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The Well-Connected Woman

By: Today's Chicago Woman

May 2011 Issue

Your day begins when your iPhone alarm wakes you up at 6AM. You grab your iPod Nano and head to the gym for a quick workout. After showering, you jump in the car and attentively listen as your GPS guides you to your 9AM client meeting. By 10AM, you're enjoying a second cup of coffee and checking endless streams of emails and texts, secretly wondering how you're going to juggle all of the demands of your day.

It's the description of the All-American morning for countless women, and illustrates how we've all become attached to high tech gadgets. From iPods and iPads to digital readers and tablets, these amazing technological creations now hold a precious spot in our everyday lives, and quickly have evolved from luxuries to necessities.

"Women are pros when it comes to multi-tasking, and devices such as the iPad and smart phones enable them to do so many things in so many places," says Jane Buckingham, president and founder of Trendera, a strategic branding, research and marketing firm. "Women are driving a huge number of sales and purchases in the technology sector, and because of this, they've become the motivation for companies to create the products. When women see an ad for the iPad or Android, they immediately wonder if the product would suit their life, whether they're a stay-at-home mom or an executive."

But while studies have shown that women now make the majority of purchasing decisions within the average American household, they've often been overlooked or, more often, simply misunderstood by many technology-based companies. Even when these companies have made a conscious effort to woo female consumers, some have famously fallen flat. Take, for example, Dell's short-lived "Della" website, which was created to market net books to women but instead caused an Internet backlash.

"I wouldn't say that women have necessarily been ignored in this particular marketplace," says CEO and founder Marti Barletta. "I would say history has shown us that women simply have not been the early adaptors of technology. The man's love affair for this particular product category has been long documented. Men want to make sure their friends see them with their new camera with the one billion megapixels. For guys, it's about who has more."

In comparison, Ms. Barletta says, women tend to wait not only for the price to drop on these high-tech gadgets, but to also wait until they're sure the technology will work correctly and, therefore, find a place in their everyday lives.

Are technology developers and retailers paying enough attention to women?

"Women don't go into these stores unless they're ready to buy," says Ms. Barletta. "These stores are not a playground for them. Women are pressed for time, and they won't listen to a salesperson going on and on. They want these kinds of details translated, such as, if I have 42 windows open at a time, is my computer going to crash?"

And despite popular opinion, it's just not the young female executives making the purchases in the high-tech gadget field.

"The market has been extremely influenced by the female boomer market, who are currently in their highest paid phase of their lives," explains Ms. Barletta.

"As their income continues to grow, so does their need for these gadgets."

Retailers selling these high tech gadgets have taken notice of their female customer, often making changes in their own stores to better suit her unique shopping habits. Abt Electronics in Glenview, for example, is known for the many changes they've made in response to the needs of their female customer, from more comfortable chairs to less harsh in-store lighting.

"Women have expendable income and increased buying power, which makes for an ideal customer," explains Jennifer Arocena, Abt Electronics eCommerce Marketing Coordinator. "We focus on sharing with our female customers the benefits and features of these products."

And once the credit card has been swiped and the female consumer walks out with her purchase, the relationship continues and often thrives in the world of social media.

"Social media isn't necessarily a revenue-driving avenue for us, but it's a crucial component of our overall customer service efforts," says Ms. Arocena. "There is a definite loyalty and emotional tie when a customer receives a response via social media based on a concern or a question they might have. It tells them, Abt is listening to me."

"Women tend to be more loyal to companies, and if they find a device that works in their life, they tend to stick with it," adds Ms. Buckingham. "But if that device fails them, they'll walk away."

Let that be a lesson to technology companies keen on winning the female consumer: great service and amenities are nice, but it's the products that truly make our lives easier - not more complicated - that will keep us coming back for more.

© Copyright 2011 Today's Chicago Woman