MediaMedia PlanningUnderstanding Women

Understanding Women

Find women fascinating but mysterious? Well, it may not help you understand your wife or girlfriend, but Seana does have some advice on targeting women online.

Women are no longer a mystery — well, at least not online. Having worked with a lot of consumer brands, I’ve often had to target women. After plodding through books, focus group tapes, and Web sites, I still couldn’t really find much information about women online. But I finally uncovered a few gems while digging around, so I thought I’d share them with you.

Solid demographics are probably the easiest numbers to come by. For example, we know that women have a dominant presence on the Web. In the U.S., women outnumber men, and the population on the Internet mirrors the population at large. According to ACNielsen, 52 percent of women are online (67,380,376). Many other countries mirror such usage numbers.

Female At-Home Internet Users

Of the total users in selected countries, female at-home users make up the following percentages:

  • United States: 52 percent
  • Canada: 51 percent
  • Australia: 48 percent
  • New Zealand: 46 percent
  • Finland: 46 percent
  • South Korea: 45 percent
  • Sweden: 45 percent
  • Denmark: 45 percent
  • Ireland: 45 percent
  • Hong Kong: 44 percent

According to @plan, 86.5 percent of women online are 18 to 54 years old. The largest group of women online are the 35 to 44 year olds. The exact numbers are:

  • 18-24 years old: 9,306,874
  • 25-34 years old: 14,460,222
  • 35-44 years old: 18,728,066
  • 45-54 years old: 16,007,764

It’s hard to tap into attitudinal attributes of women online. Over the years, I’ve spoken with endemic sites such as iVillage/, as well as portals and niche sites. In addition, I’ve conducted campaigns geared toward targeting women — for clients in the financial, consumer, healthcare, pharmaceutical, and business categories. So, I figured I’d save you some time and share some more qualitative data:

  • Women are destination-driven.
  • They want convenience.
  • Women view the Web as a time-saver.
  • They feel the Web enhances their lives.
  • Women feel that the Web offers tools to communicate, shop, and receive news and information.
  • Women seek current information that is easy to access.
  • They are comfortable with the medium.

Women say that they feel confident and in control while online. They feel as if the Web makes them more knowledgeable, and they feel a sense of accomplishment. The unlimited choices online give women a sense of empowerment.

According to @plan, women embrace the Web as a multipurpose tool. They use it for research but hone in on information within news, parenting, personal fitness, healthcare, meal planning, and entertainment channels.

In a study by Content Intelligence, most women were found to have used the Internet for less than three years, in comparison with only 35 percent of men. However, women are more likely to become frequent users. They are also said to dominate e-tail spending.

Planning Media for a Female Audience

Here are the top 10 tips on planning media geared toward a female target audience:

  • Always keep your/your clients’ business objectives in mind.
  • Research Web consumption against the target audience.
  • Consider loyalty indicators such as stickiness and frequency within sites.
  • Capitalize on any lifestyle indicators you may know (e.g., active, likes to go to movies, etc.).
  • Seek opportunities with creative units, such as chat, greeting cards, and coupons.
  • Determine environments where women may be most receptive to your message/offer.
  • Utilize areas that allow the opportunity to test messages.
  • Consider viral elements in ad units or creative/messaging (e.g. refer a friend).
  • Take advantage of database-building opportunities, such as free registration on sites.
  • Consider using promotional opportunities, such as sweepstakes.

Millward Brown and Intelliquest recently conducted a study looking at women’s interactivity and receptivity. The findings were positive:

  • Women exhibit high interactivity with ad units. Sixty percent of women click on banners to acquire more information.
  • Women show brand loyalty. Thirty-four percent go back to an advertiser’s Website after viewing the ad.
  • They find the Web essential to decision making. Seventy-eight percent use the Internet to obtain product information before making purchasing decisions. Thirty-three percent research online and then purchase the products offline.
  • They consider the Internet an important adjunct to major personal events. Women are likely to engage in new online activities when experiencing a life change, such as getting married, purchasing a home, or buying a car.

Have you had experience targeting women online? I’d love to hear what worked, what didn’t, and what you’ve learned.

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