrees with Dr Moss: “Fifteen years of working at the Body Shop gave me a very clear sense of just how much retail involves women serving other women. Much of retail is a very female business and this is true all over the world. Understanding the fundamental preferences of female shoppers, using the insights of researchers, seems mostly neglected.”
Yes, Yes, Yes. This is all so blisteringly true in the motor industry and yet it can so easily be addressed…
Why not contact the Steph Savill website if you’d like to know more about these issues.
PS: How frustrating that most businesses in the motor industry, garages and car showrooms in particular, appear to neglect this gender insight. That gender equality rights should not be confused with customer service. Whoever imagines that men and women shop in the same way? We each have different needs and we don’t expect to be treated the same. The sooner garages and car showrooms start to understand this, the sooner our industry will start to get a more female friendly image across to the many women who still dread visiting what they perceive to be male-dominated businesses. And if that’s their perceived reality, that’s how it is in their minds guys.
You can read what the Independent had to say about this here.