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Industry Nov 8, 2011 3 min read

How men shop

It doesn’t take a genius to identify that the shopping habits of the female of the species differ from the male. We’re socialised with different attitudes towards consu...

It doesn’t take a genius to identify that the shopping habits of the female of the species differ from the male. We’re socialised with different attitudes towards consumerism which clever retailers have tapped into. That covers everything, store layouts to product merchandising, signage to the approach of sales staff, all have been considered in the gendering of retail space. Naturally, online retailers that excel at this have started to emerge.

Psychologists analysing the nature of consumerism relate shopping behaviour to the gender differences throughout life; females take an interpersonal approach, whilst men are instrumental. Hunter vs Gatherer if you will. Scientific research has shown that women have better peripheral vision, which benefits them as gatherers. ZMags identify two types of buyer; firstly, the classic buyer who only opts for things he or she needs, is rational and compares prices. The second, is the romantic buyer who shops with their heart, on impulse (40% purchases are impulse buys) and cares less about durability and more about emotional satisfaction. It’s easy to make assumptions about which type of buyer describes most men!

American Express released statistics earlier this year that revealed women’s spending on luxury goods has increased 28%, though the real interest lies in the 42% growth in the male market. Add to this the knowledge that of the 40% of consumers who shop online, men on average make an online purchase every 2.5 weeks, combined to their female counterpart’s monthly buy.

Enter Mr Porter.

Mr Porter’s site (whose blog ranked in our Top 10 retail blogs) has been purposely curated to have a different feel to that of their sister site, Net-a-Porter. Editor-in-Chief, Jeremy Langmead identifies the difference, ‘Men, on the whole, are initially more cautious buyers, and will ask more questions’ and goes on to suggest that the key to male spending is loyalty. Mr Porter’s content has a broadsheet layout, whilst Net-a-Porter has a distinctly magazine-feel. Whilst Net-a-Porter’s editorial focuses on models and aspirational characters, Mr Porter profile real-life people. Langmead is also aware that the male customer benefits from fewer choices, and like their facts and stats (each product is accompanied with historical ‘Style Facts’). Imagery is often in black and white, keeping the look sleek and where videos are embedded, they are kept brief. The site’s lexicon is considered too. You won’t see the word ‘fashion’ featuring much – ‘stylish’ is used instead. And word seems to be travelling, their fanbase is up by over 12,000 followers in the last month.

Other sites taking their gender seriously include Bonobos, whose co-founder Andy Dunn aims for loyalty through excellent service. The site’s help team, named ‘ninjas’, are available by phone, email and video chat and are equipped to assess fit and give style advice. To enhance the gents’ shopping experience, Bonobos have personalised homepages in the planning, based on what the customer likes, their size and body type.

Nate Richardson, of Gilt Groupe‘s male site, has done his research too; concuring with Mr Porter in that too much choice is not always a positive. He is aware too that his customers are more tech-orientated than the visitors to the female site, with 50% male customers accessing on their smart phones. He in turn aims to provide them with a service they can access discreetly and with minimal fuss. He also stays away from female-magazine terminology, stating, ‘We have been trying to avoid being trend orientated and instead become more style orientated.’

Trunk Club are trying something different, their mission statement being ‘The traditional shopping process, whether in stores or online, doesn’t work for men.’ Their service centres around style advisors who meet the customer via video-chat, assess the customers’ needs and then send a ‘trunk’ of items selected specifically. The customer picks what they want from it, returning anything they don’t like. The advisor is on-screen when the trunk arrives to discuss fit, no doubt averting their eyes when any undressing occurs…

Whilst males may be more cautious and considered purchasers, online could actually be better suited to their shopping habits. Retailers need to remember when extending their male offering that by-and-large, men prefer to shop at men-only stores. This is certainly not an arena where one size fits all.