Are Men Underserved by Online Retailers or Just More Critical?

Any researcher will tell you that one of the greatest challenges when producing a quarterly survey and report is to find new and interesting angles within the data. The truth is that, generally, the underlying data does not usually reveal any significant changes from one quarter to the next. We experienced this first hand when examining the latest results from our own quarterly survey, the Canadian E-tail Report, which is a syndicated survey on Canadian online shopping habits produced by J.C. Williams Group. After a year and a half, with six completed surveys and reports, it took a lot of “brainstorming sessions” to find a unique point of view on the new data. We finally decided to do a deep dive on the difference in online shopping habits between men and women. It proved to be very insightful. Here is a brief look at our findings.

When internet shopping first began, the early adopters tended to be male and techie. That has certainly changed over the years, as women have joined their male counterparts and have become avid online shoppers. However, gender differences in online shopping habits do exist. Men are more likely to research online (81% vs. 79%) and are also more likely to spend a higher proportion of their online purchases in entertainment (books, music), electronics, sports/leisure equipment, and jewellery/watches compared to women. However, they are less likely to be satisfied with their purchases in virtually every category that we track, with the biggest gaps appearing in categories where women outspend them, such as clothing and children/baby, toys, and games.

The key reasons why men say they are dissatisfied include delivery and website experience, where there tends to be greater dissatisfaction levels among men compared to women. Men show their dissatisfaction by returning at a higher rate than women (11% vs. 6%).

So what’s happening here? Are men just more picky than women and complain more when shopping online? Or are websites, particularly ones for categories like clothing and toys, designed mainly for women? The answer may be a little of both. While the big differences in satisfaction are in the clothing and toys categories, men are also less satisfied than women in categories where they are more likely to spend more than women, like electronics and entertainment. These male-appealing categories also contain some of the most sophisticated online retailers, so it could be that they have set the bar high for other retailers who are trying to attract male shoppers to their websites.

Retailers like Best Buy and Amazon have been leaders in the online space since they started. They continue to innovate in their website experiences and how they reach out to their customers. For the average retailer that is trying to reach out to men, the challenge to compete with these titans is formidable. So here are a few tips for satisfying men online:

  • Make the experience fast. Men do not like to wait in line when shopping in-store and the same applies online.
  • Create communities for men that are different than for women. For example, men are much less likely to think of themselves as shopaholics or shoe-a-holics.
  • Look at how some niche retailers like Frank & Oak or Trunk Club are serving men on their own terms.
  • Reach men on Facebook, but also on YouTube or Twitter where they are more likely to be than women.

Men generally spend more in most categories so the rewards for the retailer that really nails this will be great.

Written by: Maureen Atkinson, Senior Partner, Research Insights at J.C. Williams Group.


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