You’ve probably heard the saying, “It’s not the destination but the journey that matters.” And you could say this is true for many of the female customers retail sales associates meet on the showroom floor.
But what exactly do they expect on their shopping journey—and why does it matter when selling to women?
With help from a study titled “He Buys, She Shops: A Study of Gender Differences in the Retail Experience”—written by the Verde Group with the Baker Retailing Initiative and the Wharton School of Business—and from experts and professionals in the real world, STAINMASTER® found info that sheds light on what shapes women’s shopping mindset. Then that info was turned into guidance for flooring professionals recommending products and selling to women.
This research says that when it comes to the retail experience, two factors shape the way women shop:
So where does the journey begin? Unlike their male counterparts, “Women will do a ton of research before they even walk into the store,” says Trish Whipple Kemerly, Ph.D., lecturer in the Consumer, Apparel and Retail Studies.
Female shoppers want help making the best choices for their home. And their shopping journey can change course abruptly from one store to another when they don’t get good customer service. Women claim “lack of available help” as the top problem they encounter while shopping, according to the study.
Here’s how to keep conversations on course when selling to women.
In many households, women make most of the shopping decisions. Their purchases affect others (kids, spouse, friends, extended family) and carry more emotional weight.
Finding out a household’s composition is the first place to start when helping female shoppers with their product selections, suggests Shelby Tilley, design specialist at Carpet Super Mart.
“Women have to think about kids and pets. They don’t want to be cleaning a carpet all the time,” she says.
Tilley says she always asks her female customers what room the carpet will go in, and if they’re dealing with children and animals in that room. Often, they’ll tell her right away. Then she knows which product line will be best for their household.
Tilley also asks her customers what their budget or price point is. She finds when selling to women in a household without kids, they don’t mind paying a little more for flooring. Plus, she notes, “I’m not going to show a product that’s beyond what a customer can pay.”
When it comes to doing research and making purchases, women tend to look beyond price to consider more subjective details.
“Women are more interested in color and style, rather than the technical aspects, observes Paul Flinchbaugh, a sales associate at Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based Abbey Carpet. “Men will ask what it’s made of. Women want to know, ‘Is it good?’”
Tilley sees female customers as being more fashion-forward then men. “With women, I’ll ask them if they’re looking for a statement piece or backdrop.” Once she determines if the customer wants a pattern or color, she’ll ask about furniture and wall color to hone in on options.
As women research and shop for carpet, subjective details like product reviews, customer testimonials and seeing the products used in another setting can hold sway over their choice, suggests some research.
“Women watch HGTV and read Better Homes and Gardens, and want to achieve a look they see elsewhere in their own home,” says Tilley. “It’s my job to get them there in their price point.”
As part of the shopping journey, women are more likely to change their mind if they’re led to a better choice, the study shows.
After she’s determined the customer’s budget, lifestyle needs and décor preferences, Tilley will offer three options.
“Women want to see everything!” says Tilley. But sometimes, she notes, they may have trouble landing on what they want.
Women prefer having choices as they shop, say the experts. But offering too many options can overwhelm shoppers, both female and male.
“I think women know what they want, it’s just hard to narrow it down. But if you walk them along the process and show them why what works and what doesn’t work, they’ll get it and keep it moving,” suggests Tilley.
According to the study, men will go to a different store if they can’t get their product. Women will go to a different store if they can’t find a sales associate or if the sales associate isn’t helpful.
The study reveals that a female shopper’s loyalty is strongly linked to the sales associates’ ability to share expert advice and help them determine which products will work best for them.
Women want and expect interactions that make them feel important, say experts. Tilley has seen that work, and seen it boost the price point for the final sale. “I try to develop a relationship with the customers,” says Tilley.
That affirmation should go beyond the carpet itself. “Assure customers about the labor and installation crew, and assure them about communication from the store,” recommends Flinchbaugh.
Reaffirming confidence in their purchase goes a long way towards building customer loyalty. “Once they develop a trust in you, they’re willing to go with a different carpet if they need to,” Tilley says. “And they’ll continue to come back.”