Not surprisingly, the way men and women shop online mirrors very closely how they shop offline, according to Andrew Robertson, CEO at advertising agency BBDO.
Men tend to be very task-focused when they shop online, Robertson said. “They don’t shop, they hunt,” he said, adding that they tend to make purchases at night.
Women, however, tend to think of shopping as “a journey” and they are more likely to buy during their lunch breaks between noon and 1 p.m., he said.
The result: When it comes time to make a purchase, men shop online for an average of 10 minutes before they complete their purchase, while a woman may take about 14 minutes or so — or about 40 percent longer.
So why can’t a woman shop more like a man? The answer is: she can. But that tends to occur when the pressure is on to make a speedy purchase. For example, on a day like Black Friday or Cyber Monday the gender gap narrows, according to Robertson.
He thinks retailers need to keep these distinctions in mind when they design their online and mobile commerce websites.
When it comes to mobile shopping, Robertson’s research shows men are more likely than woman to buy gifts on their smartphones(17.6 percent and 10.8 percent, respectively).
That suggests mobile sites need to be designed for shoppers who want to make quick, focused searches, because that is a quality that men seek.
Sites that cater to women, on the other hand, want to make sure that they allow shoppers to meander around the site easily and are able to extend or tweak their shopping as they go. This style makes shopping more of an opportunity for discovery. They also seek out suggestions and opinions from their friends about their potential purchase.
Robertson said he thinks this is why daily deal sitessuch as Groupon , Living Social,and Rue La La have been so successful.
“They are opening up a journey,” he said. The invitations to come see a deal on Marc Jacobs sunglasses for example, welcomes you to browse and see what else is there.
It’s interesting to keep Robertson’s comments in mind when you watch a website that has catered to men try to broaden its customer base to women.
A good example is online jewelry retailer Blue Nile . The company is in the midst of upheaval. The company recently reported disappointing earnings and the surprise resignation of its CEO, which led to the stock losing about a third of its value.
Vijay Talwar, who recently took on the CEO post on an interim basis, recently told CNBC.com that Blue Nile is trying to broaden the company’s base to include more women customers.
In the past, the bulk of Blue Nile’s business came from men who were purchasing a diamond engagement ring. To woo customers, the company focused on a few basics: It tried to provide shoppers with an education about how to purchase a diamond, it tried to make it easy to customize an engagement ring, and to allow shoppers to browse engagement rings that had recently been purchased. All these options were designed to make the “search” for the perfect ring quick and easy.
And indeed, if you go to you will even see the words “search for diamonds” very prominently displayed in several places so you can't miss it.
Now, however, the company wants to win more business from women because more women means more repeat business, Talwar said.
“Men are not normally looking for jewelry,” he said. “More women are buying for themselves, they come back to buy for gifts. That means they have higher repeat rates and lifetime customer value.”
To win her business, the company has added more gemstone and silver jewelry, and more products at a wide range of prices.
They've also made tweaks to the website's design. Talwar said the company added a section called “New Trends,”which shares some of the major jewelry trends the company is seeing. Most of the women who come to the site look at that section, Talwar said.
“It is a good way to browse, and then they see the new products,” he said.
The company also has worked with daily deal site LivingSocial on a recent Cyber Monday offer, where shoppers could buy $200 worth of merchandise for $100. According to Talwar, the mix of men and women customers redeeming the offer appears to be split about 50-50, men and women, at the time that we spoke earlier this week.
If this trend continues, Blue Nile may be on its ways to meeting its goals.