Every so often a research firm or media outlet will reveal what many of us know to be a given, that women have an enormous impact as consumers, and business should pay more attention to them. In 2009, the Harvard Business Review wrote about “Understanding the Female Economy.” In 2010, Time Magazine gave us “Woman Power, the Rise of the Sheconomy.” This year Nielsen gave us “U.S. Women Hold the Purse Strings.” A new book by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is called “Women Want More, How to Capture Your Share of the World’s Largest, Fastest-Growing Market.”
The statistics are staggering. According to Fleishman-Hillard, women are “handling the bulk of the purchasing decisions for consumer goods in the U.S….they’re also likely to influence or manage many other big ticket purchases—homes, autos, appliances, furniture, etc.—not to mention a large portion of the apparel, groceries and everyday purchases.” Their purchasing power is estimated at between $5 trillion and $15 trillion dollars in the U.S. alone. Trillions!
And it’s growing. Women make up 57% of college students, hold more management jobs than ever, are postponing having children and are educated consumers. You’d think by now the business world would have grasped the opportunity they’re facing.
Unfortunately women are not terribly satisfied consumers despite their purchasing power. BCG says “Women cite poor product design for women; clumsy sales and marketing; inability to address need for time-saving solutions; inability to provide meaningful hook and differentiation and failure to develop community.” They are unhappiest when buying home improvements, cars, apparel and insurance, among other things.
I used to focus my business on training and advising businesses on how to sell and market to women, concentrating on how women respond differently to sales and marketing approaches. I found that financial services industry is the most alert to their need to serve women better, and that the automotive industry is probably the least alert.
Then I realized that with so few businesses doing a good job of serving women’s needs, that women needed a way to identify the best. That’s why I created the Women’s Choice Awards.
Women are very social beings. We value the opinions of other women, and we like to share our opinions as well, so when we want to know what to buy and where to buy it we are quick to seek the opinions of other women.
Fortunately there are a lot of places these days where we can find opinions on products, services and businesses. The Internet is crawling with places like Yelp, TripAdvisor, CitySearch, Facebook, Google Reviews, and Angie’s List. A problem with these is often that there aren’t a lot of reviews.
Another unfortunate reality is that a lot of reviews are faked. New York recently fined a number of companies for posting or buying phony reviews. One source said that 20% of reviews on such sites are phony.
How do you know when phony reviews are affecting the overall rating of a product or service, and how can you make comparisons between different products and services? That’s where the Women’s Choice Award is clearly superior. Although we didn’t develop the Awards as an alternative to review sites, we do overcome a lot of their flaws.
One difference is sheer volume. Where a review site may aggregate dozens of ratings, we won’t give an award without a minimum of 100 opinions.
An award is determined in one of three ways. For one, we survey tens of thousands of women via email to find out which of a number of providers of a particular product or service is recommended by the most women. For example, we asked our survey takers which of a dozen bottled water brands they prefer, and the most recommended brand was Aquafina.
Another way we award a business or brand is by doing what we call an audit survey. At the request of a client, we survey hundreds of their own customers to find out if they will recommend the brand to others. If 9 out of 10 of their women customers respond positively we give them the Women’s Choice Award. This is often done for small businesses and auto dealerships.
The final way we arrive at an award is to review existing information. This applies mostly to hospitals, as they are required to have patients complete surveys about their experience and report the results to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, where the data is made publicly available for analysis.
The end result is that women have a place where they can find the brands and businesses that other women recommend, and therefore can make an informed choice that they can be sure of. Brands and businesses have a way to tell women that they are the number one choice of women, by using the Women’s Choice Award they’ve won in their own marketing.
Win - win.
Delia Passi, the founder of WomenCertified.com, is a former publisher of Working Mother and Working Woman magazines, a leading speaker on the women’s market, an author and a lifelong advocate for women.