Who’s Your Hidden Buyer? The True Power of Women

This past weekend, a newspaper columnist discredited the well known statistic that ‘women buy 80%’ of everything sold in the US. I could take issue with the article on several counts, including the fact that the writer discarded reams of data supplied by experts in the field and relied on only the more discouraging sources, oddly from overseas. But I understand why he struggled with the statistic in the first place. It’s virtually unproveable by its nature. What Just Ask a Woman and so many of our colleagues in the women’s marketing arena have espoused for years is that women ‘buy or influence the purchase of 80%’ and it’s that word ‘influence’ that provides too much wiggle room.

For indeed, if women buy or influence, then so do men. “Buy” is easy to define. Credit card handed over? That’s the buyer. Cash on the counter? That’s the buyer. Contract signed? That’s the buyer. But what does influence really mean? It’s the how, why, who and when that lead to that final decision. And in some of the biggest spending categories, women are the Hidden Buyers.

While leaders in the food, beauty and household products industries refer to all their customers as “she,” marketers of less traditionally gender-based  products and services, such as finance, electronics, major hardgoods, automotive, healthcare and insurance may need a wake- up call to be able to pick their hidden buyer out of a line up. (That’s why the 80% stat is a helpful eye-opener!)

Here’s an example.  Look at your kitchen, from the countertop to the appliances to the lighting. If you’re a couple, you both may have voted on whether you’ve got granite or a composite, a water dispenser or a wine cabinet,  Schoolhouse lights or modern overheads.  But whose idea was it? Who pulled pictures from Dwell, DVR’d HGTV and bookmarked Houzz? Who vetted ideas with friends? Who compared prices, walked the aisles, pushed for one more feature, one more deal? Even if the credit card receipt carried his signature, the likelihood, by far, is that the dealbreaking decisions were largely hers.

But retailers and marketers who give him all the credit are hugely missing her hidden buying power. The home improvement industry’s major players—who watch the in-store action firsthand– are convinced of women’s 80% clout. And the female hidden buyer is rocking the foundation of every car showroom, financial broker’s office and big box electronic retailer in this country and their power only increases each year.

The question isn’t whether your brand or business attributes 60, 80 or 90% of final sales to women. The real question is: are you seeing the hidden 100%…her sometimes invisible but always powerful influence?

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April 13, 2024
by Mary Lou Quinlan

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