By Geri Stengel (President, Ventureneer) In the early days of online shopping, when most of the products sold were computers, software, music, and consumer electronics, men ruled e-commerce. That may be changing now that product choices have expanded to everything from cosmetics to shoes to toys. Just as women dominant shopping in the brick-and-mortar world (women account for 85% of all consumer purchases), they will dominant shopping in the online world.
Mass e-commerce sites such as Amazon and eBay will always have a place in e-commerce, just as Walmart does in the brick and mortar world. However, by understanding what women want in an online shopping experience, a new crop of e-commerce startups may be discovering how to compete.
These sites are proving that it takes a woman to understand a woman and how they want to shop online. That may give e-commerce sites such as Birchbox, Rent the Runway, ShoeDazzle and the latest arrival, Spark Box Toys, a competitive edge.
Spark Box Toys is a subscription service - like Netfilx, but instead of movies, children from ages 6 months to 4 years receive educational toys selected by experts and personalized for the child's developmental stage.
Here are six things you can learn from the Spark Box Toys approach to selling to women:
- Save women time -- Women don’t have time to sift through mountains of information. They get overwhelmed by choice. They want advice on what toys are best for their children. Having experts separate the wheat from the chaff in toys is a real time saver. The educational experts at Spark Box Toys search the world for the best toys based on six criteria: play value, quality, age appropriateness, design, safety, and engagement potential. The majority of the toys - 80% - can't be found at big-box chain stores.
- Educate your market -- “Women are information-gatherers,” says Delia Passi, founder of Medelia Communications, in an article on Startup Nation. Passi is an expert on building market share among women. She says that women want to make educated decisions by asking questions. Taking the time to answer those questions in detail will provide the comfort level women seek before making a decision to buy. Spark Box Toys provides information about the importance of play, parent involvement, and appropriate toys for each stage of a child’s development.
- Build a relationship by catering to her needs -- Again, words to the wise from Passi, who says that women value relationships and will trust you if you seem interested in creating a relationship rather than just making a sale. At Spark Box, after a mother returns a box of toys, she is asked about how her child interacted with the toy. The next box of toys reflects these preferences.
- Women care about the environment and safety -- Green products are viewed, not as a luxury items but as the right thing to do, according to Gigi Carroll, marketing strategist for major female campaigns. Instead of buying toys and then throwing them away, the toys are being re-used, which is very environmentally friendly.
- Go social to reach women -- Word of mouth has always been a powerful marketing force. Now that force is going online and using social media as a conduit for peer recommendations and advice. “New research shows that 90% of Moms trust products more after hearing about them from friends and 82% read product reviews online before buying a brand they haven’t tried yet,” according to Stacy Debroff, founder and CEO of Mom Central Consulting, in an article on Young Upstarts.“Real influence happens when brands form relationships with women/moms and participate in the conversations that women are having with each other,” according to Holly Hamann, co-founder of BlogFrog.
Recommendations from mommy bloggers translates into purchases, she says, and marketers want to get moms talking to other moms about their products. “It’s got to be authentic,” says Alice Wang, co-founder of Spark Box Toys, and that’s why they’re sending mommy bloggers a box of toys to play and review.
- Bring data full circle -- In her book “Why She Buys,” Bridget Brennan makes the point that while women make the purchases, men make the product; there’s a disconnect. This is true in toy manufacturing. Spark Box Toys connects the dots by collecting and analyzing mothers’ feedback on the toys their children love to play with. They will provide data to toy manufacturers so that toys can be improved.
For more articles about high-growth women entrepreneurs, visit Guiding the Way for Ambitious Women Entrepreneurs, Ventureneer’s curated source for information women entrepreneurs can use to power-up their businesses.
Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. Photo credit: Shlomi Fish on Flickr. About the guest blogger: Geri Stengel is Founder of Ventureneer. She was a women business owner, Kauffman FastTrac GrowthVenture facilitator, former adjunct professor of entrepreneurship, and past board member of the New York City Chapter of the National Association of Business Women Owners, she understands the unique challenges women entrepreneurs face when growing their beyond $1 million. She blogs regularly at Vistas. Follow her on Twitter at @ventureneer.