Women shopping online

Female behaviour online guided by offline traditions

Women shopping online tend to lean more towards products that have previously been discussed and favourably reviewed with their peers, a new research paper has concluded.

Writing in the International Journal of Web Based Communities, marketing expert Raechel Johns of the University of Canberra and educationalist Rebecca English of Queensland University of Technology Kelvin Grove, Australia, outline how women –particularly those with children - represent a large segment of potential online spending.

The authors describe how online consumption behaviours and information dissemination is a modern extension of traditional real-world conversation and peer-to-peer recommendation practices.

The authors’ conclusions are that the old word-of-mouth benefits to sales are stronger than ever for women now that traditional gathering places such as school-related spaces, shops and mother and child groups have been augmented by online social networks aimed at women.

The report highlights the limited research so far aimed at understanding the evolution of the family, mothers' groups and the advent of online meeting places for those with children and money to spend. Their survey of mothers and quantitative analysis of the available online data suggest that mothers discuss products a lot. Moreover, they found that, "trust between mothers is generally high and mothers tend to trust the opinions of other mothers when they recommend a product."

In some cases, the team found that mothers were more often than not proactive in seeking opinions about particular products. Fundamentally, the maternal consumers were willing to buy products that offer their family a clear benefit but were dissatisfied when the purchase turned out to be useless or of low-quality. Their active seeking of word-of-mouth opinions would thus point to a desire to avoid this situation.

"It is not surprising that social media makes a contribution toward the buying behaviour of its users," the report says. This effect is especially strong with online mothers groups and communities. Repeated interactions within the community and the accumulation of trust reinforces the effect as the community matures. The effect is strongest among mothers with the same number of children and offspring of similar ages.

"Recommendations from other mothers are more powerful than any structured promotion and mothers are utilising social media to establish and strengthen relationships," the report concludes. Such organic promotion might arise by offering free product trials to the most well connected or influential women in a given online community.

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