Today we’re looking at a global shift I call the “mother of all trends:” there are more women in the paid labor force than at any other time in history. If you’re in retail, this is the trend that drives just about everything else, and something you should be monitoring closely. Why? Every time a woman takes a job outside the home, her spending patterns are altered. Not only does she increase her personal and household income, she may travel a different direction on the roadways, wear different clothes, eat different foods, shop at retailers further from home (as well as online), involve other people in caring for her children if she’s a mother, and have a different relationship with money. And that’s just for starters. Consider the following:

 

When time for shopping goes down, expectations for service and convenience go up.

I call this phenomenon, double duty in half the time. Many women are working two jobs: one outside the home and one inside the home, leading to time compression, which is just another way of saying that women don’t have as much time to shop. We all know that saving time has become so valuable that people are willing to pay a premium for it, hence the enormous appeal of on-demand businesses like Instacart and Lyft, to name just two, as well as Amazon Prime and countless other ecommerce retailers. When we interview women at Female Factor, we’ll often hear them say they have plenty of “stuff,” and what they’re looking for is more “help.” In brick-and-mortar retail, this translates a few different ways. First, consider providing services that complement product offerings. Good examples include haircuts at ULTA Beauty, pet day care and boarding at PetSmart and grilling the meat a customer has just ordered at Mariano’s grocery stores. Second, keep up with consumer’s new definitions of convenience by offering extended hours, product delivery, pick-up or valet services, and a kid-and-companion-friendly environment. Finally, give her an efficient experience with your business by replacing analog processes with modern technology solutions, such as appointment reminders by text or emailed receipts.

The bottom line: If your retail business isn’t helpful, convenient and easy to work with, you’ll eventually be disrupted by a competitor that is.

 

Single Millennial women aren’t waiting to get married to spend money, so take them seriously.

“I do” is starting to turn into “I may – someday.” All over the industrialized world, women are working and staying single longer, and subsequently have more disposable income than previous generations of young women. From homes to furniture to mutual funds, single women are no longer waiting to buy the kinds of things that were once expected of a future “Prince Charming.” Young, single women buy homes. Cars. Power tools. Insurance. Luxury vacations. In our research at Female Factor, we hear many women in this age group tell us they aren’t taken seriously as buyers of big-ticket purchases, and are routinely underestimated by salespeople, who may ask questions like, “Where’s your father?”  or “Are you sure you don’t want the lower-priced option?” If you’re in sales management, be sure to train salespeople to treat these customers seriously, and to speak to young women in a way that’s engaging instead of alienating, or worse, patronizing. And while we’re here, I should add that we also hear a similar sentiment from single women of all ages, who often feel that they are treated with less respect by salespeople, particularly when it comes to big-ticket purchases that were once only associated with couples and families.

The bottom line: Assumptions are always dangerous, but this is particularly true when it comes to women buyers, who will vote with their wallets.

As times change, so do women’s consumer shopping patterns. To learn more and stay up to date on these trends, follow my posts on this blog.

 Article originally published on Forbes.com

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