Know why people are concerned with women's buying habits? Cloutto the tune of trillions of dollars! Case in point, Hyundai used to have a program entitled, "The Power of the Purse," which helped enlighten sales associates on how to work with female customers. So just how much clout?
Jody DeVere, president of AskPatty.com, which is labeled as "a safe place for women to get advice on car purchases, maintenance, and other automotive-related topics," recently posted an article online that included some very revealing facts about the purchasing power of women. Here's what she said:
Women account for 85 percent of all consumer purchases including everything from autos to health care:
91% of new homes
66% personal computers
80% health care
65% new cars
89% bank accounts
93% OTC pharmaceuticals
The report went on to say American women spend approximately $5 trillion annually, which is more than half the U.S. GDP!
Here are some more enlightening facts:
Women represent the majority of the online market.
Women process information and make different purchasing decisions than men:
59% of women feel misunderstood by food marketers.
66% misunderstood by health-care marketers.
74% misunderstood by automotive marketers
84% misunderstood by investment marketers.
91% of women in one survey said advertisers don't understand them at all.
70% of new businesses are started by women.
So, while the topic of women and the aftermarket may seem gratuitous, the fact is, women are the dominant consumers in the U.S.
Now, let's see how the aftermarket has evolved. According to a recent Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) report, American drivers purchased a record $36.72 billion worth of specialty automotive products in 2006up 7 percent over 2005, when sales reached $34.28 billion.
"Today's consumer wants something unique and different," said Jim Spoonhower, vice president of market research for SEMA. "They're buying vehicles that are dependable and reliable, but then they're personalizing those vehicles so that they look distinctive, perform differently, are more comfortable, convenient, safe, or just more fun. What's really exciting is that we're seeing more and more mainstream consumers discovering the benefits of vehicle personalization."
A 2007 survey found that 25 percent of American drivers planned to purchase automotive specialty-equipment industry products in the next 90 days.
Women and Personalization
SEMA realizes the role of women when it comes to the aftermarketand they also realize men do not have a clue. If you ask a man which accessories women want, you'd probably get answers like cup holders, vanity mirrors, and safety enhancements. Stereotypically wrong!
Ask womenmore specifically, motherswhich accessories they're considering and you'll get something a little more interesting. While most women cringe at the soccer-mom stereotype, the reality is many mothers spend a lot of time in their vehicles, so safety, fuel economy, and convenience are the three major concerns when purchasing a vehicle. The following are items women have stated they want in their vehiclewhether it comes from the factory or is installed after the sale:
CD player/changer: Changers are popular because they eliminate the distraction of changing CDs and keep fragile discs and their packaging away from sticky fingers.
Window tinting: Cuts down on glare, keeps the interior up to 60 percent cooler, and blocks UV rays that can parch the interior.
Floor mats: Protect the factory carpeting and don't look so industrial.
Alarm System: If not installed at the factory, this makes logical sense.
Center consoles: If not equipped, they make it easy to organize everything today's families carry, from cell phones and iPods to a beverage cooler.
Fog Lamps: To better illuminate the road and obstacles ahead.
A Growing Number of Female "DIYers"
Women aren't just buying accessories; more and more are doing their own repairs and product installations, making the registers ring at automotive parts stores, dealerships, and jobber shops as never before.
According to a recent survey in our sister publication, Aftermarket Business, which canvassed 424 women, 21 percent of female do-it-yourselfers reported they performed all of the work on their vehicles, and 78 percent of those same DIYers rated themselves as experienced or expert.
As Lisa Chissus, president of Flex-a-lite and chair of SEMA's Motorsports Parts Manufacturers Council (MPMC) puts it, "If I spend two hours cleaning my house, a few days later, guess what? My house needs cleaning again. But if I spend two hours installing a high-performance cooling fan, then every time I step on the gas and feel that extra torque, I know that I did that. I made it happen!"
Lisa is the third generation in a family of performance enthusiasts, and 15 years ago, she was one of only four women in all of SEMA (that's just in 1992). "Guys like to make you think it's voodoo black magic under a hood. It's not. Anyone with basic skills can install a fan. So I'm glad to see more women getting involved. And if they want to work in the aftermarket, that's great, too. Just have a good sense of humor and don't be afraid to ask questions."
At the Race Track, Too
While statistics are not readily available, women in racing have come a long way since the days of Shirley "Cha-Cha" Muldowney (who, by the way, was not the first, second, or even third woman to "beat the boys at their own game" by winning a major NHRA drag racing event, but she was the most successful and, more important, did it at the highest levels of the sport, in drag racing's fastest professional category, Top Fuel).
Today, we can see top female competitors in all areas of the sport from NASCAR to NHRA, SCCA, to Indy Cars, and everything in between. That trend is also seen as more and more women are going beyond the "typical" accessories mentioned earlier to modifying their vehicle to enhance its performance.
Detroit is already focusing on female buyersparticularly in the area of trucks. According to the Power Information Network, an affiliate of J.D. Power and Associates, female buyers account for more than 21 percent of all compact pickup truck purchases, more than 14 percent of all heavy-duty full-size pickup truck purchases, and 18 percent of all light-duty full-size pickup truck purchases.
That fact is not lost on the aftermarket, either. Chux Trux, a Kansas City-based truck accessories retailer with four locations, has also seen the shift and conducts sales training on how to sell to female truck owners. Chris Ripper, general manager, said, "Women are interested in protection and safety items, such as mud flaps, step bars, vent visors, and floormats. The only appearance items they seem interested in are billet grilles."
The training also teaches Chux Trux's sales team how women approach the buying process and how to present products that match their concerns. "For example," he said, "if you're selling or explaining a Westin side bar to a man, you'd say it bolts on easy and looks flashy. All your friends will be jealous. For a woman, you'd focus on its safety and function features. You'd tell her how it secures to the frame and that the flat surface makes it easier and safer to step into the truck."
Women "In the Industry"
Bernice Sanders, who sells advertising for Primedia, is a select committee member on the SEMA Businesswomen's Network, and serves on SEMA's Scholarship Committee, had this to say in an interview posted on AskPatty.com in regard to women who might be interested in an automotive industry career:
"Go for it! Even if you have to start at the bottomset your goals, put 200 percent of yourself into your career path, and learn everything you can about the company you work for. This will make you a very valued employee. I think women, in general, today have more knowledge about what aftermarket products that they want on their vehicles, whether its tires and wheels, car care, performance, or audio components. And because many of the aftermarket manufacturers have women in top management positions or are owned by women, their marketing efforts have definitely changed over the past 25-plus years that I've been in the industry."
Anne Graves, president of Seco Performance Centers in Alabama and Florida, and SEMA Board member, adds, "It's like any jobwhether you're male or femalejust do the best you can." And Anne knows all about doing her job, as she also is the first female president of the Performance Warehouse Association. "I hate that there's a difference, because it really is not a male/female thing; it's making sure you do what it takes to get the job done."
What Does the Future Hold? A New Community
Luanne Brown owns eTool Developers, and is the outgoing chair of the SEMA Businesswomen's Network. She has some very strong feelings about what's around the bendfor women and for the aftermarket.
"I remember Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers, speaking to the Detroit Economic Club in November 1999. He talked about the three 'Cs' of the Internet: content, commerce, and community. Well, the content sprung up right away. And most everyone in the aftermarket has embraced the commerce side. But it has taken eight years to fully embrace the community aspect.
"By that I mean that the smart companies can establish an online community that goes beyond just what their company has to offer. It can be like what Facebook is for college studentsa place where people with like interests meet, virtually, to discuss their favorite vehicle, specific parts, or any other aspect of their lifestyle.
"This will appeal to both men and women, and also helps de-mystify some of the aspects of the aftermarket. I grew up with three brothers and my best friend was a guy. I learned cars by osmosis, by just hanging out. Now, with the community aspect of the Internet, anyone can 'hang out' without leaving their house, and I feel that will have a major impact on the growth of the aftermarket, as well as getting more women involved, in the near future."
When it comes right down to it, Anne Graves summed it all up best when she said, "Women and the aftermarketwhat's the difference? We're consumers, simple as that."