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Analysis & Opinion
03.05.11 Customers Of The Future
By Svetlana Kononova

Russian women’s purchasing power is growing rapidly, experts say. And with market researchers predicting that women will be responsible for the majority of purchases made in Russia over the next few decades, it makes sense for companies to develop marketing strategies that target women now.

Men still make most decisions about whether to purchase expensive items, such as real estate and cars, in Russia today. But women are responsible for spending which accounts for 85 percent of the household budget, and are particularly active spenders when it comes to consumer goods. Women are also increasing their share of the customer base for products traditionally purchased by the man of the house, such as bank products, cars and computers.

The growth of female purchasing power in Russia comes down to several factors. The first is linked to Russia’s skewed demographic makeup. There are ten million more women than men in Russia, and this gap is continuing to grow. “So, the ‘consumer life’ of the average woman is ten years longer than the consumer life of the average man,” said Tatiana Matyushina, deputy director of Market Agency, a Moscow-based market research and management consultancy firm.

“Secondly, women’s incomes are increasing. Women still earn less than men on average in Russia, but their earnings are growing, especially in the big cities. Women are the main earners in 60 percent of Russian households. This includes single women, single mothers and even women supporting traditional families,” Matyushina added. “A lot of women are working in some professional areas such as law, finance and marketing that have really high incomes.”

There is also a psychological factor, as women tend to buy more goods than men. “Nobody has studied shopping mania in Russia because it is a relatively new phenomenon here, but worldwide more than 75 percent of shopaholics who have called psychologists for help are women,” Matyushina said.

According to research conducted by the McCann Erickson advertising agency, there are five main groups of female consumers in Russia. The first group dubbed ‘the rich and beautiful’ are young women aged 18 to 25 with high incomes. They are usually well-educated, but they don’t work. They have a lot of free time and spend money earned by rich parents, spouses or lovers on clothes and accessories. High social status is important to these women and they adore brands. The number of ‘rich and beautiful’ is growing in large Russian cities, the survey found.

The antithesis of ‘the rich and beautiful’ are ‘the cart houses,’ the biggest female consumer group in Russia, which includes married women of any age with children. The poorly educated ‘horses’ work hard both at home and at work, but they have low incomes. They live for their families and usually suffer from a lack of disposable income. Such women buy goods at local markets or in cheap shops and are very receptive to advertising, which lures them in with images of happy families, children, animals, nature and relaxation.

The third group is ‘the modern and busy’ – women aged 25-40. They are well-educated and work for large Russian or international companies or have their own business. These women have incomes ranging from mid-level to high. ‘The modern and busy’ are often single or divorced. They are ambitious and tend to think like men. Marketing experts say this group is very promising from a marketing point of view because such women tend to have enough money, but are skeptical of advertising and think rationally. The last two groups are ‘the intellectuals,’ who have average earnings and value a creative approach to marketing and humor; and young students, who have little money but take their cues from ‘the rich and beautiful’ group.

“Despite the fact that different groups of women have different motivations and spending abilities, they are all an advantageous audience for marketing. Compared to men they tend to buy impulsively. It could also boost the development of shopping centers, because women like this format of shopping: they can visit many boutiques and stores in one day and pick up both planned and unplanned purchases. From 60 to 85 percent of hypermarket and shopping centers’ customers are women,” Matyushina said.

Female purchasing power is also growing elsewhere in the retail market, as women increase their spending on bank services and online. According to data produced by the Profi Online Research Agency, 27 percent of women in Russia have savings accounts, 14 percent use cash advance loans, 15 percent have credit cards, seven percent use car loans and mortgages. A fifth of female respondents say they plan to open savings accounts or order a credit card in the next six months.

Girls aged 20 to 30 are the most active female users of bank services, regardless of their income.

Another survey conducted by Profi Online Research found 83 percent of Russian women have bought goods and services on the Internet. A third of female respondents said that they regularly make purchases on the Internet. The most popular goods and services among female online shoppers include theatre and concert tickets, takeout food such as pizza and sushi, flowers and presents, tours and insurance services.

“Women are a very promising audience for Internet services. They are generally ready to spend money online. The development of new technologies and remote electronic payment services could increase the number of women shopping on the Internet. The most promising sectors are clothes, cosmetics and consumer electronics, takeout food, tickets and paid services on dating websites and social networks,” said Olesya Kuznetsova, PR director at the dating portal Mamba.

Women use paid services at dating websites very actively and are responsible for half of all purchases, Kuznetsova said. While the average female customer currently spends only $5 a month on such services, some of the biggest spenders could spend up to $5000.

A typical woman who uses paid Internet services has a lot in common with ‘the modern and busy’ respondents from the McCann Erickson survey. These women aged 20 to 43 are well-educated, do high-skilled jobs, have medium or high incomes and are often single or divorced.

“Developing marketing strategies that focus on women is beneficial,” Matyushina believes.

“Firstly, investments in brands for women are more profitable than investments in brands for men. Women trust brands more and are often loyal to the same brand for many years. Additionally, women are a perfect source of word-of-mouth advertising. If a woman buys something she usually tells a lot of people about it. So, advertising in new media such as blogs and social networks focusing on women can work very effectively,” she added.

“Women are the customers of the future.”
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