How do women shop today? That sounds like a setup for any number of jokes, but in these days of rapidly changing, 24/7 connected shopping, it’s a very pertinent question. The rise of the smartphone is disrupting women’s shopping journeys in ways no one imagined just a short time ago. And now merchants must adjust on the fly, or risk being left in the dust.
We recently set out to examine this question by conducting two national surveys,* asking female shoppers to describe how they discover, filter and buy today. The results demonstrated that today’s female shopper is always connected, very well informed and ready to make a purchase whenever and wherever a purchase can be made, likely for the best price/quality balance they can find.
Our surveys covered a lot of ground, with a number of implications for the payments industry. Here are some of the main takeaways:
Price is everything. More than anything else, female shoppers are laser-focused on price. Nearly all reported the same or greater sensitivity to price as the previous year, and almost as many said their shopping power has decreased or remained the same. This heightened sensitivity creates the playing field for female shoppers to put their smartphones to their most effective use: balancing price with product quality to find the optimal value.
This smartphone/price/quality relationship is the backdrop against which many, possibly most, shopping and payments decisions are made.
Going mobile. Smartphones, of course, are great for comparing prices, and Amazon and Google are female shoppers’ primary choices. Thirty percent use a payment app, with PayPal the most popular by a very large margin. More than half of female shoppers would use a mobile wallet exclusively if it included everything they needed.
The top shopping apps. Women love smartphones, but they find shopping apps a lot less captivating. Amazon dominates here, with 71% using the app. But then use drops off sharply, with grocery store apps a distant second at 28%. Major retailers finish in the teens and single digits. Other than Groupon and RetailMeNot, female shoppers report very limited use of third-party savings apps.
Gift cards totally work. Female shoppers find safety, flexibility and value in gift cards. Three-quarters have purchased them in the past year, and nearly as many do so for the holidays. The giving isn’t restricted to others; one in five bought them for themselves. Seventy percent would use gift cards when exclusive values are attached (“Use this card this weekend and save 10%”), and 54% would buy gift cards that can be converted to electronic cards. Well over half of female shoppers feel that gift cards do a better job of limiting identity fraud and are safer for online transactions than other digital payments.
So do prepaid cards. Wide choice is important to female shoppers. By approximately 2:1 margins, for a post-purchase incentive women would prefer a $25 universal prepaid card over an Amazon gift card, a card for the store where the purchase was made, or Google Play or iTunes cards for the same amount. They would even prefer the prepaid card over a store card of greater value.
Plastic vs. electronic payments. It may be the Digital Age, but women still prefer plastic prepaid cards over eCodes as post-purchase rewards by huge margins for typical denominations. Most would still accept eCodes as rewards if they were the only rewards offered, but with a caveat: the greater the purchase amount, the less attractive the eCode offer. For example, 80% will accept a $25 eCode on a $100 purchase if it’s the only option, but only 60% will take a $300 eCode on a $1,200 purchase. Shoppers want tangible plastic in hand for larger rewards because it’s easier to spend, and much less likely to be lost or forgotten.
Digital reward use has grown and will surely continue to grow, but it’s also evident that plastic isn’t going away anytime soon.
Three things you may want to keep in mind from our studies: