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Preparing for my first CES experience, I was warned by veterans about how crazy and overwhelming the experience can be. With 140,000 attendees and an exhibition hall the size of 36 football fields, I found the reality equaled the hype.
I was grateful for Advertising Age, which provided a safe-haven from the madness with a wireless lounge at the Venetian, where they hosted intimate and informative events. One panel on Women and Technology was inspired by the Ad Age Insights White Paper “Always On Women,” which was sponsored by Meredith Publishing, in collaboration with Digitaria’s parent company, JWT.
Moderated by Ad Age editor Abbey Klaassen, the panel explored the evolving relationship women have with technology. The panel featured:
• Ann Mack, director of trendspotting for JWT
• Danielle Lee, VP of product marketing and innovation for AT&T
• James McQuivey, PhD, VP and principal analyst for Forresters Research
• Liz Schimel, EVP and chief digital officer of Meredith Publishing
Women and technology was a particularly interesting topic for a conference where men were the only ones waiting in restroom lines, outnumbering women at CES four-to-one. But CES attendance is not representative of women’s engagement with technology on the whole: women are involved in over 50% of technology purchasing decisions—even game consoles. Women spend 40% more time on social networking sites than men do and are responsible for 60% of online spending.
McQuivey, former professor and published feminist literature author, explained how for a long time the struggle for gender equality resisted the idea that men and women are inherently different. But the data supports the ideas that women do socialize and shop more than men, and the sooner tech marketers accept it, the sooner they can capitalize on this significant market share of “always on women.”
Men are both less sophisticated and more predictable about their use of technology, according to the panel. McQuivey quipped that, despite the cliche, add a girl in a bikini and put it in a video game, and guys will actually engage with products.
Women, on the other hand, see the potential for apps, devices and other technologies to change their lives, providing usability, utility and benefit. They have a stronger connection with the end-result and use technology more to stay engaged and connected; the core motivation is using technology to make accomplishing their many responsibilities easier and more efficient.
So how are tech products marketed?
Previously, tech “marketing” was based on what McQuivey called “speeds and feeds,” which is essentially a spec sheet, using numbers to represent functionality. This type of marketing has resonated more with men, who make purchasing decisions based on possessing the “biggest or best” and showing it off.
But women aren’t wowed by specs and facts. In order to get them to engage with tech products, marketers should show them how a product or app will address their anxiety points and make their lives easier. According to panelists, even men respond better to benefits-oriented marketing; historically they’ve just been more willing to compromise for “speeds and feeds” in lieu of real marketing.
So if you want to engage women as tech buyers (a segment that is growing and even in some ways surpassing men) you must keep two things in mind:
• Keep your product simple, including everything your audience wants, and nothing they don’t need.
• Keep “benefits” at the heart of your marketing efforts, showcasing how to use the product and how it will simplify users’ lives.
JWT’s Ann Mack predicted that two technologies from CES 2012 that will “blow up” are voice control and cloud/everywhere access. Both provide real benefits to busy, always-connected women. If they are kept simple enough and the benefits are explained, I think women will be at the forefront of adopting these technologies.