Until recently, men were considered to be the broad target audience for the Internet, but new data from Forrester Research shows that 29 percent of all American women now use the Internet regularly.
In comparison, 39 percent of American men use the Internet, but e-tailers and other e-businesses are expecting a demographic shift in the near future. Forrester indicates that over the next five years, the average annual growth rate for men online is expected to be 13 percent, as opposed to 19 percent for women.
By the end of this year, there will be 39.6 million women online, and by 2005, that number will swell to 71.2 million.
Women Control Vast Resources
It is widely believed that women influence an estimated 80 percent of all U.S. purchases, from auto purchases to food and entertainment selections. Now, with an increasing number of female Internet users, e-businesses are taking advantage of the gender shift by positioning themselves as providers of goods and services for women.
According to Peggy O’Neil, an analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings, women have been found to patronize sites specializing in health and quality of life issues. In fact, NetRatings found the highest percentage of women visitors to sites such as Oprah.com, seventeen.com and healthyideas.com.
Since women statistically do not spend as much time online as men, e-tailers are working overtime to find ways to maximize their sales to women during the time women do spend online.
For example, last year, Americans spent $11.8 billion (US$) on cosmetics, according to investment firm Goldman Sachs. That figure has not been lost upon e-tailers of beauty products, who are debuting sites devoted to cosmetics at record speed. Some of those that have come online recently include sephora.com, eve.com, reflect.com and iBeauty.com.
Even online drugstores are trying to grab their piece of the online cosmetics pie by adding beauty sections to their offerings.
Attractive Untapped Market
There are a number of reasons that e-tailers are targeting the ever-increasing number of female computer shoppers. NetRatings indicates that young women will become the backbone of e-commerce in the years to come, and to capitalize on the growing audience, e-tailers have to provide products that women buy.
E-beauty sites see dollar signs in cosmetics online, since major cosmetics houses such as Elizabeth Arden and Estee Lauder limit supplies and keep prices high. And since the sites will take in top dollar for the big lines, they will be able to offer great discounts for lesser-known brands.
Additionally, cosmetics are lightweight and easy to ship, and women’s cosmetics buying habits tend to suggest brand and store loyalty.
Diversifying Inventory For Women
Beauty product Web sites are by no means the only e-businesses approaching the female market. When Nordstrom.com launched its “world’s biggest shoe store” last week, the target was indeed women.
iVillage.com already has 2.7 members, mostly female, using the site to link to many online e-tailers, including Macy’s.com, iMaternity.com and Garden.com. The membership on iVillage.com has increased 335 percent from last year.
While major brick-and-mortar retailers have not found it cost-effective to build stores in rural areas or smaller cities, they have come to understand that citizens in those areas do indeed have computers. E-tailers are tapping into a market of women in outlying areas that have been logistically unable to shop in their traditional stores.
Still, Forrester Research says that women are cautious in using technology. They start with smaller purchases and will return to make larger purchases if their online shopping experience is successful.
Analysts are waiting to see what happens during the expected onslaught of holiday shoppers, beginning this month. All indications are that women will take the lead in holiday purchases, and more sites will open geared primarily to a female audience.