What Women Want – And What Businesses Need To Know

Amanda Murphy, Head of UK Corporate Banking at HSBC, shares tips for businesses to consider when selling to women



Today, around 1.75 billion women have a job, with global earnings that are expected to amount as much as USD18 trillion by 2018[1]. It is vital to recognise that women are effectively driving the world’s economy: they have control over 70 to 80 per cent of all consumer purchasing[2].


As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it is important to reflect on what the needs of female consumers are today, and how they are reshaping the way businesses market and sell to women.


1. More money, less time: make it easier for women to be and buy


There may be more women at work, but they’re still shouldering the bulk of the burden at home. Indeed, although there have been great strides of progress towards gender equality, the World Bank estimates that women spend one to three hours more each day doing housework than their male peers, and that’s true across all countries.


This means that while women are increasingly wealthy and self-reliant, they’re also time-poor. Companies which develop products – and selling strategies – that will make women’s lives easier will be winners.


The ability to sell to women via digital and online platforms will be critical to business success. In the US, women account for 58 per cent of all total online spending and 22 per cent shop online at least once a day[3], so there is no doubt that to win their business, companies need to beef up their online and digital strategies.


2. Get one, get more: reach out to the whole family


In the vast majority of families, women remain the primary caregivers, whether that’s for children, the elderly or other family members with care needs. When addressing women, companies need to recognise they are the gateway to a larger group of consumers.


Women buy – or at least influence purchases - for the rest of their household, so whomever your business wants to sell to, make sure women are able to empathise with the product. A striking example is the automotive sector. Today, women are thought to make approximately 65 per cent of all car purchase decisions globally[4]. So a car manufacturer playing with masculine stereotypes is at risk of being vetoed by women.


  1. Forget about gender stereotypes: women don’t want pink


A report from HSBC published in September 2016, Future of Consumer Demand, revealed that gender plays little part in attitudes to consumption. For example, the importance of buying from ethical companies or the desire to access the latest fashionable brands is equally important to men and women.   


Consumers’ expectations are identical, which suggests that moving away from a ‘gendered’ product development and marketing approach is key for businesses to succeed. In fact, women are increasingly vocal about brands which either patronise or fail to represent them in a way which reflects their roles in society. Movements such as Miss Representation[5] call out brands and organisations that don’t take women seriously and which create an environment where women are denigrated.

So when designing and marketing products, brands not only need to think about what will make them commercially successful, but also how they can protect and enhance their reputation.


3. Put diversity at the heart of your business


Successfully addressing the needs of female consumers – and tapping into this trillion dollar market – could require extensive customer research and marketing expertise. It could also be as simple as being a diverse and inclusive employer yourself. Indeed, is there a better way to successfully address the needs of your target audience than have it design and deliver the products you want to sell to them?

Recognising that to be commercially successful businesses need to embody and reflect their customers’ values, many companies have worked hard to recruit a workforce which represents the communities they serve. Enabling your business to look at its operating model and its product offering via this ‘diversity lens’ can not only ensure there are no hidden traps or big marketing fails, but it can also take your company further through innovation.

The opportunity to tap into is huge: businesses that help time-poor but ambitious women achieve their personal and professional goals can look forward to sustainable success and growth.


[1] Ernst & Young: ‘Women – the next emerging market’ (2013)

[2] http://www.forbes.com/sites/bridgetbrennan/2015/01/21/top-10-things-everyone-should-know-about-women-consumers/#1a4b05592897

[3] GirlTalk, Musings on Marketing and Motherhood: Marketing to Women: 30 Stats to Know

[4] Ad Week - STUDY: Advertisers Don’t Understand Women (2015)

[5] http://therepresentationproject.org/