In John Gray’s famous book “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus”, he makes the point that the “two sexes differ in their perspectives, motives, rationales, and actions”. We’re going to explore this idea with regards to men’s and women’s online shopping behaviors. And in the process, show that the reality, at least from the perspective of online shopping, is not as binary and as simplistic as the quote from Gray would have us believe.

This article is going to explore the differences between men and women with regards to their online shopping behaviors. We will present key differences but also, highlight how these differences are not binary at all, in other words, that they by no means apply to all men and women.

We don’t seek to make sweeping generalizations that paint a whole gender in one way or another. We instead seek to present a range of research backed arguments explaining how differently a large proportion of men and women behave when buying online.

But even more, we seek to also present counter points which demonstrate how behaviors that the majority of a gender engage in don’t apply to everyone in that gender. The purpose of this is to demonstrate, as mentioned above, that there is no black or white, but shades of gray and that there is no case where all men or all women behave in a specific way in all circumstances.

So check out the below differences, they are in no particular order.

The Differences In The Way Men And Women Shop Online

1. Men Shop On Mobile Devices More Than Women Do

Research conducted by BI Intelligence found that although women typically control approximately 80% of household spending, that when looking at things from an eCommerce perspective, in the US, men drive nearly as much spending online as women.

They found that in the US in 2013, 57% of women made a purchase online, whereas 52% of men did. So, although there is a difference, it is less significant than many may have assumed it to be.

Most interesting of all though is that when referencing a study conducted by SeeWhy, BI Intelligence reported that 22% of men made a purchase on their smartphones whereas that figure was only 18% for women. So it’s clear that although more women overall made a purchase online, men drove more sales from smartphone devices than women.

BI Intelligence’s research is supported by a study completed by which broke down mobile commerce usage by gender across a range of different product categories. The results are below.

Electronics purchased via a smartphone: Women 8% / Men 27%, food and drink purchased via a smartphone: women 8% / Men 13%, movie and event tickets purchased via a smartphone: women 11% / men 23%, digital content purchased via a smartphone: women 20% / men 30%.

So as can be seen, in all instances, men made a higher proportion of purchases from smartphones than women did, according to the research. However, it is worth noting that the study did not cover typically female orientated product categories like cosmetics or fashion.

2. Women Spend More Time Researching & Comparison Shopping Than Men Do When Shopping Online

Marti Barletta, president of The TrendSight Group, posits that men would much rather buy a “workable product” than to continue shopping, whilst a woman would rather continue shopping in the hope of finding the “perfect solution” as opposed to just the first product that works. Put another way, when shopping, women are more selective and more likely to buy a product that fits all of their requirements as opposed to the first one that just “works”.

As put eloquently in the piece in the Journal of Decision making titled Men Buy Women Shop, which after conducting research with 250 respondents stated, “women tend to be more astute consumers than men, simply because they are willing to invest the time and energy necessary to research and compare products”.

However, there is research from other sources that somewhat conflicts with the above assertions. For example, research from Inmoment found that “males and females differ in how they utilize a product page”, and more specifically that, “males intensely research the page, viewing all the product details and pictures, while women quickly scan the product page and go to the next product they want”. Further, that, “54% of males browse online every couple of days for the purpose of shopping research, compared to 47% of women that do”.

3. Women Explore And Men Are More Goal Orientated When Shopping Online

Research by customer experience consultancy Empathica, as reported by Practical Ecommerce, found that “men tend to stick to their mission when shopping online” which is in contrast to women who “expand the undertaking by wandering among products and categories”. Thus, according to this research, women explore and men are more goal orientated when shopping online.

However, things are not so clear-cut and well defined. Research by Shoppercentric, a UK-based shopping research company uncovered that men aged 18-24 “defy most male shopping patterns by browsing — both in retail stores and online — shopping with friends, and rivaling women in the number of impulse purchases”. And based on this, the research company proposes that the “internet may be altering some hard-wired male behavior”.

This research is particularly useful and enlightening as it shows that although men and women’s online shopping behavior may be one way among a specific age group, it may, in fact, be completely different in another age bracket (as has been shown above) or in another country (research above was from the UK – US research may have presented starkly different results).

Thus, the male/female difference in online shopping behavior does not operate in a vacuum and is often subjected to influence from a range of other demographic factors (country, age, culture) which will each play a varying role in the pronouncement of different factors among men and women’s online shopping behaviors.

4. Women Are More Deal Driven When Shopping Online

As reported by Practical Ecommerce, research by Performics found that “47% of women are searching for coupons and promotion as their primary use of social media, compared with 33% of males”. Further, “a third of female respondents reported having increased the amount of time they dedicate to finding coupons via social media, compared to approximately 20% of men”.

Further, research from found that 74% of their female respondents said the last item they purchased was on sale, compared to 57% of their male respondents. Additionally, 34% of their female respondents use coupons in comparison to 26% of their male respondents. Finally, their research found that women are much more responsive to promotional emails as 14% first saw their most recent online purchase in an email in comparison to 8% of men that did.

However, it’s worth noting that Performics’s research also found that men are “more likely to use deal websites, as 56% of men would use them compared to 41% of women”. So it may be that men are almost as deal-hungry as women but just approach it in a different way.

Actionable Insights & Conclusion

After reading all the above, you are probably wondering, and rightly so, how you can use all the research that has been done on the differences in how men and women shop online and optimize your site in line with that to better appeal to the gender your eCommerce store is targeting.

Well, below we are going to cover some actionable insights and takeaways that you can experiment with based on all the information above. We have broken our actionable insights into two paragraphs, by gender, below;

1. If your eCommerce site/section is primarily targeting men

Make buying and checkout as simple and frictionless as possible. As has been mentioned above, often men are goal orientated when shopping online. We recommend having prominent “buy now” and/or “add to cart” buttons on product pages. As well as having a streamlined, easy to follow checkout section.

Provide as much relevant information as possible on your product pages. Men often research the product page before buying, more so than women.

Third and finally, make sure your site is optimized for mobile. I know this is something you may come across often, but it can’t be stressed enough. As was shown above, men buy via smartphones markedly more than women do, across a whole range of product and service verticals.

2. If your eCommerce site is primarily targeting women

Firstly, make it easier to share/recommend your product pages. As unlike men who intensely read product pages and spend more time on third party review site, women more likely seek advice from friends and family via social media. And it has been reported that ““35% of females are likely to recommend a product or brand to friends or family via social media, compared to 28% of men”.

Secondly, make it easier to explore more of your product offerings more easily. As was shown above, unlike men who are generally more goal orientated when shopping and stick to their “mission”, women like to explore, so make it easy for them to explore your site. Having “related products” or “recommended products” widgets on the product category and specific product pages is a really good way in aiding exploration of your product range.

Thirdly, provide coupons/deals/offers. I know this won’t apply to all eCommerce stores, as depending on your sales strategy, coupons/deals/offers may not be a good fit. But, as was reported above, females are generally more deal-driven when shopping online. We highly recommend providing coupons/deals/offers via your social media channels, which judging by our research is the preferred channel. Further, also, provide promotional emails as research by Performics found that 14% of their female respondents first saw their most recent online purchase in an email in comparison to 8% of men that did.

Important words of caution and concluding comments

As mentioned at the start of this article. Nothing that is mentioned in this article applies to all men or all women. As has been shown, there are certain online shopping behaviors and characteristics that are more common among women than among men, and vice versa, but that in no way means they apply to all women or all men.

Further, as has been shown earlier in this article, there are occasions when even the opposite applies. Prominent research posits that women explore more when online shopping and men don’t as they are more goal/task driven.

However, compelling opposing research from Shoppercentric found that a large proportion of men aged 18-24 in the UK possessed typically female online shopping characteristics (such as browsing, exploring and impulse purchasing) when online shopping. Collectively this shows that other demographic factors (e.g. age, country, culture) can play a dramatic role in online behaviors.

Ultimately, if you want to tailor your web store to the needs of your customers, you need to work to reduce the psychological strain that is experience when shopping. This, in combination with personalizing the shopping experience, will lead to greater conversion success.

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