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The customer is Queen

You think you know what today’s women want.

Some 80 percent of all consumer purchases in Canada are made by, or influenced by, women. You probably already knew that. But sometimes we take women shoppers for granted, assuming that what drives their buying decisions is always the same. Not true. What concerns women today is different than a few years ago. That shift affects what products and services they seek and how they buy. At Nielsen we recently reached out to women in Canada, and 20 other countries, to find out what they are thinking, watching and buying. Let me walk you through our findings and the takeaways.

Let's start with state of mind. Today, women feel empowered. But they are also stressed. In Canada, 52 percent are pressured for time and 33 percent are overworked. In the U.S., and in emerging economies, women feel even more stressed. Overall, women aren't getting enough relaxation time.

The takeaway: To cater to women, highlight products that offer convenience and lessen stress. Give them rewards that ease their lives. Manufacturers should develop time-saving product innovations that deliver multiple benefits and satisfy various needs.

Now let's look at media. The majority of Canadian women use the Internet for leisure and social activities (88 percent), and to research things they want to buy (84 percent). For 55 percent, the Internet is their primary source of news and current events, while 44 percent say they're active on social media.

The takeaway: Your marketing strategies should be social and relevant. With Facebook, Twitter, etc., women typically follow brands more so than men, making the social networking tool relevant for discounts, deals and coupons. So be available and informed. Offer online, 24/7 customer support, Twitter accounts and manufacturer-sponsored forums. And visit online blogs and forums to find out how women think and engage.

But wait a second...the No. 1 place for Canadian women to get information about new products is television. After TV, they prefer direct mail. For information on stores, they prefer word-of-mouth, followed by television.

The takeaway: Don't underestimate the power of word-of-mouth advertising and combining old media with new media. Leverage digital platforms with traditional high-reach and frequency vehicles to spread positive awareness about your stores and your brands.

Our industry is obsessed with price, but our study found that in 20 out of 21 countries, including Canada, quality is the top driver of brand loyalty. (In the U.K. women cited trust ahead of quality.) Take note also that in Canada the most important driver to bring women into a store is good value for food, beverages and health and beauty products, and convenience for pharmaceuticals.

The takeaway: Though price and value are important, particularly to attract an initial purchase, long-term positioning must emphasize quality. Use promotion and discount tactics thoughtfully.

When looking at their future, women in emerging markets believe their daughters will have even more opportunities than they did. However, in developed countries, including Canada, women believe their daughters will have the same opportunities, not more. Ten percent of Canadian women say their daughters will have greater financial stability. However, only 16 percent think their daughters will retire when they choose to, compared to today.

The takeaway: Connect to your female shopper's bigger picture by supporting organizations that help empower women and share women's views on corporate social responsibility.

In terms of big opportunities for your business, the growing economic power and influence of women sits right in the centre. Yes, you may have focused on women in the past, but you need to maximize the opportunity by adjusting to meet their evolving needs. Understanding women will help you to make a positive impact on their lives. And on your bottom line.

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