Women make up one of the largest car buyer demographics in the U.S., but many dealers are still relying on outdated practices or old-school perspectives that deter female shoppers, both online and in the showroom. On this episode of Inside Automotive, host Jim Fitzpatrick is joined by Lena Bourgeois, the general manager of automotive services for Equifax, to discuss common misconceptions about women in the automotive industry and what retailers can do to abandon these stereotypes.
A primary reason dealers struggle to serve female car buyers is that they underestimate the financial and decision-making power they possess. Bourgeois notes that when she first examined gender differences in shopping behaviors, she was surprised to learn that women often have more influence on vehicle purchases than men. “The numbers were staggering,” she states. Here are some of her most important discoveries:
- 94% of women own or share all financial decisions in a household
- 80% of all car-buying decisions are made by women.
- 62% of cars are bought by women
- Women spend over 30% more on cars than men
These statistics demonstrate the immense role women play in the car-buying process while underscoring how much businesses can lose by focusing solely on their male customers. While the auto market may be behind others in realizing the necessity of providing a female-friendly experience, the lack of accommodation also presents a “huge opportunity for the industry,” according to Bourgeois. By adapting to female shoppers, dealers stand to drastically improve their quality of service, boost revenues and grow their brand awareness.
Bourgeois explains that women car buyers prioritize different things than men when making their purchase decisions. “[What] a woman is looking for,” she remarks, “is really reliability, security, affordability…” She urges dealers to consider the pain points female shoppers face so that they can teach their staff to suggest products or services meeting their specific needs. Retailers can also benefit by recommending certain payment options. “[Women] are more likely to take on those extended warranties that I know the dealerships profit more from than the car itself,” Bourgeois comments.
Another key difference between men and women is their way of approaching the sales process. While male shoppers often enter the dealership with an idea of what they want to buy, female buyers are more open to hearing alternative options. “74% of women don’t know what car they want going into the shopping journey; that’s a huge opportunity for the industry to really influence women,” Bourgeois notes. Dealers and their teams should thus be prepared to showcase multiple options when they serve female customers.
The automotive industry has made substantial progress on gender discrimination, but much more progress needs to be made. Many dealers rely on word of mouth to boost brand recognition, and, as Bourgeois notes, women often have wider networks than men. However, “only 21% of the entire auto industry’s [workforce] are females,” she adds. This means that businesses looking to reach more customers should first prioritize the women who work or shop in their stores. Bourgeois recommends that dealers start by using surveys and feedback from female customers to identify problem areas. This will allow them to develop new strategies while learning more about their local demographics.