Do Men and Women Buy Differently?

That the two sexes differ with regard to their perspectives, motives and behaviours is certainly not news to anyone — at least it shouldn’t be. This reality has been confirmed by scientific research as well as centuries of experience. So today we are going to discuss one of the aspects in which men and women differ: buying. As we will see, men and women experience the process of buying something very differently. For this reason, it is absolutely key for sales teams to not only be aware of these differences, but to be able to adapt accordingly in order to maximize sales and profit.

For men, going shopping is a mission. It is a task undertaken with a set goal in mind. Once that goal has been achieved, the task is considered to have been completed and a man can return home satisfied. For women, shopping is an adventure in itself. Women are happy to stroll slowly through clothing and accessory collections and take a lengthy detour through the shoe department. Men on the other hand enter a store to buy a targeted item as quickly as possible and flee. Exceptions exist to every rule, of course, and this particular case is no exception to that rule. You will of course find that some men or women simply don’t fit into this divide, but the research is actually crystal clear that the tendencies are most definitely there.

Men are very systematic in their approach to buying, and see it as something to get done and tick off a list. Women focus on the interpersonal aspect of shopping, on the experience. Women also react differently to being approached by salespeople: they enjoy the personal attention and like the personal touch and interaction that a salesperson can bring to the overall buying experience. Men are generally more interested in being shown where something is, how much it costs, how it works and whether it’s actually what they came in for in the first place.

It can be said that women are more invested in the shopping experience as such. They therefore tend to react more strongly to personal interaction with sales associates. Men on the other hand tend to be very practical when it comes to the shopping experience. They prioritize things such as parking availability, whether or not a product is in-stock at the time or the length of the checkout line. If the process of shopping is too inconvenient or the shopping centre is too crowded, men, as a rule, will abandon the purchase, while women in most cases won’t.

There are many explanations for these differences and we will probably continue to debate them until the end of time. Many researchers attribute it to a woman’s natural propensities as caregiver and a man’s natural dispositions as provider being reflected in the buying process, with women approaching the experience and everyone involved with care, while men tend to be more orientated towards results. Another explanation is that men’s behaviour simply evolved over the decades in such a way because of their traditional reliance upon women to do their shopping for them. However, some researchers suggest that it goes back to the primitive differences between hunters and gatherers. Men, as hunters, had to pounce at the perfect moment in order to get their prey, while women as gatherers spent a lot more time studying and selecting the right fruits, which has led them to cultivate a natural propensity to take their time and thrive in the shopping experience in itself.

Naturally, these differences also impact men and women’s expectations when it comes to interaction with sales associates. For men, an associate’s ability to help them find the right item with the right price tag as quickly as possible and then help them get through checkout as quickly as possible is the top priority. For women on the other hand, the most important aspects they are looking for in a salesperson are familiarity with the store’s products and the ability to help them locate that perfect product. They want to experience products in-store and learn how products can benefit and improve their lives. Women are therefore even more likely to be put off by a lack of engagement on the part of salespeople. Surprisingly, perhaps, research has found that shops with a more limited variety of options tend to appeal to female clients precisely because of the fact that this enables salespeople to familiarize them with the entire range, thereby enhancing their experience and consequently their ability to make an informed decision.

Ultimately, for women the entire buying experience is personal, while for men it is much more functional. This does not mean that engagement with salespeople is unimportant to men, but the type of engagement and experience required will be fundamentally different. The types of communication employed by salespeople therefore ought to differ depending on whether a male or female customer is targeted at the time. And this reality: that for men and women the act and experience of buying something differs radically, is vitally important for retailers to keep in mind. Tailoring your service in accordance with this reality is absolutely key to increasing sales.

And so, at the end of the day these differences between men and women mean that salespeople need to be multifaceted while remaining authentic at the same time. They have to be not only an engager, but also an expeditor, a quick guide and an educator. They have to be able to take the needs and natural dispositions of both the male and female client into account and adapt or innovate accordingly.



Paul Russell - Luxury Academy London

Managing Director of Luxury Academy London. Helping luxury companies train staff to interact and build relationships with HNW clients using soft skills