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What Men - And Companies - Can Do to Please Women

By Hal M. Bundrick

NEW YORK (MainStreet) ¿ An over-achieving market remains under served. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has issued an update to a study originally fielded in 2009 that says while the average female income is expected to rise by about $8,000 over the next five years, increasing globally from $12.5 trillion to $18.5 trillion, most companies still don't offer services compelling enough to gain their business.

"Women are increasingly well off and very profitable customers," says Michael J. Silverstein, a senior partner with BCG. "They are willing to pay more across many categories for products and services that meet their needs. As they become increasingly time constrained, there is significant untapped value in providing them with a means to save time. They will trade money for time savings."

And yet, while women have boosted their earnings and remain the most important buyer at home, most companies struggle to provide products and services that meet their demands for value, time savings, and emotional connection.

"Women are still burdened by having to manage the family finances, with not enough money, not enough time, and too much stress," Silverstein says. "Winning companies will address their dissatisfactions with bull's-eye responses and gain the lead in both current female-controlled spending and incremental spending."

The study's findings include:

  • Women are disappointed with many product and service offerings, largely because companies misunderstand women's issues and fail to answer their needs. Globally, women's biggest dissatisfactions currently are in home services (such as remodeling and cleaning), work apparel, and healthcare
  • Women still feel burdened by the "triple whammy" of time-related challenges: managing the household and finances, finding time for themselves, and juggling too many demands on their time. Financial issues have moved up in the hierarchy of concerns as a result of the recent recession.
  • An average of 40% of men worldwide rarely or never help their wives with home chores. The percentage ranges from as low as 30% in India to 63% in Brazil. The United States and United Kingdom both are at the lower end of the spectrum, with 41% of men pitching in at home.
  • Money does seem to buy happiness: women in the upper and upper-middle classes feel more loved, satisfied, appreciated, successful, and fulfilled than women in the middle, lower-middle, and lower classes -- by significant margins.

The increasing economic influence of women is "an inescapable phenomenon" driven by several factors, according to Silverstein.

"First, women are now the majority of undergraduates worldwide. Younger women are entering the workforce with no limits on their ambition," he says. "They are expecting equal pay for equal work, continued primary influence at home on spending, and loyalty to suppliers that provide them with higher-quality products and services for less money."

Companies that understand this, according to Silverstein, have shown major results in terms of sales growth, consumer loyalty, and category dominance. As examples, he cites Gerber, which expands its product line based on research into what mothers want for their young children; and Victoria's Secret, which has launched improvements to its line of lingerie.

The survey interviewed nearly 7,800 women in 13 countries.

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

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