Women’s online shopping behavior

Oscar Wilde said once "Women are meant to be loved, not to be understood.".

But as we all know UX is about understanding – understanding needs and behavior.

Women are the most complex consumers on the earth especially if we talk about fashion. They control roughly 70 to 75 % of the household spending, regarding on the region and country. And they do it all while juggling work, home and family life.
Many – particularly moms – manage to shoehorn 27 hours of activities into the standard 24-hour day. And it should come as no surprise, then, that 40% shop online during work hours. (But don’t tell them I told you.)
It’s for sure no secret that women love to shop. But the question is: where? 

Do they prefer a store­front / a offline shop to a virtual store / online shop?

40% of women overall          
35% of women at the age of 18 to 34 years
40% of women at the age of 35 years and older
... give neither offline nor online their preference 

30% of women overall          
30% of women at the age of 18 to 34 years
28% of women at the age of 35 years and older
... give offline their preference 

30% of women overall          
35% of women at the age of 18 to 34 years
32% of women at the age of 35 years and older
... give online their preference 

More than 40 %  of women shop while at work. That should be kept in mind if you plan integrating sound, flash content (loading time and sound) into your portal, homepage, etc. especially if this content will start default / automatically. The loading time wastes time and speed and the sound tells her colleagues and manager and maybe her boss that she is absent-minded and for sure not keep on task.
This fact, as you might guess, is more common and established among the younger women – 50 to 55% of women in the age of 18 34 are shopping at work. The older a women is the less likely she is to shop while at work.

Each user can be assigned as focused user (target-oriented, goal-oriented), someone who has a need for a specific item or service, or unfocused user (purposelessness, aimlessness), someone who browse around and just come across something. It frequently occurs that an unfocused user becomes a focused user during his browsing session – but if a focused user becomes an unfocused user during shopping tour you and or the visual design did something terribly wrong.

Need is the main reason and motivation for women’s online purchases. However, very often the impulse and motivation are boredom and a compelling desire. Especially younger women are often inspired to shop without having a clear purpose or aim.

The decision-making process for consumers at all but if we talk about women is very often anything but straight forward. There are many aspects and influences that can and will affect this process as a consumer works through the purchase decision. The number of potential influences on consumer behavior is limitless. However, marketers are well served to understand the key influences.

  • Knowledge
  • Attitude
  • Personality
  • Lifestyle
  • Situation
  • Context
  • Culture
  • Groups
  • Family

Up to now I wrote a lot about the What and Why but you should never forget the when. A very popular online shopping day for women is Friday. More than 55% of women do their online shopping on Fridays. However, shopping online isn’t even half as popular on weekends. They must be at the mall  ;-)

And what about the time of the day? As I already said - More than 40 %  of women shop while at work. And we all know the myth / the speculation that women are more efficient at multitasking. Well and most of women still believe it – and that might be a reason why, on any given day, lunch and other break times provide the best time for women to shop.
  • During lunch – 55%
  • While multitasking – 45%
  • During breaks and downtime – 45%
  • Right after seeing a deal – 25%

This consumer behavior will be different from one product group, service offer, brand, etc. to the other and also very different from country to country.

All the numbers you see above are merged numbers for the European market.

You’ve got to understand who your consumer is and how she relates to the retail paradigm differently. Planer, designer and retailers need to spend some time thinking about who and what kind of women she is and they need to engage this consumer in relation to her needs, situation, etc. but also to her influencing groups and friends.

It’s important to keep in mind that even with all the virtual trying-on, sharing of looks on social feeds and so forth, women experience it often much more as entertainment, rather than research. On the other hand even it was initially driven by an idea of browsing and entertaining, later it might or will the basis and or reasons for a decision and purchase.

Finally just one more side and closing note ...
During my research and collection of information for this article I found this.
According to a study ...
(sources: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu + http://www.journals.elsevier.com/journal-of-consumer-psychology/
... conducted by researchers from the University of Minnesota reports that the menstrual cycle has a dominating influence on the women’s consumer behavior during these days. Using a survey panel, women's food and appearance-related consumption was tracked for 35 consecutive days. Appearance-related desires, dollars spent, and beautification behaviors increased during the fertile phase. Dr Kristina Durante, who led the research, said: "The desire for women at peak fertility to unconsciously choose products that enhance appearance is driven by a desire to outdo attractive rival women.". And she said the study's findings could influence how and when products were marketed to women.
"Our findings suggest marketers for many types of female products are well served to strategically time their mailings, coupons, electronic solicitations, and direct requests to the specific window when women are ovulating."

I have no idea how we might use this information for business – but I know how I will use it on my own – I will have a look on our ‘housekeeping money’ during these days  ;-)


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  1. Really interesting report, thanks for your work! May I ask of what sources you've used for the statistics?

  2. Sorry – I can’t- because I collected these numbers, statistics and studies and their results over a number of months. It’s in general not my nature and style not mentioning the source - But in this article I had to merge in some case more than 20 studies. This article was more or less a kind of ‘shelf warmer’ – I started writing this article in 2009, and the focus changed from month to month, I intended to write a holistic article, because I think it’s important to understand the whole user behavior. It’s not enough to explore just the online and or short-time behavior – and that’s the reason why I had to merge so many statistics – and my Excel spreadsheet grew and grew – and I had to update the outcomes again and again - and at the end I couldn’t combine my own abbreviations with the documents or I lost my own source document. – Sorry

    Each stat is either a merged or interpolated result.
    Basis and jumping-off point of my work and analysis are very often studies by The Nielsen Company (http://www.nielsen.com), Forrester Research Inc. (http://www.forrester.com), Gartner, Inc. (http://www.gartner.com), Yankee Group (http://www.yankeegroup.com), McKinsey & Company (http://csi.mckinsey.com), Deutsche Telekom AG (abbreviated DTAG, English: German Telecom)(http://www.telekom.com), GfK Group (http://www.gfk.com/)and most important my own one, I get from my projects. Never trust any statistics that you didn't forge yourself.


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