U.S. Women Hold The Purse Strings

According to a report recently released by Nielsen, women have tremendous spending power in America today, and it’s growing. Market estimates about their total purchasing prowess varies, ranging anywhere from $5 trillion to $15 trillion annually.

The report indicates that women will control two-thirds of the consumer wealth in the U.S. over the next decade and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in our country’s history.

In addition to handling the bulk of the purchasing decisions for consumer goods in the U.S., they’re also likely to influence or manage many other big ticket purchases, including homes, autos, appliances, and furniture, as well as a large portion of the apparel, groceries and everyday purchases.

Women are the dominant retail shoppers, but men are taking a more active role in the shopping process than they have in the past. Between 2004 and 2012, U.S. women reduced the number of trips they made across most retail channels, while men increased their visits to all outlets except grocery and drug stores.

Share of Retail Shopping Trips (2012; % of Respondents)

Store Type

% Female Shoppers

% Male Shoppers






















Source: Nielsen, April 2013

Female shopping trips are most important to the mass merchandiser and dollar store channels, while male shopping trips are of greater relative importance within convenience/gas, grocery and warehouse club outlets.

Women spend more money per trip than men in all of the channels examined, but in many channels, the differences between the sexes are not as great as one might expect. Spending differences do indicate that women drive the larger stock-up or planned trips as they outspend males by $14.31 per trip in supercenters and by $10.32 per trip in grocery stores.

Not only did U.S. women spend more time watching video across all platforms in 2012 than in 2011, they watched more video than men. In the fourth quarter of 2012, females 18 and older watched an average of 191:34 hours of video each month, up from 184:12 hours in the same period of 2011. Comparatively, men watched 174:51 hours in the recent fourth quarter, up from 170:06 in the previous year.

While watching live or time-shifted content on a TV accounts for 94% of video viewing, a growing percentage are taking advantage of technology that allows them to watch anywhere and anytime.

Monthly Time Spent Watching Video (Hrs:Min; Women Ages 18+; All TV Homes)


Traditional TV

Time-shifted TV

On the Internet

On a Mobile Phone

Q4 2012





Q4 2011





Source: Nielsen, April, 2013 (Read as: Women ages 18+ watched 179 hours and 20 minutes of live TV in the fourth quarter of 2012)

Though TV makes up the lion’s share of women’s total video viewing, watching across other platforms is growing. Watching video across non-traditional TV platforms is growing quickest among younger women:

  • Women ages 18-34 watched less TV in fourth-quarter 2012 than in the prior year (133:07 vs. 135:59)
  • This group also watches the most video over the Internet (10:58 in 4Q 2012 vs. 6:54 in 4Q 2011).
  • Women 25-54 watch the most time-shifted TV (17:28 in 4Q 2012, up from 16:31 in 4Q 2011).
  • Women aged 55 and older watch the most traditional TV (222:15) and the least amount via the Internet

In December 2012, 116 million U.S. women were active on the Web, compared with 102 million males. While women make up the majority of visitors to career, shopping and social media sites, they also account for more of the unique visitors to Netflix and Hulu. Though are more women visitors to these sites, they stream less content than men. On average, women watched 132 streams in December, compared with the 180 that men streamed.

The report concludes by noting some interesting findings from Nielsen NeuroFocus research that, the report suggests, are particularly important for marketing and advertising messaging.

Considering the spending power that women wield in today’s marketplace, it’s particularly important for advertising and marketing messaging to resonate with them. Specifically:

The research finds that the female brain is hard-wired with evolutionary strongholds to create a very specialized customer whose purchasing prowess has never been stronger. Therefore, attention is the first step toward intent and brand loyalty.

The second step, says the report, toward loyalty is retention. Women remember differently than men, so position to her emotional and rational sides and acknowledge attention to detail. Layering emotional decision-making opportunities with rational information will increase purchase intent and will have strong “sticking” power.

 Finally, according to Nielsen NeuroFocus, the female brain is programmed to maintain social harmony, so messaging should be positive and not focus on negative comparisons or associations.

For more information from Nielsen, please visit here.


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