Mike Anthony @ engage consultants

Mike Anthony on Shopper Marketing

The Male Shopper And What It Means For Shopper Marketing

with 2 comments

What male shoppers mean for shopper marketingI read a lot and much of it relates to shopper marketing and marketing. I learn lots, and I’d recommend any young or aspiring marketer to read plenty, and read broadly. And over the course of the last few months, I’ve read a series of articles that are telling me something that is apparently deeply surprising. Men go shopping.

Shock, horror. Men shop. Really! This is probably not news to the slightly over 50% of the global population with a Y chromosome, many of whom have been buying stuff ever since they had pocket money, but apparently to the marketing and shopper marketing community – THIS IS NEWS.

And; as is often the case, there is some valuable nugget of something really interesting buried somewhere in these articles, but unfortunately, that gem is lost in the plain daftness of the response.

Faced with the statistic that “men shop” – retailers create “man aisles”. Really? Man Aisles? Men apparently have enough maturity and humility to go to a shop, but when they get there, they are still neanderthals. The response to “men shop” is an aisle full of stuff that apparently men shoppers want. Beer, beef jerky and batteries. If this doesn’t miss the point I don’t know what does. So let’s try to find that kernel of interesting stuff, but first, let’s just cut through the silliness a little:

Men consume more than beer and snacks.

It might be hard to believe (and I know there are guys who wished that life really was as simple as beer and manly strips of beef carcass) but guys consume a slightly broader repertoire of products than this. Men can cook. And not boil just “boil in the bag” either. Proper stuff with herbs and spices.

In a store, we’re shoppers, not consumers

And even if that hell/Nirvana* of a life filled with nothing more complicated than alcoholic beverages and snacks were true, even the most sports watching, beer swilling couch potato consumer isn’t a consumer in the store. They are a shopper. And as shoppers, what they consume as consumers is just part of the story. They buy other stuff too. Many of these men are buying the whole grocery shop for their families. If the first assumptions about men as consumers are caricatures at best, the second is simply missing the point. If “men” is an interesting consumer segment (and it might be, depending on which category you are in), that necessarily doesn’t mean that gender is a valuable shopper segmentation

Man aisles might be a turn off too

So let’s assume, for a second, that ‘men’ is a shopper segment, and that we create a man aisle. How many women buy beer, snacks? For every man who is offended by a man aisle, or is discouraged from hitting the rest of the store because they are corralled into their zone, there is a beer drinking girl or (even more likely) a beer buying woman, who is turned off by the man aisle and chooses to not buy, or buy elsewhere, or doesn’t enter the aisle as it didn’t appeal to her as a shopper.

So for some this might be a fantastic way of looking at the business, but before jumping to a conclusion about this (or any shopper segmentation) here are a few points to consider:

Does your segment really behave differently as shoppers?

If they don’t behave differently, then there may be questionable value in treating them as a separate segment.

Do we really understand them as shoppers? 

Just because we understand this group as consumers (this is what men like to consume) doesn’t mean that this is what they are interested in as shoppers. In a market we studied a few years ago 6% of female sanitary products in a particular channel were bought by men. I’m not sure you’d merchandise those on a man aisle!

What would be the impact of our strategies on the other shoppers? 

A store (or a category) laid out to meet the needs of one groups, will also need to service other shopper segment. Before charging off to create a perfect category for men, women, children, or whichever, consider the negative impact on other shoppers. In one market we found that over 40% of male grooming products were bought by women: how many of those might not buy if these products were buried in a ‘man aisle’? If there is a negative impact, how might this be mitigated?

Is the segment really big enough for you? 

Lastly, a useful sense check on any segmentation – is the opportunity really worth the effort ( and the possible downside of frustrating, turning off, or otherwise losing other shoppers). If the man aisle is basically beer and snacks, how different is that from a beer aisle adjacent to snacks? How many men are buying other stuff, that are different from women. There is a sub-segment we are after here by implication – that there is a group of guys who do not shop for the same stuff as women, but want more than beer and snacks. How big is that, and is it worth the retail real estate and other associated costs to deliver it?

Segmentation lies at the heart of marketing. Great marketing requires great segmentation. Lazy stereotypes are not great segmentation, and therefore rarely lead to great marketing.


Written by Mike Anthony

March 13, 2013 at 12:34 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I see male “shoppers” cruising our kitchen gadget aisle, often telling me they love to cook. Interesting article…..I will keep the key points in mind.

    Linda Madderra

    March 16, 2013 at 1:18 am

    • Hi Linda,
      Thanks very much – watch those men shoppers and let me know if you see any key differences between them and the women!
      All the best,


      Mike Anthony

      March 16, 2013 at 4:36 pm

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