How to make a woman buy what you want her to buy

Idea ReviewBy Mukul Bhartiya / September-15

In the second part of winter of 1999, I went o buy a watch in one of the shops of South Extension in New Delhi. For a medium range budget, there were limited brand choices, probably only two (HMT and Titan), if I remember correctly. Decision to buy the watch was already made, budget was set, and brand choices were also not many to confuse me, so my top down control of decision making was all set. Only thing needed was the bottom up saliency filter of products to match my representation of expectations and gain my attention and assure me of matching my predicted value.


I entered the shop and my dorsal visual pathway started scanning the watches available on display and sending the messages to dorsolateral prefrontal cortex via primary visual cortex VI. My entire decision making and purchase process completed in less than five minutes. My decision making completely conformed to the research of Milosavljevic, Koch and Rangel (2011) which showed that consumers makes a purchase decision as quickly as within 313 milliseconds.


Shopkeeper told me that I am his first client to compete a purchase so quickly, otherwise other customers, especially woman sucks even last drop of blood from his brain while choosing and buying a watch. Not only that, even after taking so much time at the shop, on many occasions, they again return next day to replace the product. We had a laugh at this behavior. 


As my MBA completed and work experience started, especially in food retail and my interaction with my end customers increased manifold, I realized that my laugh back then was not only in bad taste but idiotic as well.


Woman makes most of the buying decision of any household and these decisions have to fit on four wheels of decision making cart:


1)Who uses

2)Who chooses

3)Who pays

4)Who benefits


If there is any imbalance in any of the wheal, the satisfaction level derived out of the purchase decision decreases drastically and creates bad shopping experience. It reminds me one of the buying decisions my mother made in my childhood. I was probably eight-nine years old then, youngest among three sons. My mother used to buy identical dresses for three of us. One day she had an idea that we three will look good in traditional white ‘payjama-kurta’ and she bought one set each for us. My mother was my favorite person, so I put that dress on sportingly. Middle one wore it grudgingly but the eldest one, who was in his early teen, threw the fit and decided not to wear it at all. Even few slaps on the face couldn’t convince him. 


Coming back to my decision to buy a watch and complete the buying process so quickly, If I lay my decision to buy the watch on this cart, then I find that I was the user, I was the chooser, I paid for it out of savings of my pocket money (it gave me the feeling of earning it) and I benefited from the features of watch. So, the satisfaction out of that decision was at peak. But I know there must have been gap in the level of satisfaction if I had to buy a watch for my sister because she may or may not have liked my decision with the same intensity as of mine. 


So, how to make a woman buy what you want her to buy? 


Decision making process of male and female brain is different. Both arrive at same result through different routes. Male brain, primarily driven by Testosterone, Vasopressin and Mullerian Inhibiting Substance is up for faster visuomotor scanning, faster physical reflexes, more risky behavior, aggressively defending the turf and restricting any woman like behavior. Female brain, primarily driven by Oxytocin, Estrogen and Prolactin is up for empathy, care, rapport, trust, bond etc. While male brain treats every issue as problem and jumps directly to find the solution, female brain starts evaluating the pros and cons of every action along with finding the solution. While male brain readily accepts the collateral outcome of its actions, female brain finds it difficult.  


Hundreds of hours observing customers walking in the stores and making buying decisions during my retail journey, I have figured out following points to be kept in mind before selling anything to female shoppers:


1)Establish rapport first and win trust: Opening pleasantries and a sincere effort to establish rapport and win trust works very well with female shoppers. . They like to put their trust in salesperson to give them honest opinion and step back. Any attempt to hard sell anything to them backfires. I remember one incident during my more. Retail days, when I was handling pulses category at national level. Before that, I was Category Manager of Staples for Mumbai zone. I was visiting stores in Mumbai to check pulses stock, pricing and promotion display and take customer feedback. In one of the store, I was talking to the store manager in the back office. Suddenly I heard a lady customer shouting at one of our CSA. I along with store manager rushed to scene. Upon asking, I was informed that the lady was sold a bag of rice which she found not of good quality. I immediately reached the ‘problem-solution mode’ and asked the lady about how she is cooking the rice because the bag she had purchased was of new crop. My question infuriated the lady even more and she blasted me with loud shout back, “I am cooking food for more years than your age, so don’t teach me how to cook”. I realized my mistake. I didn’t empathize with her by asking her about the problem, I didn’t ask her about the loss of faith and trust which she had bestowed on the CSA before making her purchase decision and I didn’t ask her about how she felt let down by making this decision which proved to be wrong. I calmed her down and assured her that I am with her in this process by making her believe that it not she but I along with my team are at fault. I took all the corrective actions then and there itself after aligning all the stakeholders, but this incident proved to be insightful to understand a customer.


2)Understand shopper’s world and objective behind purchase: While male shoppers come to the store with ‘their’ opinion in definite terms and they are mostly very clear about it, female shopper’s definition of ‘their’ is normally very broad. They try to make their decisions win-win for everyone assumed to be involved. So, after opening pleasantries and establishing the rapport, a little anchoring is required to understand the objective behind purchase and the people to be affected by their decision. 


3)Show alacrity in giving choices and eliminating least favored choices: Since a female shopper’s single decision leaves impact on many stakeholders, they need to be provided with choice. More implicit the objective of their purchase, more choices they would need and more time it will take. Though normally they wouldn’t like to be explicit in their demand and objective, but a quick zero down by the sales person is very necessary. If rapport is established, any change in behavior or opinion can quickly be analyzed and addressed. Though there may demand of more choices from them, neither their brain nor salesperson’s brain can handle this much amount of data. So, quick display of choices and even more quick elimination of least favorable choices become very crucial for successful closure of sales.


4)Appreciate their process of purchase: A little appreciation from the salesperson goes a long way in closing the sales successfully. Appreciation makes female shoppers believe that you are involved in their selection process and appreciate the effort they are making. This step evokes trust and faith in them towards you.  


I remember one incident, though not as a sales person. I went with my cousin sister to buy her a dress for a special occasion. She was to wear this dress to meet her to-be husband. We went to famous mall in NOIDA. As we enter the first shop, we saw a beautiful dress hanging in very front of the shop. She asked me whether it will look good on her. In a plain definite tone, I told her that dress is beautiful and will look good on her. She looked at me and said, “let’s try other stuff”. From one store to another, one dress to another, we spent more than four hours in that mall and nearby market. Tired and angry I sat on a bench in the mall and told her to select whichever dress she likes and once she makes her mind, call me to make the payment. In the end she chose the same dress which we had seen as first thing in the mall. After reaching home, I asked her if she had to buy this dress only, then why she made me walk for four hours. She replied, “you told me that dress is beautiful and it will look good on me but you didn’t tell me that it will look good on me for the very purpose I wanted to buy it. You were not with me there.” While my mind was focused on dress and whether it will look good on her not, I was not with her on the very purpose she was buying this dress for. I was not appreciative of the situation she was in.


5)Recognize and appreciate the decision: Recognition and appreciation of the decision they have made goes a long way winning their trust and making them your valued repeat customer. This is a very complex subject I attempted to write. 


Above mentioned points gave me success in category as generic as staples and I hope it can help others as well. There may be more points and I will appreciate the feedback.

Leave your comment
 
Sanjeev Jha
very insightful and elaborative, an approach towards what women want
Sanjeev Jha
very useful to understand the subject and attempt towards what women want.
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