Think beyond Pink: The Power of Women Customers


Women are an increasingly powerful economic force: they decide where, when and how much to buy. Recognizing this and acting on it represents a great opportunity for community pharmacies.

Women Control the Purse Strings

Do women really drive that much spending? Yes. Women control upwards of $5 trillion in domestic spending, according to several estimates, and earn a higher percentage of household income with each passing year. Increasingly, they also are heads of households.

A review of current market research shows a range for women’s buying power. Women purchase between 70% and 80% of all products and services. And the share is even higher — some experts say as much as 90% — for household items sold in drugstores, grocery stores, mass-merchandise stores, and so on.

What’s more, women also influence the balance of purchases. “These days, men do slightly more of the household shopping, but . . . they primarily handle ‘fill-in’ shopping,” says Marti Barletta, president and CEO of The TrendSight Group and author of three books on marketing to women. “They shop with a list provided by their female partner.”

Where Do Marketers Fall Short?

Research from The Boston Consulting Group indicates that marketers routinely fail to meet the needs of women in five key ways:

  • They are not good at addressing women’s needs for time-saving solutions.
  • They have poor product design and customization for women.
  • Their sales and marketing efforts are clumsy and often insulting to women.
  • They fail to align with women’s values or develop community.
  • They don’t “give back” to society as well or as much as they could.

So What Do Women Really Want?

Too many retailers believe that wrapping a product in pink, or calling a service “mom-friendly,” is enough to appeal to female consumers. In fact, women have a defined set of expectations and preferences when they shop. In general, women are looking for:

  • Honest relationships. Women want to know who they are buying from and appreciate retailers who give back to their communities.
  • Feel-good shopping. Women seek out stores that are clean and safe, with wide aisles and available restrooms.
  • Help simplifying their lives. Considerable research shows that almost all women value time-saving solutions, whether that involves innovative products or supportive services.

Of course, many men share similar values and aesthetics. “Making a retail environment more female-friendly doesn’t [necessarily] make it less male-friendly,” writes consumer expert Paco Underhill in his latest book, What Women Want to Buy. “The irony is that, by walking the female path, you end up making things better for women and men.”

Catering to Women in Your Store

Community pharmacies can make their stores more appealing to women in many ways. Consider these ideas:

  • Get the details right. Double efforts to keep doors, windows, restrooms and floors spotless. Make sure the parking lot is well-lighted and free of potholes. Offer to carry heavy packages to the car. Consider whether people of average height could easily reach items placed on higher shelves.
  • Provide point-of-sale merchandise. Women typically are multifocal. While standing in line at the cashier, many are thinking about what else they may need or what they may have forgotten. Offering point-of-sale products, incentives or reminders is a great way to increase revenue.
  • Offer convenience and guidance. Offer free health and wellness information at strategic locations throughout the store.
  • Compete on value. Don’t assume that women only buy based on price. Many women still purchase preferred brands even when a less-expensive alternative is available. They are likely to seek out coupons or discounts, however, to justify those purchases.

Market to Women through Social Media

Of course, an increasingly important way to reach women is to connect with them through social media. That’s because many women love social media and are receptive to interacting on networking sites.

According to the SheSpeaks Second Annual Media Study, 86% of U.S. women now have a profile on at least one social-networking site. And women under 30 boast a 96% participation rate. What’s more, women who participate share these characteristics:

  • 80% have become fans of products or brands on Facebook.
  • 50% have purchased products because of information from friends or companies on social-networking sites.
  • 40% have used coupon codes they found on social-networking sites.
  • 27% have shared a coupon code.

Because women are so open to engaging with brands on social media, these sites are an excellent way for community pharmacies to establish relationships with female customers. Pharmacies can promote their community activities, provide health and wellness information, and offer seasonal discounts.

Women’s power in the marketplace is rising steadily, but many companies are failing to capitalize on that trend. Community pharmacies that recognize how important women are and cater to their preferences have an opportunity to build even deeper relationships, and ultimately increase revenues and profits.