reaching consumers online

eCommerce & Gender – How To Sell To Men & Women

In this week’s roundup we mentioned to you that women browse using smartphones more than men, and that a likely driver behind this is social media. We considered this food for thought, so we’ve decided to dig a little deeper to discuss the state of eCommerce by gender.

Devices Used Online

We’ll start by reiterating that almost half of all online time is spent on smartphones, with another 35% spent online via desktop or laptop computer.

Women spend more of their online time on mobile than any other device as of April 2016. Female smartphone users between the ages of 18 and 24 spend 59% of their online time via smartphones, with 35-44 year olds spend 49% of their online time.

Men generally spend less of their total online time on smartphones with 48% of their time spent on desktop or laptop computers. Fifty-three percent of male 18-24 year olds spend their time on mobile and men aged 55 and older spend only 22% of their time in the same way.

Research from Tryzens states that both men and women rely heavily on full screen devices for online shopping although men had a notably greater reliance on desktop. Andy Burton, CEO of Tryzens, notes, “don’t underestimate the rise of the smartphone. Our research found that the smartphone is now tipping the balance for 16-18 year olds and that is pointing to the future expectation of online shopping.”

Online Behaviour

If men and women share one thing in common, it’s their online behaviour. You’ll find it difficult to find a reliable study discussing the differences in male and female behaviour online – particularly in the UK, but we can at least discuss the facts concerning both.

The Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB) and UK Online Measurement Company (UKOM) published a definitive figure in September last year, finally washing away any the conflicting sources claiming to have the measure of time spent online. They revealed that the average Briton online spent 2 hours and 51 minutes per day actively using the internet at home and work.

Tim Elkington, Chief Strategy Officer at IAB, said, “we wanted to put a stake in the ground for internet time to remove this misconception and help advertisers understand how much time they realistically have to play with to reach people online. It equates to about 1 in every 6 waking minutes.” The data is derived from a combination of meters measuring the behaviour of 73,000 people, including thousands of sites and apps being tagged.

Sixteen percent of all UK internet time (1 in every 6 minutes) is spent on social media – and this is across computers, tablets and smartphones. Social media has definitively taken over entertainment, rising from12.4% to 22.1%. The stats of usage vary greatly depending on the device you’re using. Social media, for example, accounts for 21.4% of time on mobile than it does on desktop (9.8%).

How Women Shop

women shopping

A key finding from Tryzens states that women tend to do their homework a lot more than men, and place more value on eCommerce features such as ‘digital catwalks’. The report, which is a study of 1,000 UK consumers, revealed that women prefer to shop for electronics, health and beauty products. Although women spend more time shopping online than men, their monthly spend is £475 on average compared to the £686 per month that men spend.

Women seem to show more of a bias towards looking for deals and coupons online, taking into account peer group opinions before purchasing. This is supported by Money Crashers who state that women tend to be thriftier, more astute customers than men, simply because they’re willing to invest more energy and time in their purchases.

How Men Shop

men shopping

The cliche of men hating shopping is now a thing of the past. Men on average outspend women online by 44%, whilst spending less time online shopping according to RealWire. Men tend to shop for sportswear and events tickets, although both sexes prioritise food, travel and fashion. Whilst men still engage in eCommerce features such as peer group opinions and deals, they don’t really see them at the same level of priority as women do.

Research from Nunwood backs this, by suggesting that men are less bothered about bargains; Craig Ryder, Head of Shopper Insights at Nunwood says “Men are less worried … they operate in a bubble because they’re not managing the weekly budget.” The research also explores the fact that young men in particular are less likely to pander to the masculine stereotypes, and are starting to display more feminine shopping habits. According to an iProspect study, 70% of affluent males regularly shop online and employ the same shopping methods used successfully by women in the physical world.

Jim Foster, retail coach and marketing consultant claims “Men generally shop alone. Men seldom compare prices. men don’t care if the item is on sale. men really don’t care about the colour. Men sometimes compare quality, but usually only when it involves tools.” As we will discuss in the section below, stores catering to men understand this buying behaviour and focus on technical aspects which make the shopping experience easier, such as an efficient payment process.

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Reaching Consumers Online

HOFSTEDE’s paper Cultures and Organizations – Software of the Mind revealed that when it comes to shaping our behaviours and expectations, culture is one of the most influentials factors of all. This counts for online as well. If you can understand the cultural context of your users, you can therefore tailor an experience down to their gender thereafter, for more effective targeting. There are strong connections between gender and culture, and more individualist cultures such as the UK or USA express much larger gender differences in how attractive or usable we perceive a website to be. So with that being said, let’s move onto what they want from you.

What Women Want

When it comes to reaching women with eCommerce, it’s a little more complicated than with men, as you’ll learn in the next section.

The roles of women have changed since the birth of the Millennials. They’re more focussed on other types of purchasing compared to the household items they focussed on before. E27 discuss how female millennials are set to dominate eCommerce and quote Senduk, stating “the Millennial woman believes she can change the world. Brands committed to social responsibility, or seek to inspire consumers, would be more appealing to her.”

Senduk continues: “She expects good design. Whenever she buys a new pair of shoes, she posts it to Instagram. She is collecting her favourite products on Pinterest, following her favourite brands on Snapchat. The visual aspect is really taking over from text, it is the differentiator at every category and at every price point”.

E27 propose that being mobile-first would be critical in capturing female consumers and that increased smartphone and mobile eCommerce penetration has made it incredibly important for brands to design the UX to be mobile first, instead of desktop.

As we said earlier, when researching products women tend to take into account group peer opinions. Which means marketers shouldn’t just think about the woman as an individual, but must consider those in her family and social circle. Women leverage each other for advice as well as benchmarks. Senduk cite research finding that 80% of women put their trust in blogs, and 60% actually purchased the products after reading about them on blogs.

A “one size fits all” approach to female gendered marketing is no longer what women want. If something isn’t relevant to them, they go elsewhere. The idea of personalisation and individuality spans across a few areas of eCommerce, even down to the product itself. A Pew survey revealed that women are almost twice as likely to buy handmade goods online with 29% having done so already compared to 15% for men.

What Men Want

Like we said earlier, appealing to male interests with eCommerce is less complicated in some ways. There are less social and marketing message issues, and more UX issues to pay attention to:

Rigorous Searching

A June 2011 survey conducted by Men’s Health and GfK Roper stated that 84% of male consumers research and buy online two or three times a month, suggesting that before even visiting your website, they’ll already have an idea of what they want to purchase. This means you need to have an easily navigated set of categories so they can find what they want immediately.


Transparent Shopping Sites

Men are loyal to brands who have earned their trust and met their expectations. The best way to do this is to provide a totally transparent shopping experience. So what does that mean exactly? It means you need accurate and concise details about products such as dimensions, delivery costs, price, availability, etc.. In addition to this, make sure images are as accurate a representation as they can be, and make sure they’re optimised for quality viewing.


Shopping Related Activities

Performic’s 2011 Social Shopping Study supports our earlier claims in how men and women shop when they stated that men are more likely than women to conduct 5 of 6 social shopping activities. Among these are:

  • – Reading product information and reviews
  • – Comparing retailers
  • – Finding product availability
  • – Getting store information via social media

This is opposed to women who are more inclined to search for deals and coupons for eCommerce sites.

Searching is a Man’s Best Friend

Apart from filters, onsite research is a male consumer’s most trusted shopping tool, especially when moving from one website to another. Ninety-six percent of affluent males use search to learn more about fashion brands and products they intend to purchase. You can make your fashion site more suitable for a male audience by implementing a user-friendly search function. The thing to keep in mind is that 74% of male consumers say text-based keywords don’t help them find the right product.

So what do you do? To men, fashion items are more recognisable through images rather than descriptions. Why not consider implementing visual search technology into your eCommerce site? It simplifies the shopping experience, making the shopping journey a lot smoother, which is also something men are particularly interested in. The more convenient, the better.

So What Now?

Bearing in mind all of the above research, there’s some key takeaways for you:

  • – Women spend more time on their mobile than men, so if you’re an eCommerce store targeting females, make sure your store is mobile optimised. With the driver for this being social media, make this a main channel for marketing activities.
  • – Britons spend 2 hours and 51 minutes per day actively using the internet, with 1 in every 6 minutes being spend on social media. Use these micro moments wisely.
  • – Women are more drawn towards deals and coupons, whereas men are less interested in getting a bargain, but are willing to research quality.
  • – When targeting women, you should also target their friends and family as they’re most likely to take into account peer reviews and opinions. Encourage reviews and discussions on product pages and harness social power.
  • – Men who shop with you have most likely come to you with what they want already in mind. To make your store more appealing to men, pay attention to technical aspects, a seamless UX, transparency and efficient checkouts.


Above all, we recommend that you pay attention to the culture of the individuals you’re targeting. Some marketers argue that it’s not worth basing marketing activities on gender stereotypes, but there’s plenty of research that defines differences between the two which can be helpful. Getting to know everything you can about your customer is paramount, so don’t just stop at gender, also consider geographical location, demographic and previous behaviour observed from your own data. Men may be from Mars and women from Venus, but both shop online, so don’t scrimp on your market research.

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