What I learnt from deep diving into women’s shopping behavior

Here are my notes from a wide set of conversations with fashion-conscious women about their shopping behavior:

1. Vision

The offline world wins when it comes to vision. I’m not talking about the fancy end goal of shopping, but the literal vision, more specifically, I’m referring to peripheral vision. Most online websites or mobile shopping apps cannot compete with the power of peripheral vision in shopping. I walk into a shop and instantly my eyes scan the periphery and see several products, my mind within seconds gets a good idea of what all is available, and slowly directs me to walk in the direction of stuff that makes sense for me. I could see hundreds of products without consciously doing so, not having to click many times or see each one in exclusion. Creating an online alternative to peripheral vision is worthwhile since shoppers love it without even realizing they love it.

2. Divergence and Convergence

The reason peripheral vision matters is because most women love to see more before they see less. They diverge into hundreds of ideas, and then want to converge into one or two products. If this pattern of divergence followed by convergence does not happen, then women are unable to make a decision. They will keep second guessing themselves and wonder if they should go see more shops or more websites and will abandon they idea of ‘buying now’.

3. Imagine the Scene

Women have a real-life scene in mind (similar to a movie director) before they go shopping, or if they happen to be shopping casually, they visualize a scene before they buy it. For example, “I’m heading to Goa next month, I want to wear this on the beach.” or “My friends are visiting me next week. I’ll wear this when I go out with them.”  The upcoming events in their life, no matter how small or big, are always playing in their mind while shopping. They may not be able to voice it unless the salesperson is friendly, but a smart shopping app can ask or predict the scene, or arrange products for different kinds of real-world contexts. Shopping experiences should be behaviorally designed, since our shopper is dreaming before she is buying.

4. Sometimes Brand wins. Sometimes Price wins.

Any women who tells you otherwise is lying. When shopping offline, she may start her search in a branded store, or a mall full of brands, hence brand does seem to win more offline. But hold on, a new brand can get her attention by offering a great price. In the online world, with severe compromises on the joys of peripheral vision, divergence, and imagination, the product price gains unfair importance in making her buy. Deals and coupons are a must for online shopping unless she is repeating a product (pajamas, lingerie) or buying a hard-to-find product (XS, XXL sizes).

Brands are loved for one primary reason and that reason is sacred. For example, moms love the Medella brand because it feels perfect and safe; designed with love for moms alone. One surprising fact is that anything can become a pseudo brand especially for women – a blog can talk about a product that looks similar to what Deepika Padukone sported in a movie. Now this product is treated as a branded product because it gets associated with a fashionable celebrity. Association is a powerful concept in human behavior. Association builds familiarity and that lends credibility. In an ocean of products, even a little bit of association goes a long way in making women buy.

5. Here or there? I want to know where.

Location matters. Hyperlocal is even better. Women love to know the word (or rather the style) on the street and you must specify which street. What are women wearing in offices in Mumbai? What are they wearing on the streets of Delhi? What are they wearing in the pubs of Bangalore & specify the name of the restaurant to get extra points! Every city or place is associated with a certain sense & sensibility when it comes to fashion and decor. Women remember care about this stuff a lot. They like to know they’re in the know. They buy based on what they know and how they feel about these key places.

6. A secret until you see me wear it.

Unlike popular belief, friends don’t play a big role in shopping. You don’t want to end up at the office or at a party wearing something that’s also on someone else. You get ideas and store recommendations from friends only after you’ve seen a friend wear something. Social graph inputs matter less before buying. A tiny core group matters a little more and may be consulted for an expensive purchase, may be a sister, or a close friend on Whatsapp. But what really matter the most are influencers. These are people you may not know personally, but you know that they dress well or dress in a manner that inspires your dressing. You notice their taste and want to buy something similar. These are people who come to mind when shopping. For example, that woman in HR, or that gym instructor, or that celebrity in her movies, or that news anchor on a certain show, all of these are influencers.

7. A relaxed mood.

Women want to de-stress all the time. They’re super multi-taskers both physically and mentally, and have so many things to juggle at any point in their lives that they are permanently in search of anything that feels like a spa. Relaxed visuals, a flip through a gossip magazine, such triggers have strong positive associations in their sub-conscious mind. A store or a website that can create such a mood will win their hearts. They don’t like to see something that forces them to buy or puts them under the added stress of having to make a decision. They want the option to buy without feeling the associated stress. Every experience should feel like a magazine because it puts them in a relaxed and happy mood.

To conclude, there are many other subtle behavioral nuances of women shoppers, and some are specific to categories or contexts. I’ll add to these notes as I crystallize what I hear. The form in which I hear is just raw conversation where women are describing their actions. The ‘why’ part needs to be fished out or deduced. Being a women, I know that my species can be both extremely predictable and extremely unpredictable. Which one will it be is anyone’s guess ;)


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