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Women Want More

A Revolutionary Opportunity
September 08, 2009 by Michael J. Silverstein and Katharine Sayre
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In This Article
  • Not only do women represent one of the largest market opportunities in our lifetimes but they also will be an important force in hastening recovery and new prosperity.

  • This excerpted introduction to the book Women Want More highlights the key findings and conclusions of BCG's consumer research into the workings of the female economy.

 

The Opportunity Within the Revolution: A Call to Action

The emergence of the female economy holds the potential for the creation of vast wealth—the $20 trillion of consumer spending now controlled by women could climb to as high as $28 trillion in the next several years. Women’s $12 trillion in total earnings could grow to as much as $18 trillion in the same period.

The phenomenon is worldwide. Although we found differences between women in the countries we studied, similarities are more significant. A woman living in Guangzhou, a second-rank city in China, has expectations very different from those of a woman who lives on the East Side of Manhattan. But the Chinese woman influences the purchases in her household just as women do in New York and around the world, and the wealth of her household is steadily increasing. The Chinese woman—even if her absolute spending power is lower than that of consumers in other countries—is a highly profitable customer.

The rise of the worldwide female economy will challenge assumptions about how companies do research, how they develop products, how they sell and merchandise, and how they add services to their value proposition. Companies must rethink how they segment their audiences, how they react to changes in consumers’ behavior, and how they capture the imagination.

Further, the female economy will challenge corporate leaders and managers to reexamine their human resources practices—how they recruit, select, develop, integrate, retain, and provide support to their people and how they help nurture and facilitate a healthy work-life balance.

The bad news is that only a small percentage of the companies we studied understand the significance of the female economy to their business. If they respond to this economy at all, they do so by fiddling with segmentation or by making small adjustments to their product line or to their organizations, as if these powerful trends were nothing more than incremental shifts in existing patterns. These companies do not look at the world and how it is changing through a woman’s eyes. They do not prioritize the way their female consumers prioritize. They fail to recognize that time is scarce for women or that easy access to information is essential; and as a result, few companies achieve the position of trusted adviser.

The good news is that some companies do recognize the opportunity and respond to it brilliantly, with skill, nuance, and genuine engagement. They occupy a privileged position in the market. They enjoy breakout growth, unprecedented consumer loyalty, and category dominance. Companies like Gerber, Banana Republic, Ecute, Haier, Harpo, and others really get women and serve them well.

We have found that these companies follow a set of practices that we call the four R’s.

Recognize. They understand the size of the opportunity in women’s goods and services and commit themselves to researching where, how, and what the opportunity is for them.

Research. They study how their product or service is consumed, from the beginning to the end of the process of consumption, paying careful attention to frequency of use, habituation, the process by which dissatisfaction occurs, and the total time each consumer segment requires to buy, use, and finish with a product or service.

Respond. They identify, with brutal honesty, the good points and the unsatisfying points of their offering and then aggressively respond to each source of dissatisfaction.

Refine. Finally, they take their ideas to market in a way that creates lasting relationships with their female consumers, they build connections and bridges, and they continually improve their products to strengthen those relationships.

Our hope is that as more and more companies adopt the business practices described in this book to better serve women, they will not only succeed for themselves but will also enable more women to succeed and prosper.

In the chapters that follow, we will first examine forces that drive the female economy, what more women want from their lives, and some archetypes that can help companies better understand their customers. Then we’ll look carefully at the categories in which women report their deepest levels of interest—and corresponding dissatisfactions. These are the areas that offer companies opportunities to develop products and services that serve women better than ever before:

Food. Women love food, just after love itself, but find that food shopping and preparation are chores that never end and take up far too much of their precious time, and that healthy options often are hard to find, cost too much, or take too long to prepare.

Fitness. Most women want to be healthy and fit but are not interested in bodybuilding or working out for its own sake. They rank fitness activities low on the list of priorities and try to squeeze fitness in during spare pockets of time.

Beauty. Women are constantly in search of new and better ways to achieve a holistic kind of beauty that includes appearance, especially of the face and hair, and also wellness of skin and body. They expect the most advanced technologies, constantly improved efficacy, and also the latest in colors, forms, and styles.

Apparel. Women want apparel to do a lot of work for them—make them look and feel good, minimize what they consider their physical shortcomings, make the right statement at work, be comfortable, and let them express their personal style.

Financial services. In most households women handle the finances, and the majority of women say they dislike the job. Financial products are confusing and complicated. Financial advisers are predominantly male. Women typically pay more for insurance than men do and have compensation and retirement packages that are not as good as men’s.

Healthcare. Women generally like their doctors and the care they receive from them but are not pleased with the delivery systems in which their doctors must work. Too little access. Too much waiting. Not enough contact. Billing and management processes that are far too complex.

In this book, we examine these areas and describe companies that are leading the way in each area—and how they are doing so. Perhaps even more important, we provide you with firsthand observations and insights from a number of women we met in the course of our research whose engagement and intelligence speak more clearly than we ever could about what women truly want and how they are exercising their buying power as never before.

For more about the book, go to http://www.womenwantmorethebook.com.

You can purchase Women Want More at Amazon or at Barnes & Noble.

To Contact the Authors
  • Partner & Managing Director
  • New York
This is an excerpt from Women Want More: How to Capture Your Share of the World's Largest, Fastest-Growing Market by Michael J. Silverstein and Kate Sayre. Copyright © 2009, The Boston Consulting Group, Inc. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.