Women gaining notice of Web retailers
August 12, 1998
by Sharon Machlis
(IDG) -- The gender cybergap quietly narrowed this summer when the nation's most popular online service, America Online, Inc., found it has more female members (52%) than males.
That's a staggering change from four years ago, when 16% of AOL members were female, and yet another sign of women's growing presence on the 'net. RelevantKnowledge, Inc. in Atlanta estimates that 46% of current adult World Wide Web users are women.
Aiming to attract female surfers, top 10 portal player Lycos, Inc. has made deals, which will be announced today, with women's content sites Women.com Networks and Village.com in New York. And The Estee Lauder Cos. in New York has announced plans for a major electronic-commerce site for Clinique beauty products this fall.
"I think you're going to see more women's categories going online," said Rob DeSisto, an analyst at Gartner Group, Inc. in Stamford, Conn.
The increase in female Web surfers could be good news for electronic-commerce sites.
"Women buy three times as much in remote [mail or phone order] clothing purchases than men in traditional channels," said Nicole Vanderbilt, an analyst at Jupiter Communications, Inc. in New York. "We believe that category has been waiting for women to come online."
Online players trying to tap in to that market are looking to offer products, news and shopping environments likely to appeal to a female audience.
"The content is as important as the shopping opportunity," said Marian Salzman, an analyst at Young & Rubicam, Inc.'s Brand Futures Group in New York. "Commerce is just an extra for them." Women find online communities attractive -- not only chat rooms and bulletin boards, but areas such as those Amazon.com has developed for users to write reviews about books they read, Salzman said. Male users are also drawn to communities, she said.
Web retailers are also trying to develop features that are likely to appeal to women. For example, The Gap, Inc.'s Web site offers "Virtual Style," where men and women can mix and match outfits. But DeSisto said that's more interesting to women, who care about mixing and matching when shopping in physical stores as well.
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