Women's purchasing power expands

NEW YORK: Although women have long been known as the key purchasers for American households, a new study finds they are also gaining influence over categories typically dominated by men, such as consumer electronics and cars.

NEW YORK: Although women have long been known as the key purchasers for American households, a new study finds they are also gaining influence over categories typically dominated by men, such as consumer electronics and cars.

"The Female Factor: Women at NBCU Purchase Power & Influencer Study" was conducted by WomenatNBCU, a relatively new NBC Universal content and marketing initiative that connects marketers with the company's female-centric properties such as Oxygen and iVillage. The study, conducted in partnership with Gfk Roper, looked at women's current household purchasing roles, comparing the results to the findings from a similar 2000 study conducted by Gfk Roper and cigarette brand Virginia Slims.

In this year's study, 96% of women said they are involved in purchasing high-priced consumer electronic products compared to 99% of men. In finance, another traditionally male category, nine out of 10 women said they deal with financial advisers, up 18% from 2000; and eight in 10 said they buy and sell stock to make money, up 20% from nine years ago. Moreover, seven in 10 women said they are their household's primary “accountant” compared with six in 10 men.

“The most interesting findings were how far women have come in nine years,” said Janet Gallent, VP of consumer insights and innovation research at NBCU. Gallent attributes the leap in buying responsibility to a number of factors including female family and martial trends – more women are single parents or delaying marriage – and trends in education.

“Women have come a long way in terms of education gains and with education gains come gains in the workplace” added Gallent.

Still, women are not always as confident as men in some of these purchase decision. For example, the study found that 79% of women feel confident about their computer purchasing decisions versus 85% of men.

“Marketers need to talk to women and help alleviate that lack of confidence,” said Gallent. “That's the real opportunity for marketers.”

Liz Kaplow, president and CEO of the PR firm Kaplow, agreed.

“That's the editorial opportunity – to educate and communicate the distinct point of difference and how a product will enhance their lives,” she said.

Overall, Kaplow said the social nature of women makes them an ideal target for communicators.

“Professional women are owning more and… are a driving force in the economy,” said Kaplow. “Women connect with each other naturally and that makes them a great audience for PR pros.”

The study was conducted by telephone between August 28 and 30, and September 11 through 13. A total of 2,009 adults over 18 years of age were questioned; women comprised 1,017 of the participants.

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