Firstly you need to understand that men & women have very different ways of shopping. There are somethings that are still fall into the "men only" realm - for example even after a woman has found her dream car, she will still consult her husband, boyfriend, father or brother.
Online, women do a lot of pre-shopping, a lot of narrowing down the options & seeking info so they can make informed decisions. As long as you keep one major principle in mind, you will cover a lot more ground. E-tail, Internet Marketing, selling things on eBay... whatever it is you are striving for, you have to bear in mind the age old principles of marketing (I've included a few examples in todays post) and that it doesn't matter whether you are online or off, the same principles apply.
Granted, selling clothes online is a little different from opening a brick & mortar store, but women go into both of those stores with the same questions, with the same budget, with the same needs. It's your job to ensure you meet those needs and those questions are answered and what better way than to understand what exactly it is that female shoppers want from an online e-tailer.
To help you on your way, these are the top 10 things women want when shopping online. If you can provide these things - and really understand them - then you've got spunk kid.
What DO Female Shoppers Want?
1) The big picture. Female shoppers want to be able to compare brands, they want to pre-buy. They want to be able to see all their options and access details about those options when the time is right.
2) Control over what they interact with. As a webmaster, your opinion no longer matters, it's all about what your visitors want. As an e-tailer, you need to be able to give women control over what they see & how they see it. When a woman decides, "Hey, I wanna compare ALL of the lamps," or "You know what, I want to see all of the pinks shirts with short sleeves," then you need to give them that.
3) Details, details. Big picture be damned, this woman has changed her mind! This woman wants details - not the description on the back of the box. Details - women want the side view, they want pictures that get incrementally bigger, they want to see the item in context, they want to read a thorough narrative about the item. They need details and if you can't provide them at the right time, they will go elsewhere.
4) Experience by proxy. Men don't care about what other people think. But women do. Female shoppers want to hear feedback from other shoppers who have tried that service, brand or product. Word of mouth is incredibly powerful stuff, it instills trust in your business and gaining trust online is something that we all work for.
OFF TOPIC: Did you know, that if my friend recommends you, then you could change me up to 50% MORE than my friend? And I would accept it, because my trusted friend gave you his seal of approval. If my friend said you were cool, then you must be awesome because my friend doesn't lie, my friend knows what he's talking about, my friend is clever & experienced & because I trust him, I trust you likewise. Word of mouth...it can make or break a business in its infancy.
5) Pause - This is a brief intermission. Women have a tendency to pause & play. It may seem like they are abandoning some part of the buying process...but oftentimes they aren't abandoning it. It was meant as temporary break. Consider this..."What? They emptied my shopping cart!! Didn't they know I was holding it because I was thinking about it?"
Give your shoppers a chance to pick up where they let off.
6) SEO & Common Sense. One of the founding principles of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is user experience. When the search engines scrutinise your web pages, they will favour pages that have been designed to maximise user experience - pages that are rich in keywords (and descriptions), pages that have been linked to other relevant web pages (on site & off, your Home Page, your articles etc) and pages that are relevant to the visitors search.
If you are using AdWords to advertise iPads, don't send visitors to your Home page, or your Electronics page...send them straight to the web page about iPad's. Be prepared for spikes in interest and make sure people can access the right page in as few clicks as possible.
All the offline principles of marketing apply.
Think of shops at Easter time...no retailer in their right mind would ask customers to walk through the entire store to find chocolate. The Easter eggs are on display, at the front, where impulse buyers & passersby can access them easily. If you apply real world marketing principles to your online endeavours, you can't lose.
7) Never, ever run out of stock. The fact is that the Point of Decision and the Point of Purchase are two distinct events. A female shopper may have reached the Point of Decision (and has chosen to buy something) before she even finds your site.
There is nothing worse than going through the entire process of searching for products, gathering info, choosing what you want, thinking about what you want, deciding that you really do want it, finding a torch so you can rummage though your handbag, finally finding your purse & credit card, going through the checkout....and then the website is out of stock. You will not be thanked. Hide that webpage or make sure that visitors know you can't provide that product before they get to the checkout.
8) The Gift of Giving. Provide different options for gifting. Ask any woman - sometimes they just want to check another name off a list, sometimes they really want to make an impression. Consider having a basic gift wrap, and a knock your socks off gift wrap. Gift cards are still a very popular option for online shoppers, and they will always be.
9) The Log In Dilemma. Gathering data about your shoppers is a huge asset for web masters & e-tailers alike. Everyone wants us to log in. None of us want to do it. Handing over an email address means another 20 emails in the Inbox. It sucks. From the web masters or e-tailers point of view, it means that we can gather shopping history, trends, dress sizes, demographics that allow us to create targeted websites, campaigns and sales. To work around this problem, most web masters will entice people into signing up/in by offering them something irresistible - a discounted price for members, a chance to win something luxurious...something of value.
All the offline principles of marketing apply.
Think of your local supermarket - many stores will offer a frequent shoppers card.
What is the purpose of this card? Every time you go through the checkout, every time you scan your card and earn your points, the retailer is gathering information about your shopping habits. From this info, they are working out which products to put on display, which products to stop selling and which ones are popular.
In exchange for this info, they give you a $10 discount every time you spend $1000. Crafty, eh? Apply the same principle as an e-tailer. Give your shoppers something they want, in exchange for something your need.
10) To Feel Understood. What else to women want, other than to feel understood. We need to feel like our opinions and desires are being treated with respect. Provide shoppers with a (very brief) poll, or a chance to offer feedback...make it known that your site is based on user preferences. Make your female shoppers feel understood and they will come back time and time again.
Parting Words of Wisdom
Marketing is marketing...no matter where you are. If you're making decisions about how and what to sell then I suggest you think about how brick & mortar businesses accomplish the same.
Magazines are an ideal business model - they make great use of the space on their pages (you have web pages), they use flashy pictures, and catchy headings (so should you) and they don't OVER sell - they offer heaps of info alongside their products, they show items in context, the offer product reviews.
Retail stores have a design in mind when they stock the shelves. Some things are at face height, others are harder to find. Make sure your important (or most popular) webpages are easiest to find.
Customer service needs to be impeccable, online and off. Whether it's going through a checkout, returning the wrong item, wanting a refund, or just making sure that the right order is delivered to the right house...any mistakes will not be tolerated - once somebody buys from you once they are very likely to buy from you again so take pride in customer service.
Nothing is without reason. Whether its that free tin of jelly beans that Dulux Paints hands out, or the Frequent Shoppers Card, making Fan Pages on Facebook, the font on the packing...none of it was left to chance. Every single decision was made very purposefully. It's your job to work out WHY did that company decide to do that? What are they doing that for? How has that decision influenced by desire to buy?
And apply those lessons online. Good luck, leave me a message and tell me about what you're doing/selling online?