The Single-Woman Consumer: Don’t Marry Her off, Court Her

I’m in that transition generation; from my childhood perspective (in the late ’60s and early ’70s), a single woman over 23 still seemed an oddity and people still talked of “old maids.” Times have changed, and I am one of legions of single women who are really enjoying life.

“The Solo Female Consumer Market,” a study just published by Packaged Facts, available through MarketResearch.com, examines never-married, childless women ages 25 to 44. The report cites Census Bureau data that indicates over 17 million U.S. women are living alone in 2001, more than double the number of women living alone 20 years ago.

Times, they are a-changin’.

The single adult women’s consumer market goes beyond the never-married/no-children segment. This complex group of “unmarried women” (with or without children) is broken down by 2000 census data into the following subgroups: never married (25.1 percent), separated (2.4 percent), divorced (10.2), and widowed (10 percent).

Here’s the deal: Women now spend multiple periods of their lives living alone due to a variety of contemporary social trends, including greater career opportunities for women, higher divorce rates, longer life expectancy, and cohabitation.

The Draw of Self-Development

One of the most powerful ways to appeal to single women is to focus on self-development. Perhaps because we allow ourselves to be selfish more regularly than our coupled counterparts, single women enjoy working on mental and physical self-development. (Just take a look at the articles in the latest SELF, ELLE, or Shape magazines).

Companies in the business of books/audio, music, movies, fitness, over-the-counter supplements, continuing education, single-portion packaged foods, organic food, and financial services/investing represent just a small sample of organizations that have leveraged or should leverage their marketing around the self-development theme. Can your product be positioned from that angle?

In a single woman’s empowered, self-development-focused life, we find purchases of new homes by single women are on the rise, with 57 percent of single women currently owning their homes (U.S. Census data). Furthermore, solo women seem to prefer the premium compact vehicle class and smaller television sets (self-development is better achieved through reading?). And in their “why wait for marriage?” ways, solo females are more likely to have made jewelry purchases for themselves in previous years than women and adults overall (Simmons data as reported by Packaged Facts).

What of Brand Affiliation and Advertising Strategies?

Single women are not shy about shopping for “like to have” items. They’re not waiting for weddings or showers to acquire fine linens or crystal. The power mindset of single women means advertisers need to figure out how to appeal to women who are buying their own homes, having babies solo, taking adventure trips with girlfriends, and not waiting for a better time to make significant purchases.

According to “Targeting the Single Female Consumer,” an article that appeared August 1, 2000, in “Reuters Business Insight,” the characteristics of the “new single woman” are:

  1. She is prepared to find out what she needs to know in order to make the right purchasing decisions.
  2. She is a relationship-seeker who remains loyal to trusted brands.
  3. She lets confidantes influence her purchasing decisions.

Zappos.com Case Study

Zappos.com is a site that incorporates all of the above characteristics to leverage the sale to and frequent return of women (as well as male) consumers.

The “world” knows women are shoe fanatics, right? If each of you, fair readers, came up with just one single-woman friend, colleague, or relative from the age of 25 to 44 and asked her, we could come up with our own proof in the pudding — single women purchase lots of shoes. They can and do indulge because they don’t necessarily have to buy shoes for their kids every season, they don’t have to justify their purchases to anyone, and if they want to they can easily skip dinner for two weeks to fund their habit.

Let’s examine my anecdotal experience (remember, I belong to the demographic this article discusses). I learned about Zappos.com through a quiz I took on Emode (I’ve raved about its quizzes in articles before). I told (word of mouth and word of Web) about 10 other friends about Zappos (point 3 above) since I found the site. It has exactly the brands I know and love (point 2), and there are several ways to search (point 1) for what I desire (usually clogs).

Have No Pity

Single women wield more purchasing power these days. Moreover, this segment of the women’s market is not expected to decrease in number anytime soon. If your product or service even remotely strikes the fancy of these women, you can woo them and win them. Just remember: Don’t throw a pity party for us! Join the forward momentum as we embrace our consumer power and proceed to change the world — in a good way!

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