Clicking with women surfers

Last week Trends Insight looked at the changing lives of modern women; this week we discuss how women behave online and what they want from the online environment. Women are emerging as a driving force in online uptake, and more women are logg

The internet is no longer the domain of geeky males: just under half of users are now women. But women’s use of the Web is very different to men’s, a fact online brands must learn to account for

Last week Trends Insight looked at the changing lives of modern women; this week we discuss how women behave online and what they want from the online environment. Women are emerging as a driving force in online uptake, and more women are logging on and embracing the digital age.

Recent figures from the Internet Advertising Bureau show that online advertising has surpassed the &£1bn mark, with forecasts indicating that online will soon overtake traditional media in market share. Women’s consumption online is fast competing with its more established male counterpart – an important contributing factor to the booming online trend. The IAB says that in the UK women make up 48% of all regular internet users – 14.4 million women are accessing the internet each month.

Insight by Empathy Research, on behalf of, the consumer loyalty site with 250,000 members, suggests that an approach founded on a fundamental promise of relevant, personal and welcomed messages could be the key to getting online right for women consumers.

Today young, professional women are experienced internet users, looking to balance everyday savings with the occasional extravagant purchase. Women are increasingly turning to the Net for purchases they would traditionally have made in store. has identified three fundamental elements in online marketing to women: engendering a sense of community, rewarding members in a way they value, and appealing to some inherent characteristics of the target consumer.

For many websites, creating a sense of “belonging” while fulfilling commercial objectives is the ultimate goal in creating a truly loyal customer. But it’s hard to get this right. Giving website visitors the ability to have an input in the site’s content and direction, as well as to simply take advantage of exclusive offers and rewards, can generate benefits above and beyond those offered by traditional media.

More than anything, research statistics show time and again that women respond to content much more than men. Women like to interact and engage, building an emotional link with a brand that is hard to replicate in other media. For instance, 77% of people visiting the competition zone are women; 68% of regular crossword completers are female, just like 74% of those who do sudoku.

Another, perhaps not so surprising, statistic is that women like to connect with others more than their male counterparts: 64% of forum participants are women, sharing opinions, information or just talking.

In a recent brand-positioning campaign for a leading packaged goods brand, more than 20% of members who visited a particular offer page took time to submit a “Hint & Tip” to be shared with fellow members. Of those, 83% were female. As part of the same promotion, 38% of members took part in a weekly quiz, allowing the brand to reinforce its positioning through questions and gain valuable customer insight from member submissions.

Underlining this approach is providing each consumer with a rewarding experience. This could be anything from learning something new, to value-added offers or online loyalty point schemes. Women make up 59% of UK membership, and research suggests that the appeal of loyalty point schemes is greater among women. The average number of points per member varies between the sexes. Women on average have more points than men, with 38 points compared with 32 for men.

Women earn more points by making purchases and getting involved with interactive elements of the site. They are also much better at spending their rewards – 64% of all members who have redeemed their points online at the site are female, compared with only 36% of men.

Analysis of site activity shows that male visitors tend to respond to advertising messages (the buttons and banners approach) while women are more likely to arrive at a specific offer via more generic areas on the site; particularly the “shopping mall” environment. In some cases, Empathy Research found, this difference could be as much as 50%.

The Web is the perfect fit for women with busy lives. A brand that can interact with this consumer group at a time and place convenient to them has a major advantage. The key to reaching this growing community is to construct an online environment that delivers a varied and rewarding visitor experience, while appealing to women’s sense of belonging and community.

Nick Chiarelli, director of trends at GfK

The stereotype of internet users as geeky teenage boys has been redundant for many years now. Women are just as reliant as men on the Web as a source of entertainment, product information and retail therapy. In the early days, female-specific websites went out of their way to attract women into a male-only preserve, and while these still exist, a more typical approach nowadays is to be all-inclusive. And yet, few would dispute that women have a different set of priorities and behave differently when shopping. Online may not yet have fully capitalised on these differences. It is not that women want to be differentiated as women; rather they know what they want and are increasingly critical of those who do not provide it. Moreover, women will readily share experiences, so giving women a bad Web experience can be extremely detrimental to a website’s health.


    Leave a comment