Tuesday, September 18, 2012 | Edited by Daniel Moores
||His and Hers Shopping Rules
Stores are finally recognizing what seems like a basic fact of retail: Men and women shop differently.
Faced with increasing competition from online retailers, some bricks-and-mortar retailers are embracing a practice known as gender-based selling, where stores aim to lure men and women to shop by focusing on their differences.
Knowing that men hate to browse, a store may group all its men's products in one location close to the entrance, and knowing women like suggestions, it may train associates to offer product alternatives.
While some retailers are hesitant about a sales strategy that essentially says to treat men and women differently, others have embraced it as a progressive model to offer the best customer experience.
"The traditional sales model, where you treat every single person like an average consumer, doesn't make any sense," says Barbara Kahn, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Jay H. Baker Retailing Center, which published one of the first studies on gender differences in the shopping experience. The study found women are most affected by personal interactions with sales associates, while men are affected by pragmatic factors, like the availability of products and parking spaces.
"We can't do one size fits all anymore. Women are risk-averse, and will want to know more about the features and benefits of the product," says Delia Passi, CEO of WomenCertified, a research and consumer advocacy group. Making the store experience more interactive -- "touching a fabric, staging it with matching bags -- will prompt (a woman) to want to buy more."
Men, on the other hand, just want to know where the product is and they "want their areas clearly defined," Ms. Passi says. To men, the worst outcome is to walk out of a store empty-handed, she says. Ms. Passi says requests for her company's training in gender-based selling have increased tenfold over the past decade. Her clients range from apparel retailers to automotive companies.
Brett Beveridge, founder and CEO of Retail Outsource Co., a sales-performance company in Coral Gables, Fla., says nearly all his clients are asking for training in gender-based selling. Mr. Beveridge advises clients -- from big-box electronic retailers to service providers -- on how men and women respond to particular service and design choices. To cater to men, for example, he tells retailers to put information on fact boards near the products, so men don't have to ask questions of associates. Men "like to feel that they're competent and know the answers," he says.
Drawing from her training in gender-based selling with Ms. Passi's company last year, Judith Schumacher Tilton, dealer principal of Tilton Automotive Group, which operates two dealerships in Little Falls and Denville, both in N.J., says she is a strong proponent for colors on the showroom floor. When she got the newest Chevrolet Spark in July, she lined up techno pink and jalapeño green versions of the vehicle outside her dealership that day. Ms. Tilton says the colors and display helped sell the cars more quickly than other model launches, even before they were advertised. "When women came in, it was the first thing they saw. We sold them right away," she says.
Jim Dunn, vice president and general manager of JM Lexus in Miami, who has been a client of Ms. Passi's for the past three years. changed the way his associates deal with men and women and revamped the showroom floor. Before, associates would discuss the features and gadgets of the car with men, but Ms. Passi's training revealed that approach works better with women. "Now we make sure we give 60, 70, 80% of the conversation to our female customers," he says.
Kathy Kraft, 52 and from Portland, Ore., enjoys scouring through stores to find that perfect item. "I like the hunt," Ms. Kraft says. She often shops with her friends and is friendly with her personal shopper at Nordstrom. One of her favorite stores, White House Black Market, a boutique-style clothing store with a primarily female clientele, plays up the social factor. Associates encourage women to model their clothes in front of the large mirror in the center of the store. The chain also emphasizes visually appealing displays by arranging complete outfits together.
While Nordstrom says its overall approach isn't gender-specific, it makes changes based on the behavior it sees from male and female shoppers. Last fall, Nordstrom moved men's grooming products and fragrances into the men's department after the store found through customer feedback that men would rather shop for all their items in one area. It also made what it calls "girlfriend dressing rooms" that are oversize and are separated just by curtain dividers so women can easily chat and share outfits.
"We've learned that women like shopping together," says John Bailey, a spokesman. "It gives them some privacy but allows them to show their clothes to each other."
To become more female-friendly, Lowe's began displaying finished projects, like kitchen vignettes, "so you can start to envision how it looks at home," says Melissa Birdsong, vice president of Lowe's. Shelves used to be 16 feet tall around the store's perimeter and 12 feet in the aisles. The company lowered the racks to as low as 4½ feet in some areas. "What we heard from customers, mostly women, was that (higher racks were) very intimidating," Ms. Birdsong says.
Not all stores have embraced gender-based selling because it can be time-consuming and expensive, due to training costs and a high sales-associate turnover rate. In addition, some companies are hesitant to advertise a policy founded on treating men and women differently. Home Depot spokeswoman Jean Niemi says the store, "which is first and foremost a working warehouse," doesn't differentiate based on gender. "We don't look at it like men vs. women," she says.
Jason Luna, 37, of Pine Bush, N.Y., says he prefers to shop solo, while his wife Mary "enjoys the process more." "I'm generally annoyed by active sellers," he says.
Still, Mr. Luna hesitates at the concept of gender-based selling. "There are definite differences between men and women," he says. "But on the other hand, I feel uncomfortable about a practice that automatically assumes differences."
(Source: The Wall Street Journal, 09/06/12)
||The Real Cost of Home Improvement
For a few years, carpets have been allowed to fray, faucets to drip and paint to peel. Now, home improvement spending may be rebounding. Harvard University's Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity suggests spending will rise 12.2 percent by early 2012.
To see what projects homeowners are likely to pursue and what they'll spend, Bloomberg.com used survey data from home improvement website and app Houzz. Estimates on potential payoffs from projects come from Remodeling Magazine, which asks appraisers and others how much hypothetical projects recoup costs in the form of increased home values. Projects are ranked from most to least expensive.
Average cost: $576,460
While the most popular region of the U.S. for custom-built homes is the South, they're most expensive in the western U.S., at $760,300. The cheapest region is the Midwest at $551,200.
Complete Home Remodel
Average cost: $192,724
A top-to-bottom renovation is the sort of project most likely to end up over budget -- and 55 percent do so, according to Houzz. Men are more likely to pursue a total home remodeling than women, though few of these homeowners are do-it-yourselfers. Contractors are hired for all but 18 percent of total home renovations.
Average cost: $34,190
Not surprisingly, homeowners with children are 50 percent more likely to add or replace a swimming pool. According to the National Association of Home Builders, a pool's concrete shell should last more than 25 years. Its plaster and tile have shorter life expectancies of 10 to 25 years.
Average cost: $24,766
The kitchen is the most popular room for upgrades other than the bathroom, with the Houzz survey showing 48 percent of respondents plan to renovate their kitchen in the next two years. Perhaps surprisingly, men and homeowners without children are most interested in renovating their kitchens. The cost of a new kitchen can vary: Owners of homes worth $300,000 or less managed to spend $12,601, about half the overall average.
Homeowners recoup 66 percent of the cost for a major kitchen remodel and 72 percent for a minor one. New kitchen cabinets have a life span of up to 50 years.
Garage or Carport
Average cost: $13,059
Married couples are 30 percent more likely to add or renovate a garage or carport than single people. Garage upgrades cost the most in the northeastern U.S., at $15,900, and the least in the South, at $10,800.
Adding a new garage recoups 57 percent, while replacing a garage door can recover 72 percent of its cost. Garage door openers should last 10 to 15 years, according to the NAHB.
Average cost: $10,723
The bathroom is the one room of the house most likely to be renovated, according to both Houzz and a NAHB contractor survey.
When homeowners renovate a bathroom, they can expect to recoup about 62 percent eventually. Adding a new bathroom returns just 51 percent of its cost. While showerheads can last a lifetime, shower doors last about 20 years. Toilets and bath cabinets can have an "unlimited life span."
Average cost: $9,454
Roof work is the project most likely to be entirely turned over to a contractor, with only 9 percent of Houzz users claiming to do it themselves.
A new roof will recoup 58 percent of its cost. The life span of a new roof can vary, but those made of slate, copper and clay and concrete can last more than 50 years. Asphalt shingles last 20 years or so.
Average cost: $9,426
Media rooms are favorites of the rich. Homes worth $1 million or more are three times more likely to have recently added media rooms than houses worth $300,000 or less. Men and homeowners under age 45 are most likely to express an interest in adding a media room, at about twice the rate of women and older respondents. A built-in audio system should last 20 years, according to the NAHB.
Patio or Landscaping
Average cost: $9,010
The cost of a new patio or landscaping can vary wildly. Owners of homes worth less than $300,000 spend an average of $3,279, while those in million-dollar homes spend $27,442. Such projects are 20 percent more popular in the western U.S. than in the Midwest and Northeast. Most materials used in landscaping last 15 to 25 years.
Redecorating, New Furniture
Average cost: $8,646
Redecorating, which includes anything from new curtains to a complete makeover of a home's furniture and decor, is the most popular home improvement activity cited by Houzz survey respondents. Everyone redecorates at about the same rate -- rich or poor, married or single, and across various regions of the U.S. One exception is men, who were about 17 percent less likely than women to be planning a project.
Cost estimates and most other data come from a survey of 29,000 Houzz users. To gauge the payoff in higher home values, estimates were used from Remodeling Magazine, which polls appraisers and others on hypothetical projects to gauge the potential payoff in increased home values. Estimates from the National Association of Home Builders were used on how long improvements should last.
(Source: Bloomberg, 09/05/12)
||Discretionary Spending by College Students is Way Up
Students are back on campus -- and boy are they ready to spend. Marketing firm Re:fuel's annual College Explorer survey, which is done in collaboration with Crux Research, reports that this year will see students going for their masters in discretionary spending.
The study, based on online polls of 1,528 18-to-34-year-old students in March and April this year (with the majority being full-time students), covers the gamut: spending habits, technology adoption, and politics.
For marketers, the good news is that college kids are confident, with discretionary spend 40% above last year's figure. The firm says that apparel and personal care products in particular are booming, with sales of products in both areas up over 100% versus last year. The 41 million or so college students in the U.S. are carrying around about $405 billion of dad and mom's money for total spending, a 5% increase over adjusted 2011 spending.
Discretionary spending, $86 billion in 2011, is around $120 billion this year. In addition to apparel and personal care, technology -- up 227% -- and cosmetics -- up 280% -- are booming on campus. Still, for the 12th consecutive year, food is likely to be the top discretionary spend. So far in 2012, students have spent more than $44 billion on food, including $20.7 billion in grocery stores, $9.6 billion on food at convenience stores and $13.7 billion spent while dining out.
And while students spend much of the hefty 8.5 hours of free time per day on campus, food is what drives them off the quad. Nearly all (92%) students visit off-campus grocery stores, 88% visit quick-service restaurants and 83% visit sit-down restaurants in a typical month, according to the study.
Tammy Nelson, VP marketing and research at Re:fuel, says the best way to reach college students is definitely on campus. "College students -- even nontraditional, older students and those attending two-year schools -- spend a tremendous amount of time on their college campus," she said in a statement. "It's the primary hub, not only for academic activities, but also for social and recreational pursuits, making it an ideal environment for marketers looking to foster brand connections with young adult consumers making many brand decisions for the first time."
When it comes to social and location, platforms like Groupon and Google Offers are seeing subscriptions rise this year. Forty-one percent of students polled last year used such services. This year it's 45%, and those subscribers say they are using the services far more frequently, driving traffic from 10.5 million per month in 2011 to 37.6 million in 2012.
Helping drive that trend may be the increased use of smartphones. The College Explorer study found that for the first time smartphone ownership by students (at 55% of those surveyed) passed feature phone ownership (43%). Respondents own an average of 6.4 devices and the time they spend on them has jumped three hours to 14.4 total tech hours per day, versus last year.
The news is also good for brands looking to do grassroots efforts around events and promotions on campus. Nearly half (47%) of co-eds have received a free product sample, and 65% of them went on to purchase the brand. More than a third (34%) have attended a brand-sponsored event on campus; 64% went on to purchase the brand.
(Source: Marketing Daily, 09/12/12)
Daily Sales Tip: Asking for Commitment
All of us in sales have, since day one, had it drilled into us that we must "ask for commitment" from the buyer. Unfortunately, too many of us interpret this to mean simply, "ask for the order." Thus, we feel that the only time to ask for commitment is at the end of the sale -- at the "close" -- when we ask for the Ultimate Commitment.
In reality, you should be asking for commitments at various points in a sales cycle. Why? Well, any of you who have experienced "things were going so great, why won't she call me back" syndrome will understand why.
First, if a prospect is unwilling to agree to do even the smallest request, what does that signal to you about how serious this prospect is?
Second, the more commitments you get your prospect to make and keep, the more he has invested in the deal, the more he's stuck his neck out, the more difficult it will be for him to simply walk away from it.
Think about it. If your contact has invested lots of his personal time, and gotten others to do the same (including the boss); if this investment has become a high-profile one throughout the organization, it's going to be pretty difficult for him to simply pull out and say, "we're just going to stick with the status quo," without getting a whole lot of egg on his face.
Remember, commitment is a two-way street. Too often, out of an eagerness to please, we commit to doing something for our prospects without asking for a reciprocal commitment from them. You have just as much of a right to ask a qualified prospect to invest time and effort to get you what you need as he does to ask you to get him what he needs.
Source: Craig James, founder and president of Sales Solutions