Targeting Women in the She-conomy

Women are earning more money, spending more and influencing the majority of purchases — both big and small — now more than ever. It’s projected that over the next decade, women will control two-thirds of the consumer wealth in the U.S. This demographic represents a massive marketing opportunity, but reaching women isn’t easy. Financial institutions must change the conversation to reach this valuable and widely underserved powerhouse.

As women amass more of the global wealth in coming years, they will increasingly become a viable marketing niche for financial institutions, according to a white paper published by Harland Clarke. In “Navigating the She-conomy: How to Market to Women,” they say that as the fiscal landscape continues to evolve, tapping into the potential women represent will become a critical component in the marketing strategies developed at retail financial institutions.

Harland Clarke encourages financial marketers to “tilt the conversation towards topics of how to grow, manage and maintain that wealth.”

Women are bombarded with a myriad of marketing messages and retail opportunities every day, which makes it a tough space to compete in. But Harland Clarke says many financial institutions — even some of the largest — fall short when marketing to them. Only 28% of women say Visa does a good job marketing to them, while only 15% say AmEx is effective. The percentages are even lower for investment services, insurance and banking.

So what can be done to change the dynamic, to keep the dialogue relevant? Harland Clarke offers the following tips.

Acknowledge the Gender Difference

Harland Clarke says financial marketers shouldn’t be afraid to openly acknowledge the different spending and lending behaviors of women. While men and women fare about the same in terms of consumer debt, they’re getting there in different ways. This is especially evident for small business owners — where women tend to use credit cards for borrowing, while men use trade credit.

Research also indicates women are more likely to carry balances on their credit cards and pay only the minimum payment, whereas men are more likely to pay their balance in full.

Inform and Educate

Recognizing that women are more likely than men to seek financial information, banks and credit unions need to keep all lines of communication open to women. Harland Clarke says this is particularly important because women are increasingly consuming and engaging with content across a wide variety of mediums.

“Understand how women gather information and ensure that the content offered is relevant and readily available,” says Harland Clarke.

When credit troubles arise, women are more likely to reach out for financial help, whereas men try to resolve it privately. Financial institutions that take the time to educate women about credit usage and investments, and work with them when they face hardships, stand a good chance of gaining their loyalty.

Understand Motivations

Women are better educated, better paid and more adept at making major purchasing decisions than ever before. They’re budget- and bargain-minded, pay attention to brands and tend to seek out a balanced and meaningful understanding of products and services.

Harland Clarke suggests financial marketers consider the many different hats women wear today: students, mothers, business owners and breadwinners. Figuring out how to talk to women in marketing is about figuring out what role they are embracing. For effective targeting, financial services marketers must be careful to match the persona with the product.

Socializing Your Strategy

Research suggests that one in every two women will use online social networks to research and exchange information about products. In fact, 93% of women have admitted buying something because the read a blogger recommendation. Another 88% said they purchased something because a brand shared coupons, deals, tips or ideas via social media. Savvy financial services marketers will understand how these mediums facilitate purchasing decisions and offer the information needed to effectively evaluate their products and services.

“As women make more big-ticket purchases on their own — like education, homes and cars — they are going to increasingly rely on help from lenders,” says Harland Clarke. “But before they entrust their money to financial institutions, financial institutions must invest in them.”


This example from Capital One illustrates how marketing can be used to target women. Themes of confidence, friendship and shared experiences are conveyed through a combination of imagery, copy and offer.

What Can Marketing Do?

Women are more likely to favor a bank with branch locations close to their home or office.
— Mintel Oxygen

According to Mintel Comperemedia, financial institutions utilize a few key themes when targeting female consumers, often dependent on what product is being offered.

Mintel Comperemedia collects bank and credit union marketing materials from thousands of consumers. As they assembled their competitive intelligence, they began to recognize some trends:

  • Banking promotions often offer women free gifts, or incentives for branch visits.
  • Financial campaigns emphasize the redemption of rewards associated with checking and debit card usage, often in the context of shopping or gift giving.
  • Savings products focus on planning for the future, and responsible financial planning for families.
  • Mortgage and loan offers — particularly for line-of-credit products — position women as the primary decision-makers about home improvements.

Mintel Comperemedia also offers the following insights and advice to financial marketers targeting women:

  • Target women with mobile and online banking offers that highlight the ability to check statements on smartphones, keep track of spending habits, and maintain a sense of financial security.
  • Financial institutions should leverage women’s tendency to use in-branch ATMs and preference for branches near their home and place of work by promoting in-branch services and perks.
  • Knowing that women favor debit cards as the preferred method of payment when making medium-priced ticket items, market debit cards for these types of purchases.
  • Financial institutions could leverage women’s affinity for shopping by focusing on spending rewards and redemption in checking, debit card, and credit card campaigns.

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