How the U.S. auto industry, dealers must market to women shoppers

women car buyers


Who better to give advice to the auto industry about marketing and selling their products to women than, well, a woman?

Jenny Darroch, marketing strategy expert at the Peter F. Drucker School of Management and writer for the Huffington Post, believes there’s plenty of room for the auto industry to improve.

“Women represent a huge opportunity for the auto industry,” Darroch wrote recently on the Post business blog. “In the U.S. alone, 500,000 women are ‘in the market’ to buy a car within a one to three month window.” And while up to 85 percent of car purchases are heavily influenced by women, a significant majority (74 percent) “feel misunderstood by auto manufacturers.”

And it’s not just the manufacturers who stand to benefit from improvement, but dealers as well.

“Women are becoming the most powerful and largest segment of car buyers, presenting a plethora of opportunities for dealerships and salespersons to capture more sales,” reported Auto Remarketing online, citing the “2014 U.S. Women’s Car Buying Report” by

women shoppersOpportunity No. 1, according to Darroch, is attracting a larger share of a woman shopper’s wallet.

“Car manufacturers need to ask, ‘What can we do to encourage women to place a higher value on owning a car?’ To enhance value, car manufacturers should focus less on performance and user imagery and more on brand judgments [such as] quality and safety, brand credibility and superiority, her feelings toward the brand and her overall relationship with the brand.”

Opportunity No. 2 is in reducing a female shopper’s “post purchase dissonance.”

“Fifty percent of women are dissatisfied with the car they buy,” wrote Darroch. “Part of the reason for this high level of dissatisfaction is that women dislike the sales experience.”

“Provide a female-friendly environment,” Darroch urges, “and address issues that are important to her – price, financing, technology, and the look and feel of the car itself. When interacting with women who visit the dealership, remember she is informed, educated and astute, so treat her as such.”

Opportunity No. 3 is to improve the vehicle service experience at the dealership.

“Dealers need to start paying close attention to how women are treated when they bring their car in for service,” wrote Darroch, noting that dealers must “become trustworthy partners post-purchase – providing service alerts, service scheduling and other notifications.”

“But person-to-person interaction is still important,” the expert writes. “Whether I have a man or woman assist me is irrelevant. I want to trust the advice I’m given, be treated as an intelligent human being, be made to feel like a valued customer, and feel good about spending a ton of money on a car, and then constant amounts of money and time on having the car serviced.”

Opportunity No. 4, according to Darroch, is not treating all women the same.

Citing research that suggests “women want small, safe, maneuverable, fuel-efficient cars,” she wonders, “Do all women want small, safe, maneuverable, fuel-efficient cars?”

“When marketing to women, don’t assume all women have the same needs. Look for differences between women and develop products and marketing approaches to suit a greater variety of needs.”

Obviously, such a suggestion would apply through the dealership sales process as well.

“With the auto industry, I think there is tremendous opportunity to think differently about marketing in order to better embrace women as influencers, buyers and users of cars,” said Darroch in an email.

For more on marketing to women shoppers, see our recent post on the Inside Lane blog, “Respect now top factor for women when shopping for a vehicle.” And for more on Darroch’s expert advice on marketing cars to women, see her article on the Huffington Post.

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