He Buys, She Shops: Study Reveals Fundamental
Shopping Differences between Genders

Women Encounter More Problems, but Men are Less Forgiving

– Roughly half of all customers experienced problems during their most recent shopping experience, according to, “Men Buy, Women Shop,” a first-ever study looking at gender differences in the retail shopping experience, released today from the Jay H. Baker Retail Initiative at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; the Verde Group, a leading customer dissatisfaction consulting firm; and WomenCertified, a consumer advocacy resource that empowers women to make better buying decisions. Women are more likely to experience problems than men (53% vs. 48%), especially women over the age of 40 (when compared to men in the same age category), according to the annual study, now in its fourth year.

Although women are more likely to experience problems, the issue can be more detrimental to retailers’ business when male shoppers are involved. Men are nearly 20% less likely to recommend a store where they experienced problems than women. This difference is even more pronounced among men under the age of 40.

“This year’s research is different from previous studies because we probed gender differences, purchase type by product category, and age,” said Paula Courtney, President of the Verde Group. “Because problem experiences remain prevalent, retailers need to understand their consumer, and segmenting shoppers in this way gives us a window into what makes them tick.”

Customer service is a prevailing theme in this year’s survey, especially with women shoppers.

•Among the top problems that female shoppers experience, “lack of help when needed” is the number one problem (29%) and is more likely to lead to lost business;
•About 6% of all female shoppers are likely lost as a result of this problem;
•Men’s priorities are different; however, with “difficulty in finding parking close to the store’s entrance” as the number one problem (also at 29%);
•The problem that is most likely to lead to lost business for men is when a product is out of stock (5% of all male shoppers are likely lost as a result of this problem).
Men and women are most satisfied with the sales associate’s willingness to let them shop or browse at their own pace.

•At least 77% report being very satisfied with this attribute;
•For men, a key loyalty builder is the sales associate’s interest in helping them find the item they were looking for, followed by the sales associate’s effort in getting them through check-out quickly;
•For women, loyalty builders are more closely related to the sales associate’s familiarity with the products and determining what products best suit them;
•Women shoppers also value sales associates who make them feel important.
“Sales associates need to be available, attentive and enthusiastic, especially with women shoppers,” said Stephen J. Hoch, director of the Baker Retail Initiative at Wharton. “Men have a much more utilitarian approach to shopping.”

When women shoppers feel like they are an imposition, it can be very harmful to business.

•Almost half (47%) of women shoppers say they will not return to a store because, “store employees acted like shoppers were intruding on their time or their own conversations”;
•Only 22% of men agreed, and the difference is even more pronounced when comparing women over the age of 40 with men over the age of 40.
“WomenCertified understands all too well that retailers frequently come up short when selling to women, which is why we chose to get involved with this study on gender differences,” said Delia Passi, founder of WomenCertified. “Female shoppers should feel empowered and demand positive shopping experiences from their local retailers. If retailers respond by reducing the kinds of problems outlined in the research, they will ultimately benefit from long term shopper loyalty.”

Because shopping experiences – good and bad – are often shared with others, the study also looked at what kinds of incidents were most likely to be passed along.

•At least 50% of shoppers report having had a “wow” shopping experience at some point in their life, that is, one that is considered great;
•More women than men report having had a “wow” shopping experience, but men and women alike are just over four times more likely to tell people about their positive “wow” experience than their negative shopping experience;
•“Wow” experiences occur far less often than problem experiences, regardless of gender.
“In the end, women are more influenced, positively or negatively, by the interaction with the sales associate, especially when buying items other than apparel,” added Courtney. “For men, it’s more about the product being there, and getting in and out of the store as quickly as possibly.”

“Men Buy, Women Shop” was previously titled The Customer Dissatisfaction Study. This year’s survey was skewed towards females, approximately two to one. All respondents were randomly selected and qualified if they had purchased products at a retail store in the past month. Respondents were asked to focus on items excluding liquor, beer, groceries, prescription drugs, or items valued at more than $2,500. Fieldwork was conducted by Elemental Data Collection.

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