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The Mobile Female

  |  February 2, 2012   |  Comments

Women use smartphones differently from men. Here's what that means for marketers.

The Mobile Male is active and invested: this we know. But what of his female counterpart? Research suggests women smartphone users are not just ready to accept mobile media, but to substitute it for other mediums they're already comfortable with. But their adoption rate seems to lag a little behind men. Why?

It may have something to do with their innate behavior - or, more specifically, overcoming it. Traditionally women have been more likely to want to physically interact with the products they're considering buying - to touch, feel, smell, and test them before committing to a purchase. Slowly, however, they're starting to recognize the benefits of putting this aside. An August 2011 BabyCenter survey, "Shopping Rituals of the American Mom," found that 28 percent already use their phones to compare prices, while 71 percent rely on websites. It won't be long before they recognize the convenience of using the mobile web for this purpose and the two mediums converge.

Another factor contributing to women's slower adoption rate is the degree to which advertisers are currently targeting them. Global mobile media company BuzzCity reports that of the 2.8 billion mobile impressions it served in the United States during Q4 2011, 62 percent were served to men and only 38 percent to women. And yet, female adoption rates are on the rise. Already more than 40 percent of smartphone users in the U.K., Thailand, and South Africa are women, compared with at least 30 percent in France, Germany, Mexico, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, and the United States (the latter currently boasts a divide of 62 percent male, 38 percent female).

That said, women are growing increasingly aware of mobile advertisements. According to InsightExpress and its Q1 2012 Digital Consumer Report, 46 percent of women report having seen a mobile ad while using the mobile Internet or a mobile app. This number falls shy of the males' response - 69 percent - but it's still significant. If almost half of all female smartphone users are noticing ads, that means one of two things: either they're growing more aware of the mobile landscape, or advertisers are doing something right with their ads.

It might be a little of each, given the survey results on how consumers react to mobile ads. Twelve percent of women liked the mobile ads they saw "somewhat," while 38 percent "neither liked nor disliked" the ads. Again, this is an indication that while female consumers aren't yet as engrossed as males, they represent a viable consumer base with the potential to be converted into more devoted mobile users.

How? Here are a couple of starting points.

  1. Include a store locator in your ads. When asked what they would do if they were in a store and the product they were seeking was out of stock, 41 percent of women replied they would use their smartphone to search for it at another location. Twenty-three percent said they'd use their phone to purchase it from a website on the spot - 5 percent more than the number of males who would do the same - but giving them an easy way to seek a product in-store will at least expedite the purchasing process.
  2. Embrace QR codes. Just as when you're targeting men, QR codes can be very useful in providing access to additional product information at the touch of a button. ComScore reports that nearly 40 percent of women have already scanned a QR code. In fact, women's magazines were the biggest users of QR codes in 2011, according to mobile marketing firm Nellymoser. Almost 40 percent of branded codes could be attributed to the beauty, home, and fashion industries. The more you include them in your ads, and the more ads that feature them in a magazine, the more women will engage with them. "People get trained once, and they have their phones out, and it becomes part of the process," a Nellymoser executive reports.

Will 2012 be the year that women smartphone usage reaches its tipping point? I can hardly think of a more relevant and useful medium for busy female professionals and mothers. It's up to advertisers to help demonstrate this through their ads.

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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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