Women’s spending power currently stands at around 20 trillion USD annually and is expected to rise to 28 trillion within the next 5 years. Women earn 13 trillion USD every year and this figure will soon climb to 18 trillion. Are you still looking at this as a niche business segment to tap into, or a major business opportunity?

According to the Havard Business Review, women make the decisions in the purchase of 94% of home furnishings, 92% of vacations, 91% of homes, 60% of automobiles, and 51% of consumer electronics.

That 92% of vacations includes our own hospitality industry and covers destinations, airlines, and most importantly hotels. Now we’ve previously written about those hotels that tried to create ladies’ floors with flowers, bathroom amenities, an emphasis on the color pink, and absolutely no men allowed. But does that respond to a woman’s needs? Not really – not every woman likes pink, and some would even find the whole concept quite condescending.

It’s not always easy to please women, as many men will attest. Take IBM for example. They tried a campaign called #HackAHairDryer which was supposed to appeal to women and promote female participation in engineering, the sciences, and technology – because women are much more likely to take an interest in science if it involves beauty products. The campaign was no doubt created with the best of intentions, but went horribly wrong as soon as actual women found out about it. After a twitter storm and plenty of adverse publicity, IBM had to apologize. So marketing your product to one particular half of the population can certainly be a minefield.

However, with all the spending power women have and the influence they exert over household spending, it is a minefield which offers huge potential for businesses who understand that you can’t just expect women to buy a product because it looks pretty.

A recent report from the Boston Consulting Group entitled “Women Want More – How to Capture More Than Your Share of the Female Economy” presented the remarkable result that what women really want, and want much more than things that are pink and glittery, is time. The research showed that women everywhere struggle with a shortage of time, and that they also have to play many different roles in their lives. This lack of time has a very powerful influence on women’s purchasing decisions.

Instead of superficial and stereotypical marketing campaigns, it would therefore be wiser to try something that can accommodate women’s needs. This leads to the questions:

  • Have our hotel staff been trained to serve women appropriately? (Most hotels fail when it comes to this – my personal experience)
  • What are the areas of dissatisfaction in our hotel? How do they rank by importance to women?
  • Do our sales and marketing team understand why our products and services are ideally suited for women?

Previous failures in meeting the needs of women have usually been the result of ignorance (we don’t know what women want), apathy (we never even thought about what women want), or misunderstanding (if our website was pink our direct bookings would go through the roof). The solutions lie in understanding this particular market sector – which means going online and reading the available research, and then putting together strategies that address the findings.

The result should be something subtle, effective, and probably not pink in the slightest.