Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Gender differences in bottle shop behaviour

An article on the gender difference in booze buying behaviour grabbed my attention the other week. "Cheap Booze for him" headlined a story about some Roy Morgan research that identified that blokes were driven by bargains, whereas women sought helpful customer service ("Cheap Booze for him" by Inga Gilchrist, MXNews 4/7/11).  The article quoted bar duty manager David Dearlove as explaining that emotions were the difference, where "females want more from a situation, so they want to be waited on. Whereas guys just say 'Give me my beer' and they're done."  Very hunter-gatherer!

Devising your customer engagement plan
As this snippet of research indicates, businesses have a lot of decisions to make when structuring the optimal customer engagement plan (*refer caveat below).  In this case, "beer on sale" would likely stimulate male foot traffic and you would tend to up-weight staff at the registers.  A promotion on "wine matching" may instead stimulate more female custom, and you would need to ensure you had staff available in the aisles to direct purchase decisions.

At what point can you influence the purchase decision?
The interesting point here I think is that men in this scenario are making the decision before entering the store - indeed it is the reason they visit the store.   Women, on the other hand, visit the store in order to make a decision, and in fact be helped to make it.  This means the retailer has different opportunities to influence what the customer walks away with.

To make the most of male customers, the retailer should place high margin wine or champagne near the beer on special, suggesting the guy keep in sweet with his lady by coming home bearing gifts.  This is a technique used in grocery where nappies sell well with beer!  This opportunity for the retailer centers around the behavioural principles of sunk cost and mental accounting. The guy has already 'spent' the amount of money for the beer before he arrives in store (sunk cost), and that means that it should be easier to up-sell because any other purchase comes out of another mental bank account.

To make the most of female customers, the retailer can of course use direct customer service, but the other opportunity is to help the decision making by noting which wines are most popular, best value, match with particular foods and so on.  You have probably seen these techniques applied on point of sale, like "staff picks" or "popular seller", and these work because they use the behavioural economics principle of herding - we go where others go.  If you know other people like the wine, then there is less chance of making a poor choice.  Use of a rating system can also help to frame the decision, so a rating system for value or taste can help influence customer purchases.

Behavioural Economics can influence both genders
Whilst I do enjoy little snippets on gender differences, more important to your business is how you can influence the behaviour demonstrated by the sexes.  Male or female, your customer can be greatly influenced by strategies to get them in the door, and then again whilst in store so it may be worth you considering what Behavioural Economics can offer at each decision point.  Until next time, happy boozing.

(*Note, whilst the article on the research pointed to some gender differences which I have used in this post, there are doubtless many exceptions and qualifiers that you would need to consider before applying carte blanche to your business. Start with accessing the source research through Roy Morgan if you are interested.)

Image from http://www.bargaineering.com/images/in_posts/wine-shop-aisle.jpg

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