Gendered E-Shopping: Women Are Masters Of The Click

I have been told that I “don’t know how to shop.” Before I was married, I didn’t even realize that this was an acquired skill. I thought it was instinctual to the modern species Consumerus Americus. Not so, my wife declared just the other week when she asked me to help her “shop” for new glasses.

I thought I was on my good behavior. We scanned the shelves together, and I gave my opinion as she tried on five or six different pairs. Then she seemed to wander off into a more casual browsing mode. So I did what most men in America do in countless malls and stores around the nation: I checked my smartphone.

I was toast. I might just as well have kissed the cashier. My wife marched me out of the store in exasperation I still wasn’t grasping, declared me a useless shopping companion, and vowed to bring her female best friend for the job of picking out new glasses.

Really, I didn’t know I suffered a deficiency in this area. But apparently I suffer from that predominantly male ailment of shopping aversion syndrome. Some of us in this camp just loathe the process. I understand why they invented smartphones.    



And according to a recent study of 4,000 French consumers, the gendered divide around shopping not only holds true across cultures but is also seen online. Content Square in association with SSI did an in-depth study of e-commerce behaviors, including clicks, display time, interaction rates, scroll rates, inactive time and more to determine how gender, age and even left- and right- handedness seem to impact online shopping.

Women and their click fingers rule. They click 30% more on sites than men do and are 11% more active, with a higher ratio between interaction time and display time on site. They even hesitate 10% less than do men before clicking on page elements. And they also pull the trigger faster, deciding to make a purchase 7% faster.

But more than sheer rates of interactivity and greater decisiveness about buying, women in the study also showed their own path to purchase. They are much more attentive to images on e-commerce pages, while men tend to focus more on descriptions, which they spend time reading.

As I have been hearing from others representing more senior segments of late, age is much less a distinguishing factor than it once was when it comes to site behaviors. In comparing 18- to 34-year-olds with 45- to 64-year-olds, the study found the older segment just as active when on site as younger users. They only view 4% fewer pages. The main differentiation involves hesitation before clicking (30% higher for the older group), but overall rates of interactivity and click rates have evened out across generations.

If the data is to be believed, then even unexpected human and environmental differences correlate to different online behaviors. The Content Square research found correlations between left-handedness and click hesitancy, for instance. Lefties take 20% more time to click than righties, and they are 30% slower to make a purchase. There may actually be design implications to this, since lefties show a 29% lower likelihood of hovering over righthand menu tabs. Some sites may actually benefit from having a  left-handed version.

It gets stranger. The data also showed that for some reason blondes have 30% more hesitation time before clicking than do brunettes. And site users display 20% more pages when it is rainy.

Whether and how e-commerce site designers start customizing site design to men, women, blondes or weather conditions is an interesting prospect. But it speaks to the range of circumstances, shopping style and idiosyncrasies that it is possible to target.

Perhaps the eyeglass store of the future will be designed to help modify my own shopping behavior to match my wife’s. Apparently this consumer loser could use all the help he can get.       

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