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The way to a woman's heart

Women make or influence 85% of all purchases. Courting her at the point of sale takes more savvy than pink and a celebrity endorsement.

Pw 11345 Si Madhousewife

During one recent month, three California vineyards introduced wine product lines targeted to women. The product offerings bear intriguing names such as “White Lie,” “Mad Housewife,” and “Working Girl White.”

These wine companies are delivering the same message: a wine just for women. Interestingly, all three wines use different product approaches. From clever descriptions of white lies on the corks to retro chic on the bottle graphics, each has its own unique appeal.

What's the driver behind these new product offerings? Quite simply, it is demographics. Women either make or influence 85% of all purchasing decisions, according to Marketing to Women’s Fast Facts, and consumer packaged goods companies are finally waking up to that fact. Unfortunately, just taking the man off the box and replacing it with a woman isn't the answer. Nor is it to use pink packaging or other feminine colors.

So what product packaging does appeal to women? What will entice them to pick your product off the shelf? What siren screams “buy me” as she walks down the aisle? The answers are different than you might think.

Women perceive products differently than their male counterparts. They want products that simplify their busy lives (ready-to-use or ready-to-eat) with minimal preparation time and uncomplicated instructions. They have different expectations of products, too. They want the packaging to show them the results and benefits of using a product rather than touting the product with pictures of celebrities and their endorsements.

Women say that product manufactures don't understand their wants and needs, either. In fact, 59% of women feel misunderstood by food marketers. This market segment accounts for 60 to 70% of all product packaging.

So, how do you get this powerful consumer to connect with your packaging? Here are three ideas.

First, see the product though a woman's eyes, rather than from the package designer’s or brand manager’s point of view. In my recent research for RetailPack, I discovered that product attributes such as the shape and color were important to people in the packaging industry but not so important to the average consumer. The mostly highly rated characteristics that both groups agreed upon were convenience, ease of storage, and female-friendly elements such as the size of package and handles for carrying.

My information came from an electronic survey consisting of two basic groups: those who were involved in the packaging industry and those who were not. Each group was asked to answer questions about packaging products for women. Questions such as color, size, shape, ease of use, convenience, storage, and graphics were evaluated.

Second, consider how and where the product will be purchased. External factors can influence the purchasing decision as to how and where a woman shops. Recent studies show that women on average no longer make one big “stock-up” trip to the store. Rather, they make numerous short trips to get the essentials for the moment. Today's shoppers are under tremendous time constraints and are willing to pay a premium for the privilege of more free time.

Third, it is imperative to get noticed. How can you grab their attention? Make packaging simple to operate and easy to read. Gimmicks and hype often don’t work. More than 89% of survey respondents said they would not purchase a product solely because a celebrity endorsed it, and those who did were embarrassed to admit it. Cause-related marketing also scored low on the scale of importance in influencing a purchase decision, as did women’s concern for the environment.

So listen to your female buyers the next time you design a new product. Bond with them on an intrinsic level rather than through gimmicks or the current “in” celebrity. Make your packaging easy to read and use, and sensitive to consumers’ time. By adhering to these fundamentals, you will have gained her attention.

Convenience is high on women’s priority list when making purchase decisions. Keep product information short and to the point. Avoid distracting women shoppers with too many choices or confusing new and improved offerings.

Contact JoAnn Hines at

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