Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Stem the Tide of Female Shopper Discomfort

For many years, influential Americans have worried about STEM. In his 2006 State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush announced an initiative to correct shortcomings in our students’ STEM knowledge. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has said that without adequate attention to STEM, we’ll lose hope of superiority in space. The National Science Foundation warns that females too often resign themselves to being viewed as having poor STEM skills.
     This warning about the sense of resignation is what brings us to retail shopping behavior. STEM is the acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math. It refers to a set of disciplines ranging from actuarial science to zoology. Researchers at Korea’s Yonsei University, Canada’s Concordia University, and America’s University of Minnesota verified that women avoid situations like automobile shopping, financial planning, and tax preparation because the women fear salespeople will try to cheat them, assuming their customers lack STEM strength.
     For your products and services that might arouse these concerns in female consumers, here are some research-based ways to stem the tide of discomfort:
  • Have women salespersons available and show more female salespersons in ads. This was one of the methods Lowe’s used to make their home improvement stores more female-friendly.
  • Make the store environment less exclusively masculine. Go gently with the renovation, though. Otherwise you risk chasing off your male customers. The Yonsei/Concordia/Minnesota researchers discovered how a quite subtle change did the job: When a vanilla scent was pumped into the environment, the women’s STEM anxiety did not significantly alter their shopping behavior with male salespersons. Why vanilla? Researchers attribute the effect to vanilla being a predominant scent in breast milk, which, in turn, carries tones of female mastery.
  • Arrange and publicize women-only special events at your store. Harley-Davidson has had success with this method at their 650 U.S. dealerships.
  • Have salespersons include more explanations in their selling. Midas International trained employees to smile as they use a checklist to describe to the customer each procedure that will be carried out on the customer’s car. The measure of success comes whenever a customer is asked: “Would you be able to explain to your mother what happened at Midas?”
  • Avoid arousing anxiety from other sources that could exacerbate any STEM anxiety. For instance, researchers at Tilburg University and Arizona State University found that when female study participants looked at moderately heavy models in ads, the study participants began having unpleasant thoughts about their competence.
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more:
Explain Yourself to Female Customers
Appeal to Pride of Distinctive Consumers

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