Marketing to the modern men: Cleanliness, customer service, layout influence men’s shopping

Published in Philippine Daily Inquirer, December 8, 2006

Today’s renaissance male shops more than the men in his father’s generation both in quantity and spread, is more visible in grocery and shopping areas and is relatively meticulous about the quality of customer service and experience. Yet, while he is a bit more consumptive and slightly self-indulgent, he is definitely not the narcissistic shop-aholic metrosexual or the old guard jologs who believes that shopping is entirely a female turf. Unlike them, he is both pragmatic and utilitarian or functional in his shopping preference, ways and habits.

Shopping is not second nature to the modern male. Borne out of lifestyle changes i.e. rising number of single households (men are marrying later or prefer singleblessedness and often live alone thus, they have to do shopping by themselves), shared couple responsibilities (dual working parent households divide shopping tasks), increasing number of male single parent households (either separated or wife is working overseas); men today more than ever have to take to shopping for themselves or their families. Because of this new consumer behavior, brands and shopping areas have to seriously look at this segment no longer as a passive market but as an active buyer now and in the years to come.

Renaissance man in shopping areas

A 2005 male shopper study mounted by Lee, Ibrahim and Shan among male Asian shoppers with ages 20 to 35 years old reveal a number of shopping attributes that influences the modern man’s level of shopping enjoyment. These include cleanliness, high-quality customer service, good product knowledge of sales personnel, a friendly design layout, wide and unique tenant mix, pleasant ambience including proper lighting, availability of a spread of eating outlets and sales promotions and discounts.

Cleanliness in shopping areas is extremely important to male shoppers. This is no surprise as male shoppers put a premium on image and dingy malls reflect the opposite. Moreover, male buyers value the quality of customer service and experience. These include good product knowledge by sales attendants, a friendly design layout, unique and wide tenant mix and pleasant ambience. In particular, knowledgeable floor attendants who are both sincere and responsive in the manner they address inquiries increases shopper enjoyment.

Likewise, male shoppers appreciate a buying process that increases their understanding of product instructions without making them feel stupid or lacking intellectually. This leaves them feeling empowered during the buying process.

Yet while more men today are visible in shopping areas, they have to be weaned from their present functional or largely product purchase motive to something that is more experiential where they begin to enjoy mall activities, window shopping, networking or socializing with friends in the mall and/or shopping areas. Lee, Ibrahim and Shan’s male shopper study reveals that sales and promotions directed to male shoppers are likely to increase their shopper experience. For example, malls can run male-oriented themes while co-branding with clubs, gyms, spas, fitness and wellness centers, etc. with predominantly male membership to ensure attendance in mall activities

What men are starting to buy

Research analyst Datamonitor confirms the growth of the male grooming market worldwide. While consumption of more revolutionary and innovative men’s toiletries and cosmetics industries is not dramatic, as anticipated, the industry continues to experience substantial growth from this segment. Men today are fuelling the growth behind hair gels, facial and body wash, moisturizers, deep tissue and sports massage, anti-wrinkle and rejuvenating creams, spa and wellness products and men only vacations or mancations; but, they are not all ready for the more revolutionary nail color or nail art gentleman’s manicure, eyebrow threading, for men only lip colors, etc.

What makes them buy

Marketing to men is very different from marketing to women. Women’s motive for shopping is predominantly experiential. Shopping provides relief from stress and women are naturally pulled into the frenzied events organized by malls. Not so, the men. While men in today’s generation are more consumptive and a bit more self-indulgent than previous generations, they have remained as functional and rational in their purchase habits as their fathers before them. Men, generally dislike long queues and big, noisy crowds. Following are some of the ways marketers can reach more men and increase their level of spending:

  1. Men have a high affinity for brands and image. Because they are predominantly cautious buyers, are not experimental or impulse buyers, they would rather stick to brands and shopping areas endorsed by their families, friends and peers. A 2005 ACNielsen proprietary research on the male market complements this finding. Hence, it is important for marketers whose brands address the needs of the male market to engage in sustained brand building efforts.
  2. Because men are rational buyers, they will always find comfort in products and services that communicate practical and relevant benefits and come with instructional labels. On the other hand, shops that cater to men must invest in knowledgeable sales staff, after sales service and responsive customer service counters.
  3. Men are generally loyal buyers. They have buying inertia and will not seek out shops and other brands if their existing brand or shop is able to satisfy their needs.
  4. Because men are cautious buyers, they rely on friends, family and peers as their primary source of information. Advertising, media and other forms of communication are a means to reinforce the information they have acquired but are necessary to clinch their image of the brand. Thus, promo tie-ins with men-only clubs, gyms, activity centers, etc. is one certain way to reach men. On the other hand, reaching out to women’s clubs, gyms and networking activities can help further draw in the men as women can strengthen the message received by men.
  5. Visibility among influencers in critical to marketing to men. Because male shoppers rely on their family, friends and peer word of mouth endorsements, it is wise to offer promos and discounts among couples, male peers and families.