U.S. Women and the Internet, Part 3

Earlier this year, I wrote about how U.S. women consume online ads and how they respond to those ads. Since then, many more reports about how women should be marketed to have been released. In setting about to update this series, I took a look at new data, conducted an informal focus group of my own using Twitter, and synthesized my findings here.

Where the Women Are

Women continue to wield a growing amount of influence online, particularly in social media. According to a RapLeaf study cited by “BusinessWeek”, there’s a growing social-media gender gap and the future “is going to be all about the women.” RapLeaf reasons that unlike women of all ages and status, men over 30 tend to be married and therefore are “not hanging out on social networks,” with the exception of LinkedIn where they dominate, using it for business transactional purposes. Women’s behavior online, however, is “less transactional and more relationship-driven.”

Relationships and Trust

Even when women’s behavior is transactional, it’s often influenced by some kind of relationship. For example, a BlogHer study found that 64 percent of its users have made a purchasing decision as a result of a recommendation or customer experience posted on a blog. “The New York Times” just released a study describing how the online behavior of affluent, influential wired women affects purchasing behaviors. These women, “marketing multipliers,” are twice as likely to actively communicate satisfaction or dissatisfaction and to about twice as many people. Marketing multipliers value their reputation and will not pass on information unless it’s from a trustworthy source; 71 percent say that the site the ad is on is very important.

A study of online moms, “Living La Vida Rapida: Today’s Parents Living a Double Life at Double Time,” by Platform-A and OMD, backs this up. The study shows that digital ads, like banners, mobile, and text messaging, scored far lower on the trust and “ad acceptability” ratings scale than TV, radio, and newspaper media.

Seven Immutable Laws of Online Marketing to Women

Our survey and focus group findings, combined with our analysis of other studies, have led us to create a business report based on the following list of immutable laws:

  • Women will respond to a worthy cause. In our study, 1,700 women rapidly and voluntarily responded because we were donating to a cause. The 2008 Cone/Duke University Behavioral Cause Study confirms these findings. Women in my focus group had very strong feelings affirming an opinion piece that advertisers should expect less ROI (define) and do more to give back with their advertising…and solid suggestions for how to do so.

  • Women want to be in control. Women want control over all aspects of their online experience, from pre-roll video ads to the disclosure of information on landing pages. Roughly half of my focus group said they made impulse buys online.
  • Respect a woman’s privacy. Almost half of our surveyed women change their cookie settings; only 9 percent perceive that ads never invade their privacy. This also speaks to the trust issue mentioned earlier.
  • Make ad content relevant now. If the ad content is relevant, you have a woman’s undivided attention. Our survey found that ad response related to content, with reading content (55.9 percent) or researching product (54.4 percent) at the top of the list.
  • A woman’s day is never done. Platform-A found women constantly multitasking and “living in ‘double time,'” averaging 27-hour waking days, 2.6 of which are spent online. For advertising, our survey found dayparts perform better by age, but after 8 p.m. was best for all ages.
  • Women are visually oriented but don’t like bells and whistles. Our study found dressed-down image ads had the strongest appeal, while interactive ads held the least. Only 10 percent of respondents cited interactivity (e.g., expanding ads, floating ads, video ads, etc.) and the ad’s location on the page as features likely to capture their attention. My focus group found simple ads (text or text-centric) like “blog ads, ads in email newsletters, ads that ask a question relevant to me or my situation, ones with coupon codes I can redeem” most appealing. When asked about memorable online ads, my focus group remembered clever ad text, soft-sell ads, video demonstrations, or those with hard-to-find items.
  • Just because women visit a Web site frequently doesn’t mean it’s a favorite site. Our study found news/weather/traffic Web sites are the sites most frequently visited by women, but shopping sites are their favorite. Blog and community sites continue to attract women in droves.

There’s so much information about wired women and too little space. As you can tell, I enjoy this topic, so look for more about it from me in the future.

Join us for a Consumers and the Influence of Blogs: What It Means for Your Marketing Mix on November 20 at 2 pm EST. Find out how online consumers discover blogs and navigate between them, what kind of opportunity blogs represent for advertisers, and much more!

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