How women’s economic power is reshaping the consumer market
There are two parallel forces reshaping the consumer market: technology and women’s rising economic power. No doubt you’re paying close attention to technology (and rightly so), but how much time are you spending on the latter? My guess is not enough. Two of the biggest revolutions of the 20th century—women’s increased educational attainment and their participation in the paid labor force—have laid the foundation for big changes in marketing, sales and customer engagement in the 21st. Here’s what you need to know to stay relevant to the world’s most powerful consumers:
Women are driving changes in the consumer marketplace that younger generations of all genders not only appreciate but also expect. Women are a compass for a changing world. For example, the desire to buy from companies that make the world a better place was once viewed as a quality that mattered mostly to women. Not anymore: values-based marketing is mainstream and transcends both gender and generation. Now consider all the app-based businesses that are so successful they’ve become household names: many of them mimic the responsibilities once viewed as women’s domain, from grocery shopping and delivery to meal preparation, errand-running and “taxi-driver Mom.” Busy women are looking for convenience and willing to pay for it. Turns out everyone else likes convenience, too. A good rule of thumb is this: if you want to know where the market is going, follow the women.
Women are the original social network and their influence has grown in parallel with their spending power. Since 1970, most of the increase in U.S. household income has come from women’s labor force participation. Women not only have the buying power, they have the influence. As the majority of primary caregivers for children and the elderly, women spend significant time and money buying on behalf of others. They are the gateway to the people in their households as well as their social and business networks. Women are also great drivers of word-of-mouth publicity and social sharing online. Their endorsements can be like rocket fuel for sales, which makes it shocking—and financially reckless—that so many customer experiences are still lackluster, forgettable or downright bad. If you’re looking for white space in the market, customer experience is a big one. My new book, Winning Her Business, outlines strategies that will help you stay relevant with this crucial demographic.
While women drive the majority of consumer spending and are 50% of the human beings walking this earth, the culture of the business world remains as masculine as a three-piece suit. The perspectives and voices of the world’s dominant consumers (and half the planet) are often missing in action at the senior levels of everything from R&D to product design, strategy, sales, marketing and STEM jobs, not to mention executive teams, corporate boards, venture capital companies, private equity firms, business books and business textbooks. Who can calculate the number of missed opportunities and innovations rooted in this blind spot? Look at your own numbers internally and strive for more gender-balanced teams. Research from McKinsey and others shows that gender-balanced teams achieve greater results.
Our world is changing fast, but one thing remains constant: women’s domination of consumer spending. That fact alone provides a valuable compass for navigating and winning the future.