Innovation Blog


Shifting Consumer Mindset:

Are You Tracking It?  Part II

Oct. 31/2009


   Boston Consulting Group  expert Michael Silverstein and colleague, who head BCG’s global consumer practice, recently ran a web-based survey of some 25,000 women worldwide.  They published their results in a recent book  What Women Want.  The results are important and revealing. They show a rapidly developing and changing market, based on women who are increasingly stressed and pressed for time, and whose needs are not being fully met.  There is much room here for innovation.   If innovation is largely managed, led and conducted by men,  perhaps it is time to enlist women — unless men can suddenly become massively empathetic to the needs of half the world that has XX chromosomes.  The female economy, we learn, is a quiet economic and social revolution.   


   Here is a brief summary, taken from Singapore’s Business Times, Oct. 29, written by BCG principals in Southeast Asia:


      We are on the brink of a major business revolution. Over the next five years, women will have US$5 trillion in incremental earnings to spend and we see this as a commercial opportunity bigger than the rise of the consumer economies of China and India combined, and an economic stimulus far larger than any government bailout package.    Women control US$12 trillion of the overall US$18.4 trillion in global discretionary consumer spending, and they will have an even bigger share in the coming years. These women increasingly earn a substantial portion of the household income and control up to 65 per cent of household spending.   Taken from What Women Want – a Boston Consulting Group (BCG) global consumerism survey of more than 12,000 women in 22 countries around the world – these figures and survey analysis  highlight  their focus — the [need to] understand and serve this female economy.


     Much of the research from the survey findings shows that women are dissatisfied with the products and services available to them.   Companies fail to answer women’s needs and misunderstand the overwhelming demands placed on their time and the challenges they face when dealing with the myriad roles they typically play – as wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, partners, professionals, friends and colleagues.   These dissatisfactions need to be addressed by businesses in many industries before they can truly win the trust and consistent purchasing power of women.

  Specifically, companies fail to:

¨ address women’s need for time-saving solutions;

¨ design and customise products specifically for women;

¨avoid condescending and clumsy sales and marketing efforts;

¨align with women’s values or develop community; and,

¨increase their social initiatives and give back to society in more meaningful ways.

  The women surveyed in Women Want More indicated they are most dissatisfied with financial services (73 per cent), health care (71 per cent) and consumer durables (up to 47 per cent).

Of the three, financial services is the industry that frustrates women most. In general, women indicated they don’t have a desire to accumulate money for its own sake or experiment with complicated financial instruments.   A majority of the women value money as a means for caring for their families and themselves, improving their lives and assuring long-term security. Many indicated they want advisers and services that recognise their need for short-term simplicity and long-term stability.

  For the most part, women aren’t getting the financial management solutions they want. Instead, many experience a lack of respect, poor advice, contradictory policies and an obstacle course of red tape and paperwork.   Of the companies studied, very few understand the significance of the female economy to their business. If they respond to this economy at all, they do so by making small adjustments to their product line or to their organisations.

    To better understand the female audience, companies must reconsider how they do research, how they develop products, how they sell and merchandise and how they add services to their value proposition.   Companies must rethink how they segment the female audience and how these segments react to changes in consumer bahaviour.   To facilitate broader analysis of what women want, we created six key female consumer segments –

¨ fast-tracker, ¨  pressure cooker, ¨ relationship-focused, ¨  managing on her own, ¨ fulfilled empty nester and¨ making ends meet.

Each archetype is defined by income, age and stage of life. Such segmentation proved useful for our research and is now successfully informing the development and marketing of offerings to women.

Understanding what women want can be done through a four-R approach –

¨ recognise, ¨ research, ¨ respond and ¨refine. 

¨ Recognise the opportunity;

¨ research how a product or service is being consumed; and respond with new disruptive innovations that create new categories, new segments, or entirely new sources of products and services; and,

¨refine ideas in a way that creates lasting relationships with female consumers, builds connections and continually improves the offering to strengthen those relationships.

 Balancing ‘work at work’ and ‘work at home’ :  Women earn a substantial portion of the household income and yet they still do the bulk of the housework and home management. As a result, it is not surprising that women in every corner of the world are starved for time and many are stretched.

 BCG’s research has shown that women are struggling to balance the ‘work at work’ with the ‘work at home’. At the same time, they have high standards and even higher expectations of themselves.

These expectations – combined with the responsibilities women shoulder for caring about good nutrition, education, health care and making money for the family – create tremendous stress.

  Women hold approximately 50 per cent of university places throughout the world. Apart from the number of graduates entering the workforce, there is a global increase in the number of women going to work in full-time and part-time positions.

 The facts cannot be ignored, and increase in significance as companies recognise the importance of the female economy.  By systematically targeting this market and understanding women’s dissatisfactions, companies can holistically, rather than incrementally, participate in and profit from one of the most important commercial opportunities of the century. Women will benefit from and appreciate the outcomes too.



Source:   Copyright © 2007 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.