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When shopping is not just shopping – Part I

Photo of author

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

by Swatee Jog
It is a universal fact that women love to shop. They shop for a wide variety of things, for diverse reasons and not just for themselves. As primary caregivers in a family, they shop for groceries, food, vegetables, clothes, stationary for their kids, medicines, household utility items, toys, books and many such things. Numerous studies have established that men and women shop differently. Some highlights about the differences in the way men and women shop:

Men shop as a task, they will shop only for what is essential while women do so for different purposes – spending time with friends, to overcome boredom, to socialize, to keep themselves updated about the current market trends in fashion and lifestyle, to feel good about themselves, to gift themselves on special occasions, to purchase gifts for family members, friends, kids, kids of friends, relatives, colleagues, etc. They feel a unique sense of happiness that comes when one wears or uses something unique or which is not available locally. And the internet brings together sellers from across the world for that exotic shawl, lamp, that special personalized gift or that dazzling jewelry no local artisan can replicate.

Men spend less time in checking varieties of a single product. When they want to buy a shirt, they know well what color they are looking for, size, brand, have a fixed budget and will go the same shop. They are even fine with the idea of buying multiple pieces in differing colors at the same time. When women want to buy a saree, they will first recall who has what kind of saree to avoid repetition, they will ask around for what’s new and where, choose an area which has similar shops , wouldn’t mind hopping from one shop to the other in search of different fabrics, prints, colors, combinations, prices and borders. They will first ask the salesman to open it and hold it on his arms to check the look. It is not uncommon for three to four salesmen holding different pieces opened on their arms for a woman to compare a look before she attempts to drape it across her shoulder for a final look in the mirror. And even after all this, she may walk away saying the shop doesn’t have enough options or that she did not like any of them.

Men find it rather ridiculous to cut coupons from newspapers and redeeming the discount at shops. Women love that. They are the first ones to spot the advertisements about discounts, free gifts or schemes. They will religiously cut the coupons, mark the addresses from the ads, find time to visit that shop or buy that particular brand in a mall. They will even pester their local grocery store owner if he has not stored that brand.

Men rarely bargain and even when they do, they give up beyond a point. Women on the other hand will bargain by dropping the price first to half and then taking it a notch higher once they see the shop keeper flexible to the process. At times, they will resort to mockingly walking away and then turn back to check if he calls them back with the deal. Many vegetable vendors and petty shop owners dread certain women who will haggle for a lowest price till he gives in with much desperation and to avoid spending time in the process.

Men walk faster in stores and spend less time in the aisles, drooling at items displayed. They pick things faster and check out quickly out of the shop. Women read labels, check expiry dates, compare prices of different brands, hold every piece in their hand, touch and feel it, even if it’s a ketchup bottle and are attracted to fancy labels.

The above generalizations are based on various studies and observations. Surprisingly, it is found that women follow the same shopping habits when shopping online. When women search online for a particular item, there is no guarantee that they will end up buying at all…or buying that piece and not something(s) else.

Women drift to many sites when searching a single item. When they want something general like a gift, they spend more time in searching before they zero in on something.

Women are tempted to click the ads on social networking sites when they just like the piece displayed. Then the drifting starts. By the time they have searched the tenth page, they would have forgotten that they had started from which page.

Almost every woman I know checks the low to high price option, even if she can afford that expensive piece. This, just to avoid letting go of the cheaper pieces that may click with her taste…in case.

They ask around for referrals. I myself started buying some niche cosmetics online after a few friends referred a certain site that has since become defunct. Knowing very well that many other sites will offer the same stuff, women prefer to deal with a tried and tested site.

Women almost always prefer CoD since they are averse to the risks involved in e-payments. And most will wait for that courier guy to show up or call the call center in case of delays .

With increasing internet penetration, which according to Pankaj Mishra who writes in : Mobile Users, Women Shoppers Fuel India’s E-Commerce Boom :, March 26th , 2014 and puts across interesting findings that the working women segment grew 43% and constitutes 10% of active internet users in India ( i-cube and IAMAI report, 2013), women will increasingly surf through shopping portals for shopping items that would take a lot of time and effort .

It is time women venture online with a wider range of shopping products that saves their time in shopping in stores and also avoids the stress of traffic jams and scarce parking spots. Retailers also need to understand the women’s psyche and design their shopping portals to favor the women.

About the author:  Swatee Jog is the Training and Placement Officer at Bharatesh Global Business School ( MBA Program). She has an experience of 6 years in the media and 4 years in academics. She has written extensively in the English and Marathi newspapers on Career, Technology and Management topics. She has spoken at various forums as a resource person and has published several research papers in management journals as well as 2 books. 

2 thoughts on “When shopping is not just shopping – Part I”

  1. The moment I read the title, I knew it was written by Swatee Jog. I feel overwhelmed and glad to read her articles as they have become eponymous to “Voice of Women”. After having worked with her for quite some time, I can tell that there’s lot more to her writing and we can expect some revolutionary novels from her in future.


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