6 Tricks Companies Use to Sell to Women

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There’s no doubt about it: Women are the most powerful consumers in America. According to a report published by Nielsen, their estimated combined purchasing power ranges from $5 trillion to $15 trillion annually — and they’re expected to control two-thirds of consumer wealth within the next 10 years. Not surprisingly, being so powerful has a price. Marketers are taking aim squarely at women, with an arsenal of tricks aimed at getting them to open their purses and spend big.

Knowing what they’re up to gives you the necessary ammunition to protect yourself.

1. They Guilt Trip You

Cue the Sarah McLachlan music: “A lot of marketing works on guilt,” says Martin Lindstrom, branding expert, neuromarketing consultant and author of “Small Data.” That particular emotion is more effective in influencing women’s wallets than it is for men’s. Why? Research published in the Spanish Journal of Psychology shows women, quite simply, feel more guilt — and it’s largely because they’re socially conditioned to.

Lindstrom says the guilt-trip works for two reasons. The first is emotional in that whatever product or service you buy will make you feel like a better mother, a better wife or a better friend. The second is rational and focuses on the practicality of the product or service in that it will solve a specified problem like the lack of time in your schedule. If an advertisement has ever led you to drive to Whole Foods after thinking: “Am I bad mother for not feeding my children organic foods?,” then the guilt trip worked.

Literally.

2. They Infiltrate Your Feed

How often do you check your Instagram? Nearly two-thirds of users are on the platform daily, and more than one-third of those make multiple pit-stops every day, according to the Pew Research Center. Keeping up with the Joneses has never been easier — and more addicting.

But it brings with it pressure to spend. Social channels give you the ability “to compare yourself to everyone across every dimension,” explains Lindstrom. The result is that the drive to have that “Instagram-worthy” life has never been greater.

Advertisers know this, of course, and now pay celebrities and “social influencers” (i.e. people who have large social followings) to promote products and services through their social channels. It can be tricky to tell fact from fiction (hashtags like #ad and #spon are supposed to alert you to paid-for posts but they aren’t always present). One thing that’s clear is that more women are looking and liking. Among Internet users, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are the top three social media platforms, and women participate more than men.

3. They Create Context

When marketing to women, advertisers are more likely to add context for the product’s use. This encourages you to mull on what the product would look like incorporated into your own life — and once you take possession of it in that (albeit imaginary) way, it shortens the purchasing process. Take electronics, for example: “[Advertisements targeting men] tend to show the product in an abstract background, or they’ll show the electronics in the family room without people,” says Marti Barletta, author of “Marketing to Women.” “But women tend to skip over the images without people…if you show the context of the family room with people that has more stopping power.”

4. They Promise to Turn Back the Clock

Is there a fountain of youth? For marketers, there certainly is. With people begging for more hours in a day — and trying to defy the effects of aging — it isn’t surprising that research shows the more you use the word “time” or reference to it in an advertisement, it converts straight to sales, says Lindstrom. 

5. They Shrink the Size of Package

Have you noticed certain beverages and products getting smaller? For instance, soft drink companies noticed women weren’t buying the full cans of soda anymore, because of the health concerns associated with them. The solution? “Design smaller cans for women so they wouldn’t feel as guilty,” says Lindstrom. Consumers now pay more for less — and it’s working. Earlier this year, Coke announced that sales of its smaller packages (i.e. 8-packs of 12-ounce bottles and 7.5-ounce cans) continue to rise, while the sales of its larger bottles and cans continue to fall.

6. They Bring Out Your Inner Huntress

“Women subconsciously want to hunt for a good deal,” explains Lindstrom. “The hunt is about feeling rewarded.” To enable this behavior, stores purposely mess up their tables and hide products. (Yes, you read that right — and yes, it’s working.) “If you have two tables next to each other — one that’s neat versus one that’s messy — the messy table sells 17 percent more,” he says. You get even more competitive when shopping with a girlfriend — and could see it as entertainment — spending up to 12 percent more. That’s why it’s best to hunt alone.

Music also comes into play, here. According to Lindstrom, if the beat is slower than the heartbeat rate, women buy 29 percent more. Why? Research shows you’re more likely to walk slower and therefore spend more time in the store. One way to avoid overspending altogether is to find all of the products you want to buy, leave them and then come back a day later. The dopamine (feel-good chemical) reaction you initially had when you first saw the products is lower the second time around. The result? Half of those products will remain in the store. 

With Kelly Hultgren