Women are in the driver’s seat when it comes to the economy. Globally, they control about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending, a figure that may grow as much as 40% in the next five years. In aggregate, women represent a growth market more than twice as big as China and India combined.

Just how powerful is the female market?

  • In the U.S., women decide $4.3 trillion in consumer spending each year
  • Women comprise 51.4% of the U.S. population, but make or influence 85% of all purchasing decisions
  • Women make 80% of healthcare decisions and 70% of travel decisions
  • Women purchase 65% of new cars and 53% of used cars
  • Women make or influence 57% of all electronics purchases
  • In 31% of the marriages where women work, they out-earn their husbands
  • Single women buy homes at 2.5 times the rate of single men – one out of every five
  • homes purchased (20%) is by a single woman

Marketers are turning their attention to this all-powerful consumer market, though missteps may occur when companies clumsily pursue women as if they were a niche audience. So, how does a marketer reach out to women effectively?

Keep in mind that women are different in many ways, including….

Media usage habits

Women spend more time per day watching television (5 hrs 14 min versus 4 hrs 35 min for men), and, thanks to DVRs, female TV viewing levels are at an all-time high. Men and women listen to radio in equal percentages, but men spend about 16% more time listening, while women change channels less often. Women can be found online more than men, outnumbering them 53% to 47%. And, born multi-taskers that they are, women spend about 30% more time watching television and surfing the internet simultaneously.


We shouldn’t discount the emotional side of a woman’s buying decisions. In this way, advertising is similar to courting. The key is to make an emotional connection and provide an immediate and ongoing benefit. Marketers need to think how she’s thinking…How is this going to make my life easier? Will this make me more efficient? Will it save me time? Will it help me work and/or live smarter? Is it something I will want to tell my friends about?


Some stereotypes exist for a reason, and this one is true: women like to talk. They particularly like to share useful information. It is important to remember that traditional “word of mouth” has evolved from coffee talk between two women to status updates or tweets seen by hundreds at a time. As such, products MUST live up to higher standards. Just as a woman wouldn’t go out with a man she’s heard is boring, nor would she buy a body wash that’s said to dry out skin.

Unfortunately, most companies have much to learn about selling to women. A comprehensive survey found that the majority of women feel vastly underserved. Despite the strides made in market power and social position, women still appear to be undervalued in the marketplace and underestimated in the workplace. They also have too many demands on their time, constantly juggling conflicting priorities of work, home and family. Few companies have responded to their needs. Companies continue to offer poorly conceived products and services and promote offerings with outdated marketing that portrays female stereotypes.

One example of a company missing the mark happened as recently as May 2009, when Dell launched its “Della” website to market laptops specifically to women. The site emphasized colors, computer accessories, and tips for finding recipes and dieting. There were no technical specifications featured on the site. Implied was that women care more about the color of their computer than how well it performs. To Dell’s credit, Della was dismantled and replaced within weeks of its launch, but its existence is a striking illustration of how big companies still don’t understand this key market.

When the dust settles from the recent recession, many trends will stand out more than ever. Women will represent an ever-larger portion of the workforce, especially since job losses most heavily fell upon men. Yes, women are still paid less than their male counterparts, but there’s no denying that this market represents one of the largest opportunity markets out there. Targeting women in almost every segment of advertising is not a niche effort, but a necessity.

Just remember what Aretha said: R-E-S-P-E-C-T….

Respecting their time, intellect and purchasing power is critical for effectively marketing to women.