Rapaport Magazine

Generational Marketing to Women

Marketing for woman in their 20's to in their 50's

By Phyllis Schiller
RAPAPORT... To reach today’s female shoppers, retailers and marketers have to do more than just think pink — they have to focus on all the shadings, taking into consideration the very different shopping needs of women from their 20s through their 50s.

The biggest problem in marketing to women,” says Lisa Johnson, chief executive officer (CEO), Reach Women, and author of the book Mind Your X’s and Y’s, is not that it’s politically incorrect, but that it’s boring. Pink is a color; it’s not a marketing strategy. Having something for women is a beginning; you need to have a reason why it’s for women.”

To do that, it’s necessary to take a look at the way women today shop at the different stages of their lives.


Who They Are:
“This generation of women is really looking to express themselves in a very personal, original way,” says Johnson. “They’ve got one eye looking to see what’s hot and what’s going on and another on how to make it their own, put a twist on it. There’s a lot of confidence when they go to buy a ring. For their wedding, they’re often trying new things, expressing themselves in new ways. Originality is a key theme.”

How they Shop: Women in their 20s, points out Jen Dreschler, co-director of brand insights, Just Ask a Woman, a New York-based consultancy, “are used to transactional service. They’re used to shopping online. The challenge with Generation Y is that they have very short attention spans. They’re very much used to stock turning over quickly. They’ve been trained that if you see something on a shelf you should buy it now because next week there will be new stuff.”

Retailer Rx: One way to reach this shopper is with jewelry made specifically for them, or to invite them to an exclusive event, presenting an artist who is doing unique work, so they have the sense of being special. “Retailers should have an inner circle,” suggests Johnson, “and they should include these younger women, as well as the older women who have a lot of money to spend.”

Retailers can also respond to this generation’s social consciousness. One way, Johnson suggests, is to connect people to stories about the sources of the diamonds. “It’s more powerful than just statistics.” Or, she says, store owners could bring in somebody to speak on the subject.

With young women, shopping is a means of entertainment, so anything that can allow it to be an interactive experience, more high tech, with as much ability to interact with the merchandise as possible will speak to them. These shoppers don’t like to be kept at arm’s length. They want to be able to touch and feel the merchandise.


Who They Are:
According to Dreschler, women in their thirties, Gen Xers, tend to be less brand loyal and more cynical about listening to industry. They tend to find themselves incredibly frustrated with the shopping process. “We actually call these women ‘Vigilante Shoppers.’ Starting at Generation X, and up, they remember custom service and quality products. And they won’t put up with bad service. Instead, they will take their business to the competition or write a letter, or they’ll start telling people. And what we found is that women, when they like a product, tell between one to four people about it and when they don’t like it, they’ll tell between five and 13.”

How They Shop: The thirties woman, says Johnson, “is not quite as confident as her twenties counterpart. She has the money to invest in some great pieces. She wants to keep her wardrobe fashion-forward but still classic. She’s not trying to be 20 anymore.”

Retailer Rx: The younger women in their 20s and 30s are much more likely to be what Janie Curtis, managing director of Frank About Women, a consultancy in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has dubbed “Zealot Shoppers.” “They never need a reason; they’re the most frequent shoppers. They’re always looking for something new and the best values. They love shopping environments that really speak to their sense of play and adventure.”


Who They Are: These are the women in the preBoomer-Boomer stage. According to Dreschler, “They tend to have more discretionary income and their children are older and out of the house. They may just be returning to a place where they spend money on themselves. And they look around at what’s available and feel a sense of retail identity crisis.”

“The forties are a bit about reinvention,” says Johnson. “These women are expressing a new sense of taste. They’re looking at their established stuff and thinking, ‘this could be fresher, it could reflect more of who I am.’”

How They Shop: Curtis classifies 40s to 50s women as “Feel-Good Shoppers.” They love to shop, but more as a form of relaxation or a stress release. They’re not driven to find the best value but to enjoy themselves — it’s almost like a hobby — and may be more impulse oriented because of that.
“They love products in stores that allow them to treat themselves and give them a sense of indulgence,” says Curtis. “They’re very turned on by things they see as small, affordable luxuries. Also, they really like to find something new and exciting every time because of the fact that they’re out browsing on a regular basis.”

Also represented in this group are the “Butterfly Shoppers.” According to Curtis, “they see shopping as a way to connect with other women. They are more easygoing, gregarious. They just enjoy the whole experience. They’re more focused on friends and what they’re doing together than being really tuned in to negatives in the shopping environment.”

Retailer Rx: “The feel-good shoppers in their 40s and 50s are as much about the experience of shopping as what they actually buy,” says Curtis. Confirming the social aspects of this shopper, Johnson points out that it’s less about trends, and more about finding a great piece they can love. “If a retailer has a store environment that evokes personal style, personal conversations, personal exploration, personal relationships, they have a winner.”


Who They Are: The fifties is where adventure begins. It’s all about travel, exploration, giving back and girl friends, says Johnson. “It’s about making a difference, going green, finding new meaning in things you’ve done before. In your twenties, you feel the whole world is ahead of you, you’re dreaming. In the thirties and forties, you’re into the life-stage stuff, but in the fifties, you’re usually an empty nester, and back to dreaming again, with the whole world ahead of you.”

These are the Boomers, spanning women in their forties — the trailing edge — through their fifties and early sixties — the leading edge —points out Carol Orsborn, Ph.D., co-chair FH Boom, senior vice president of Fleishman-Hillard and author of Boom: Marketing to the Ultimate Power Consumer — The Baby Boomer Woman. These are the most educated, longest living, and wealthiest women shoppers.

How They Shop: There are, says Orsborn, three types of Boomer women. “The Traditionalists,” who continue to uphold the values they were born and raised with, are buying the whole pampering experience of “concierge purchasing.” They want to have a significant relationship with a retailer, but only if there is respect and service. At the other extreme are the “Actualized Boomers” who don’t care about the branding and the hoopla around it. “They’ll do a tremendous amount of research and go to great lengths to not be paying for the advertising and the marketing that they know gets built into the price,” says Orsborn. The best place for retailers to tell them their value story is online. In between those two are the “Reactive Boomers.” The experiential, girls-doing-things-together shopping is something that crosses over all three Boomer categories.”

Retailer Rx: Retailers can capitalize on the strong girlfriend factor and sense of adventure by holding events that are educational but also allow the women to have a hands-on experience that’s fun and stimulating, says Johnson. The Boomers were the generation that learned that they had to take care of themselves. So it’s no surprise, points out Orsborn, that the Right-Hand Ring is a good fit for them. “These women have the means and the will and desire to buy a beautiful ring for themselves if that’s what they’ve always wanted.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - May 2007. To subscribe click here.

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