Do Men and Women Really Shop Differently?

men and women shopping styles

Do men and women shop differently? It’s long been conventional wisdom — which seems borne out by every experience my friends and I have shopping with the men in our lives — that they  do. Women enjoy shopping while men hate it, the convention says. Men care about speed, while women care about price. And men are big online shoppers, while women still like to go to brick-and-mortar stores.

Well, if you believe this view of Mars and Venus at the shopping mall, you need to check out The Myth of the Mansumer, a new study by The Future of Commerce that debunks some long-held myths. Yes, there are some differences, but not necessarily the ones you think. And getting the truth about male vs. female attitudes toward shopping can help your small retail shop compete.

Overall, the study found, the rise of online shopping has blurred gender lines in how men and women shop. The survey of more than 1,700 consumers says:

Online Shopping is Getting Better

More than one-third (34 percent) of both men and women report that online retailers’ customer service has improved in the past three years. Over 50 percent say they now shop online more often than they did even 12 months ago. And 49 percent say they buy from large online retailers more often than a year ago. If you sell books, movies or electronics, you’re in trouble. Because consumers of both sexes far prefer to buy those particular products online. But then, you probably already knew that.

New developments in online retail that are driving more customers online include next-day delivery, the growing number of e-commerce sites offering free shipping, and the influx of online subscription services like Birchbox that put some of the thrill of discovery into the online experience. In other words, online retailers are stiffer competition today than they’ve ever been. So brick-and-mortar retailers need to be on their toes.

What Men and Women Hate about Stores

In contrast to online shopping, just 13.2 percent of men and women say customer service in physical stores has gotten better in the last three years. Both men and women still shop in physical stores, of course, but they also share the same gripes about the experience:

  • 39 percent of both men and women say long lines at checkout are their biggest complaint about shopping in stores.
  • 21 percent say unhelpful salespeople are the worst.
  • No wonder 55 percent of both men and women would rather do self-checkout.
  • 52 percent of men and women say they’re more likely to shop at stores where employees have tablets or mobile devices to speed checkout and look up information.

In other words, while men are perceived as wanting to get in and out of stores quickly, women are in just as big a rush as men are. And the value any service that speeds the process.

What Men and Women Hate about Online Shopping

Of course, there are still some negatives about online shopping, too. Both men and women are annoyed by these problems:

  • Slow delivery (22 percent)
  • Security worries (20 percent)
  • Retail websites that load slowly or are hard to navigate (16.7 percent)

If your store hopes to compete, again, you can see that speed and ease of shopping are of the essence.

Small Differences

There are a few differences in how men and women shop. Women are more likely than men to care about being able to buy products online and return them in-store. The study shows 66.7 percent of women vs. 50.5 percent of men care about this. If you do offer online sales, make sure your salespeople know how to handle in-store returns without slowing customers down.

Women are more influenced by social media in making purchasing decisions. That’s 20.3 percent of women vs. 10.5 percent of men, the study says. However, that doesn’t mean men are rugged individuals. For example, 82 percent of both genders say they use online ratings and reviews to make product decisions.

In fact, while men are generally perceived as buying the first thing they see just to get out of the store, the study says men are actually more likely to do detailed research before they buy something. Some 32.1 percent of men spend 30 minutes or more on research, vs. 26.4 percent of women.


What can you take away from this study? It might seem obvious, but no matter what your own experience, don’t stereotype people based on what you’ve seen or assume. Whether male or female, retail shoppers care about the basics: finding what they need, getting a good quality product, getting knowledgeable assistance and using time efficiently. Offer that, and your store will win over both Mars and Venus.

Shopping Photo via Shutterstock


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

4 Reactions
  1. I’m a big fan of self-checkout in stores because I usually have far fewer items than the average customer, I pay with a credit card (being behind someone writing a check is incredibly frustrating), and I can scan things just as quickly as a checker can.