“Working women buy products and services essentially the same as non working women.”
Consumer behaviour can be defined as “the acts of individuals directly involved in obtaining and using economic and services, including the decision process that precede and determine these acts.” (Engel et al, 1968, p 5)
Buyer behaviour refers to “the acts of individuals directly involved in the exchange of money for economic goods and services and the decision process that determined these act. “(Engel et al, 1968, p 5).
Both consumer and buyer behaviour differ amongst the population as people have different wants and needs. Therefore it is untrue to say that working women buy products and services essentially the same as non working women.’ No two people are similar as physiological factors, cultural forces, economic considerations, interpersonal relationships, personality, self-concept, and learning are variables that shape goals and influence. (Runyon, K.E. 1980).
However consumers can be put into groups if they have similar characteristics, i.e. if they come from the same social class, background, age, lifestyle. Working and non-working women can be segmented in two separate groups. They are different because of many influences. Some are external due their social environment. What they do with these social stimuli involves a psychological process that differs from each other. These social influences and internal processes may evolve into a decision by the consumer to make a purchase or not. (refer to table 1). (Engel et al, 1968). As both groups possess different characteristics, it is necessary for marketers to understand that they will have different wants and needs.
Table 1. Factors influencing behaviour
Personal Psychological Cultural Social
 Age & Lifestyle Motivation Culture Reference groups
 Occupation Perception Subculture Family
 Economic Learning Social class Roles & status
 Personality Beliefs
 Self concept Attitudes
Engel et al, (1968) suggest that culture refers to the unique patterns of behaviour and social relations that characterises and distinguishes it from other societies. Culture is not inherited genetically, it is rather the result of learning. Parents, teachers and schools help indoctrinate each generation into a cultural decision. All cultures will develop from interactions between people in efforts to adjust to one another and their environments. In each society, the culture of that society has a functional purpose. It provides values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours that facilitate human interaction. The culture of a working woman will be very different from that of a non working female.
Spiro, R.L studies show that Strodtbect, I. L. found cultural differences with respect to the roles of females were related to differences in decision making. This is because both groups will have different beliefs and attitudes due to the way they have been nurtured.
In a materialist society economic well-being much determines what social class you are in. If this was the case, than working women would be in a much higher class than non working. However focusing primarily on income fails to recognise the differences in spending of disposal income characteristics of social classes. For example a teacher who earns the same as a truck driver will spend their money in distinctly different ways, the service and goods will not be the same. (Runyon, K.E 1980). Working women may spend their money on socialising i.e. with friends etc. whereas a non working woman may have children and therefore spend much money on the family
Social class differences are variations in life-styles, in values, interpersonal attitudes and self perception. These differences influence consumer behaviour, shopping patterns, and effective communications.
Therefore marketing practitioners should understand that social class should be considered as a variable when may be helpful in developing strategies of product differentiation and market segmentation, however this does depend on the type of product itself the patterns of usage and competitive climate in which the product exists in.
The working woman will more likely be earning a salary/wage than the non working which then puts them into different social group. Because of the money being earned this again changes the lifestyles, behaviour and attitudes of the non working female.
The significance of reference group to buying behaviour varies depending upon the product or service, i.e. whether it is a necessity or luxury. Reference groups can be segmented into different categories, primary references will include immediate families, close friends and work co-workers. This group is particularly important when are purchases are made that will affect other members of the family such as holidays are booked. Secondary reference groups are those who we have formal contact with such as religious organisations, trade unions. (Runyon, K.E, 1980)
Women change as consumers, as they have move through different stages of the lifecycle. The way they buy, and use products, read, watch and listen to media is affected by whom they live with, i.e. if there is a partner, children or single. Harvard Business Review (1978)
Familiy background will also affect buying decision. This includes political views and how education is valued. It can be assumed that a working woman may be more educated than a non working women who may not find education as being a key priority.
Adcock, D et al, (1993) suggest that status within these groups are not necessarily automatic, therefore purchase which imply status within this group are likely to be affected by the expected attitude to the product itself.
Roles and status – Working women tend to play a greater role in family decision making than non working. Studies by Wolfe, D.M. (1959) claim that the working woman gains power in several ways. Firstly she has resources such as financial. Intellectual, skill which cannot be developed at home, and secondly she becomes less dependent on her partner (if not single) for the satisfaction of her social and prestige needs.
The buying decision often depends on the consumers demographic profile. Any of the below variables can be relevant to an individuals buying decision.
Lifestyle & age – A working woman will lead a different lifestyle to a non working woman. Working women will tend to spend money on lunch snacks from shops and eat out in restaurants more than unemployed as working women avoid cooking and this is one reason for eating out.
Mintel report (Women 2000 Women and Shopping: The Role Of Convenience.’ (11/01/99) claims that 47% of working women will spend their Friday evening at the public house whereas only 19% of non working women will. (Refer to appendix 1).
11% of women with full time jobs say they visit or order from pizza or pasta restaurant at least once in 2 weeks where as only 4% of non working women do. (see appendix 2)
Mintel studies of Women 2000 claim that working women are considerably more likely than those without jobs to be interested in film, book and music review. (WWW.sinatra.com)
Bartos, R. (1979) studies show that working wives spend fewer hours per week carrying out house chores, thus many find it necessary to purchase time saving goods and services in order to successfully combine dual productive roles.
Working women will more likely possess a driving license and one/two cars whereas the non working female is apt to have shared in the car purchase decision.
Economic – Many products will be dependent on perceived discretionary income, i.e. theatre tickets, books, restaurants. (Adcock, D et al, 1993).
2Schaninger, C.M., and Allen, C.T.(1981) investigated the influence of wives occupational status on family consumption patterns. Even after taking into account families of both high/low occupational status, working wives were more likely to own major durables than families of non working wives.
3Vickery. C. (1979) used a Consumer Expenditure Survey data from 1972 to examine the expenditure patterns of married couples, with the husband being between 24-64 with an income between $2,000 and $34,999. The survey was classified in three groups, full time women, women not employed and part-timers (not relevant to this question). Controlling the effects of income and other factors, i.e. family demographic and characteristics, families with full time wives spent significantly more money on personal care, domestic services such as dry cleaning than non-working women. (Bellante, D., and Foster, A.C. 1984)
Bartos, R. (1979) research revealed that working women are more likely have saving accounts, regular checking accounts and credit cards.
Personality / Self concept – Women are becoming more introspective and are less identified with stereotypes. Evidence suggests that the working woman executes more considerable independence in decision making for major purchases than a non worker – (housewife). Sellers of products such as furniture, household appliances should recognise this trend, as it will influence their selling techniques.
Mintel’s research on Women and Finance’ (27/10/99) suggest that the past few decades has seen dramatic changes occur in the roles than women play in society. There are more women in employment (51% in 1998 44% in 1985). This is due to more women continuing in further education, leading to a growing number in higher paid jobs, achieving more personal disposal income (PDI)
With a 24 hour society a move towards greater flexibility is required in the workforce. New work patterns favour women with family commitments with approximately 50% of employed women having flexible working arrangements. With more women in labour forces, the quality of the labour force increases. This reduces the risks of shortages of labour and increases demand for goods and services that will assist to make the working woman’s life easier i.e. convenience
foods, meals out, more weekend breaks. This pattern of life varies significantly from the non working woman who has different demands. (WWW.mintel.com)
Consumer behaviour can be described as a decision process. The non-working women will have limited resources where they will not be able to buy everything they want, the working woman will have more of an opportunity due to more finance. Both groups will have to make decisions as to which goods and services they will purchase. Even after the product or service has been purchased, other decisions will remain. This is known as the decision process, which can be broken into 5 steps.
Table 2. Decision Process
1. Recognition of a problem requiring a decision
2. Search for alternative ways of satisfying the problem requirment
3. An evaluation of possible alternative solutions
4. The decision itself
5. Evaluation of the purchase decision made.
The consumer does not consciously go through each step to make a buying decision. However these decisions are not made randomly, they are done for a purpose as mentioned earlier in the report. Much of this again is influenced by factors such as income, status, social class, family background and reference groups.
Purchasing Goods and Services;
Due to these factors, marketers must be aware that purchasing items will differ between the working and non working women and how they make decisions about purchasing will largely determine the factors such as culture, family, lifestyle etc as explained in table 1. Evidence that indicates how women buy products and services are discussed below.
Mintel’s (Women 2000, women and shopping: the role of convenience (11/01/99) report suggested that time is valuable to both working and non working women. 24% of women with full time jobs enjoy shopping (this is shopping other than grocery) and occasionally go to look compared to 18% of non working women. (Refer to appendix 3). These finding confirm that shopping is more of a leisure experience for working women.
3McHall, H.S carried out a research on food shopping by targeting 1029 women via questionnaires consisting of 129 questions in an area of cluster random base from the 1970 Census. The objective of her study was to find whether working and non working women shop the same. From her studies conducted, research indicated that working women (53%) shop no more than once a week, and she prefers to shop in the afternoon and evening accounting for 77% as opposed to 48% non working women who shopped more frequently. Bartos, R (1977)
Mintel’s report on Women 2000,’ (11/01/99) indicated that working women are more likely to purchase grocery in more than one shop-(50%) compare to unemployed women-(34%). (Refer to appendix 4).
Those working interestingly enough are less likely to have bought frozen ready meals. However chilled foods are bought more frequently, this could be due to frozen foods being cheaper and perhaps within a non working woman’s budget. However working women more likely to buy frozen desserts than non working, not surprising as they are less enthusiastic to cook and in terms of purchasing behaviour, working mothers will buy frozen desserts if they are on special offer.
Working women prefer to shop in department stores than a specialist store, suggesting that convenience of one stop shopping is of prime importance. This may be due to working women having 40 hours less time than non workers to perform shopping functions. Therefore she is dependent upon marketing efforts to provide the appropriate products and services. Convenience of shopping is an important aspect, the function of price is less significant.
Non-working mothers with children are more likely to buy children’s clothes from by mail order than working mothers. The former may be that children accept parents choice more and a significant percentage of the group are on limited incomes, which may reflect the easy availability of credit that some catalogues offer. Product which are mostly bought are games, toys and baby equipment. (www.mintel.com).
Laura Ashley targets working women with direct mail catalogue. It mailed 500,000 copies of its autumn/winter catalogues to its target group of 18-50yr olds with an income of over 7,000. Even though Mintel reports show that non working mothers buy more often via mail order, this particular group would not fit in with their target group as Laura Ashley produce clothes that are not in the budget range of the non working woman. European Business ASAP (Sept,19,1991 p5)
Newspapers and Magazines
Women working are more likely than non working women to buy glossy monthly magazines although both groups are equally likely to buy weeklies. One explanation for this could be that glossy magazines are more expensive than weekly therefore non working women may decide to spend this money on necessities and perhaps by it occasionally as a luxury treat for themselves.
Types of Buyers
Working women more likely to be persuaded by special promotions and offers They are most likely to plan ahead, be cautious and brand loyal. However studies show that they are impulse buyers but then this depends on the product or service being purchased. One suggestion could be that they have less time to browse and make considered decisions.
The non working female however describes herself as not being an impulse buyer, being more economically minded. Harvard Business Review
To explain rational brand choice behaviour within the limits of individuals capacities, the 4Howard Sheth model can be applied. It is one of the contemporary models of consumer behaviour as it attempts to deal with both overt and internal behaviour that cannot be observed directly. To overcome this problem, Howard and Sheth undertake four sets of variables. The first is input variables – These are stimuli from the buyers behaviour ie. the working or non working woman. They include product variables such a quality, price, distinctiveness, availability and service. From Mintel’s report Women and Shopping (11/01.99), it was revealed that non working women are more likely to buy non branded products because they are cheaper whereas working women will by a product that is more expensive because they perceive it as being of quality. (www.sinatra.com)
The second variable is outputs that are attention, comprehension, attitudes and purchase behaviour. Again working and non working women differ due to their internal influences.
The third variable is the hypothetical construct which consist of perceptual constructs that involve information processing and learning constructs that lead to concept formation. Finally the last variable is the exogenous variables which includes importance of purchase, social class, culture and personality perceptions. Again the two groups vary significantly as discussed earlier in the report.
The study of this model is important in attempting to identify the major variables influencing consumer behaviour. It shows that the consumer (in this case the working and non working women) actively seeking information from the environment using past experience and forming generalizations as a guide to decision making.
However one major limitation to this model is that it is of little value to market practitioners. Runyon, K.E. (1980)
Marketing is becoming more competitive and to gain a strong position in the market place it is important that marketers assess the following points carefully.
 Target market selection
 Product and services
 Pricing decisions
 Promotion decisions.
 Distribution process
Target market segmentation
Marketers should look at working women and non working women as two separate segments. This is because they shop differently, favour different brands, use media differently, have different motives and lifestyles. Harvard Business Review (1978)
Product and services
From the research carried out, evidence shows that working women will not purchase products and services essentially the same. Many internal and external factors will determine their purchase decision making.
Non working women will be cautious about the value of products and services, whereas the higher salary /wage earned by the working woman will vary in the cost of what they will pay for a service or product. The working woman may be brand loyal, however the non working woman will usually buy a less expensive product. (WWW.mintel.com).
Mintel report (Women 2000, 11/01/99) concludes that advertisers and marketers need to target working women differently from non-working women. This is because non working women watch more television than working women who scarcely view it morning or evening. Also working and non working women perceive different perceptions and messages from advertising. For example a study was conducted to examine how employed and non-employed wives respond to different elements of automobile advertising messages. Data was gathered by interviewing 727 women via telephone. Results revealed that employment status significantly affects perceptions of advertising message appeals. More so, retired wives respond differently from other home-makers even though they are also non-employed. It also found that employed wives views value for money, interest rate of loan and monthly payment more important than non-working women. However the latter considered length of warranty and special rebate offer to be of greater importance than employed women. European Business ASAP (Jan,1997 v37 p54)
Working women are the heaviest listeners to Radio and magazines tend to be more important in their lifestyles. Harvard Business Review (1978).
Working women are least likely to enjoy any grocery shopping however they do shop in more than one grocery shop. It can be recommended that a secondary shopping outlet be situated near workplaces. Home deliveries could be successful as this would make them a prime target for home shopping services.
Therefore marketers will need to position their products differently in the market so they can target both groups of women who have different wants and needs.
Wolfe, D.M. Power and Authority In the Family.’ In Dorwin Catwright, ed., Studies in Social Power (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1959), P.109
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Adcock, D., Bradfield, R., Halborg, A., Ross, R., Marketing Principles and Practice.’ Pub-Pitman Publishing (1993).
“What Every Marketer Should Know About Women.” Harvard Business Review 56, 3 (1978): 73-85
European Business ASAP (Jan,1997 v37 p54)
European Business ASAP, (September,19,1991 p5)
Spiro, R.L “Persuasion in Family Decision Making.” Journal of Consumer Research 9, 4 (1983): 393 – 402
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WWW.Mintel.com – Women 2000, Women and Shopping: The Role Of Convenience.’ (11/01/99)
WWW.Mintel.com – Women and Finance (27/10/99)
WWW.Emerald.com. Bartos, R. “The Moving target: The impact of Women’s Employment on Consumer Behaviour.” Journal of Marketing 41, 3 (1977): 31-37.