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Facing The Retail Blues

Women Usually Foot The Bill

With the holiday shopping season in full gear, it may be comforting to know everyone is just as miserable.

By Chuck Kouri-

Ever feel your shopping experience is, well, less than enthralling? Just about everyone does. Women, however, especially feel the pain because statistically they are primary household shoppers and research shows they tend to have higher shopping expectations than men. This experience gap is troubling on all sorts of fronts. It’s not only deflating, demoralizing and potentially depressing, it’s not very productive for shoppers or stores hoping to move merchandise. Now, add in the higher pressures generated by holiday shopping rituals when Pitney Bowes reports shopper frustrations are surging and we face and operational and emotional time bomb.

Stressed factors aside, retailers who ignore this concoction face a bottom line reckoning. PriceWaterhouseCooper, for example, warns that that 17 percent of loyal customers will walk away after one bad experience—and 59 percent will bolt after several bad experiences. That’s a lot of unhappy consumers and lost revenues.

What’s more troubling is that a whole lot of companies don’t even know they’re screwing up. Consultants Bain and Company found that 80 percent of businesses believe they offer a superior customer experience, while only eight percent of customers held that same view.

Bain and others suggest the key to closing that gap between customer expectations and their actual experiences is paying more attention to the most influential consumer group: women. That’s not only sound advice from a business and marketing standpoint, it’s a feel good strategy that will be a balm to shopper psyches.

Just how important is meeting the shopping expectations of female consumers? Plenty. In a recent survey, 75 percent of women identified themselves as the primary shoppers for their households.Their shopping domain includes everything from homes, groceries, clothing to gifts to vacations, entertainment and healthcare. Women even purchase over 50 percent of traditional male products, including automobiles, home improvement products and consumer electronics.

Women also are more than just consumers, they are prime influencers of what other people buy — by more readily making recommendations, sharing their buying experiences and rating products and services than men.

This makes women a highly valued, if not fully supported consumers, who are increasingly frustrated that their expectations are not being met.

Quantitative and qualitative research shows that their key expectations includes being treated like a person, not like an account number or a “demographic.” Translation? Women want more knowledgeable, friendly employees; easy access to products or service information; snappy check-out systems; personalized offers; and ways to give feedback.

Some companies are listening and reacting—and they are dragging their more astute competitors along with them in big and small ways. Leading retailers, for example. are lessening frustrations and meeting higher expectations by creating more comfortable retail spaces and more user-friendly websites to launching loyalty programs and customer events.

National retailers also recognize that “product and service wellness” is a growing and critical issue. They realize that highlighting the ancillary health benefits of products or catering to health-conscious consumers can make a significant difference in nailing down a sale and/or retaining a loyal customer. One retail executive underscored the critical importance of this marketing awareness by noting women will often choose the “healthier” option for themselves and their families — whether it’s a hotel stay, a dining spot, groceries or video games.

What about men? They often want the same thing as women both in terms of expectations and wellness but research and retailers have learned that men are likely to express how they feel, articulate what they want and engage with the brand to effect change.

Retailers, the smart ones at least, also are scrambling to address frustrations and meet expectations by being more highly attuned to customer touchpoints—surveys, call center feedback, surveys and review postings. Admittedly, it’s unclear if the retail adjustments underway are giving any short- or long-term relief to beleaguered shoppers. Probably not much and may not at all during the 2019 Christmas rush. The good news is that at least there is more focus being paid to the problems.

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