It's no secret men dominate the technology sector. They're at the helm of the vast majority of startups in Silicon Valley and nearly every major tech company from Intel to Facebook. As a result, most startups in the consumer internet and B2B2C landscape decide by default to design their products thinking men are their primary consumers -- what I call the male audience bias. But they're not.
The world of tech startups likes to associate women with Pinterest and social media, but many don't realize women also dominate nearly all consumer spending. That's right. Women account for 85 percent of all consumer purchases, including 91 percent of new homes, 66 percent of computers, 92 percent of vacations, and almost half of all NFL merchandise purchases. The list goes on, and includes every stereotypically male product and service. Even traditionally male industries, like online gaming, have heavy female usage. Did you know more than 43 percent of online gamers are actually 30-something women? Odds are good your core demographic leans female, whether you know it or not.
Why You Should Care
But why does that matter? Because you need to build your product with your audience in mind. If you don't, you risk alienating the very users you need to attract in order to survive. Your design -- from user experience to the colors you choose -- must appeal to women. One of the first startups to understand this was Mint.com. At one point, the Mint team A/B tested which shade of green in their logo and website converted more female users, then changed their official green to the one that won.
It doesn't end at design. How are you marketing your product or service? Does the messaging appeal to women? The male audience bias extends to marketing as well. More than 9 out of 10 women say that advertisers don't understand them. Men and women think differently, and make purchase decisions differently. You need to tailor your marketing and messaging to reflect that.
Not All Women are the Same
By now you've probably read that Facebook's fastest growing demographic is middle-aged women. Their influence doesn't end there. Women over the age of 50 own more than 75 percent of the nation's financial wealth, according to a 2007 study by MassMutual Financial Group. It makes sense: Baby Boomer women are often at the receiving end of a double inheritance, once when their parents die and again when their husbands pass. These 50-plus year old women spend 2.5 times more money than the average consumer. They're ready to spend, but are you prepared to sell to them?
Designing and marketing with women in mind will give you an advantage in a global marketplace that mostly ignores the female perspective. That doesn't mean making your website pink and fluffy. Dell tried that in a sad attempt to woo female customers in 2009 and was met with a severe backlash from women's groups. Female stereotypes don't work. To appeal to women, you need to test, do customer development, and learn what works for the female audience in your market. You'll be surprised at what you learn about your product and what women really want.