Mars vs. Venus

An inside look at how the sexes shop differently—and what you can do to appeal to them in store


Mars vs. Venus

An inside look at how the sexes shop differently—and what you can do to appeal to them in store


Did you know that men get bored after just 26 minutes of shopping? A recent British study found that men have a short fuse for browsing while women can go the distance, with a large percentage lasting a full two hours before becoming tired of shopping.

There is no question that men and women are different animals when it comes to the retail experience. The real question in the matter is: How do retailers target and segment their product assortments (and the in-store encounter) to best serve each gender?

“Men are more superficial in their shopping, while women give almost twice as much consideration to the decision,” says Herb Sorensen, Ph.D., author of Inside the Mind of the Shopper and an expert in the field of observing and measuring shopping behavior and attitudes who has worked with Fortune 100 retailers for more than 35 years.

This insight is literally the tip of the iceberg, however, when it comes to just how men and women differ in their shopping habits, which also vary by the type of store they’re visiting and the products they are seeking out. Here, we take a deeper look at the biggest Mars vs. Venus shopping differences that retailers need to know.



Men typically approach the shopping experience with a goal—to get what they need and get out. On the other hand, women generally look at the shopping experience as a “gathering” trip—get what they need...and consider other options (and additional products) along the way.

“Men are hunters. They know what they want and they go in and they get it,” says Glenn Spina, president and CEO of Emerging Vision, parent company of the 125-store Sterling Optical and 40-store Sight for Sore Eyes. “In metro areas, some of the men are looking for that high-fashion experience and, at that point, they are no longer hunting.”

Retail experts and researchers suggest that it really does boil down to transactional versus emotional shopping for men versus women. “Men want to know the technical features of a product, and they get it and get out,” says Dawne Hanks, channel marketing manager at Oakley and an expert on the male/female shopping experience. “Women want to understand how it was made and how it serves her or her family—they have an emotional connection to the products they buy.”


Certainly, there are differences between the ways in which men and women shop. But, if you need to lay your bets on one side for the best chance for retail sales, which side would you push your chips to?

The sure-fire answer is, without a doubt, women. Today, women buy or influence nearly 80% of all consumer product purchases globally, according to the book, Why She Buys, by Bridget Brennan. They also influence 91% of all home purchases and 70% of all travel decisions.

In addition, 75% of women identify themselves as the primary shoppers for their households, according to “Buying Power,” by Catalyst, released in 2013.


While women are a buying powerhouse, men’s roles are changing—as are their shopping habits. According to a recent study from ESPN Research and Analytics, a full 33% of men consider themselves the primary shopper for the household, up from 14% of men who described themselves that way in 1985.

In addition, recent Nielsen research reveals that men in the U.S. have gained or maintained trip share in all retail channels except drug stores since 2004.

Women still do drive 64% of all shopping trips, but the rise of the male shopper cannot, and should not, be ignored.

Does Displaying by Gender Still Work?

At Emerging Vision’s stores, including 125 Sterling Optical stores and 40 Sight for Sore Eyes stores, the shopping experience also includes a unique frame assortment that is not separated into men’s and women’s sections in store. “Everything is brand driven and we put the focus on excellent customer service,” says Glenn Spina, president and CEO.

With men and women shopping so differently today, does unified frame merchandising make sense?

“Many of the frames today can be worn by both men and women and that wasn’t the case years ago,” explains Spina. “And, in the old days how did a man shop? Often, his wife or girlfriend went in and picked out the frames for him. This still happens in some areas of the country; but today, men have become more fashion savvy, so we have to create an experience that becomes something truly different instead of just pigeonholing frames by gender—here’s men’s and here’s women’s. That’s just too old school and it just doesn’t work anymore.”

When it comes to marketing and events, however, Emerging Vision does put a focus on targeting by gender. “We handle events for brands that are primarily female very differently than if it’s a male-oriented brand,” says Nicole Larrauri, managing partner of the EGC group, Emerging Vision’s marketing/ad agency. “That influences everything from the marketing to the social media message. If we’re trying to get the entire family in, we make sure the experience is comfortable and appealing to men as well as women.”

On the flip side, some believe that separating eyewear products by gender is critical to success.

“About 80 to 90% of our accounts are segmented by brand and not by gender,” notes Dawne Hanks, who adds she believes that this is a mistake. “Segmenting by gender is really, really important to our industry.

“Look at products like apparel and denim—they are all segmented by gender first and then by brand because men and women shop so differently and our shapes are so different,” she continues. “ If you’re buying women’s denim to look good then why wouldn’t you want to buy women’s-specific eyewear that really fits your face well?”


According to Hanks, research shows that approximately 80% of shoppers make a right when they walk into a store.

“Since women drive 80% of the purchases today, the women’s section should be where you want to drive people first—on the right,” she says. “Put the men’s section on the left, keep it simple and navigable, and use less color than in the women’s section.”

She adds that ECPs may also want to consider putting some of their men’s frame products in the front of the optical, where they are easily accessible.


A recent study by retail strategy firm WSL that followed the shopping habits of men and women found that male shoppers are more likely to seek assistance when they’re buying something.

In fact, the study found that men ask for help at a higher rate than their female counterparts in most categories, specifically home products (25% of men versus 18% women) and beauty products (14% of men versus 12% of women).


According to a grocery shopping habits study conducted by Sorenson, women spend more time considering their options. In the study, 14% of women spent time considering options (such as flavor choices) while only 8% of men did the same. “The gender shopping difference seems to be that males are less likely to spend time surveying choices within the same product, while females spend time distinguishing the options,” says Sorenson.


Sorenson’s grocery shopping habits study also revealed that male shoppers (29%) were much more driven by logos and brands than women shoppers (19%).

“That’s huge,” he says. “Females are more influenced by the product graphic and how it looks, while males are more influenced by the brand identification.”


While women have a well-earned reputation for tolerating (and enjoying) longer shopping trips, some data suggests that they can be more efficient than their male counterparts in certain retail settings. According to Sorenson’s grocery retail study, when making their final product selection decisions, women averaged about 30 seconds from facing the shelf to putting the product in their cart while men averaged about 40 seconds for the same act.


Do men and women also shop differently when looking to purchase eyewear?

“There are not as many differences today as compared to years past,” says Edward Beiner, president of the 12-store Edward Beiner Eyewear in Florida. “However, we’re still finding that even though it’s important to both, women tend to look more at style and fashion, while men still look more towards overall functionality and design.”

At Emerging Vision, Spina says there really isn’t one answer to the male/female shopping question. “A San Francisco male and a New York City male aren’t going to shop the same as a Wisconsin male,” he notes. “We have very different and targeted approaches on how we reach each customer in different locations, and we create that experience differently in each store.”

Here, eyecare professionals share their thoughts on how men and women shop differently in an optical setting.


Knowledge: Beiner suggests that men are looking for help from an eyecare professional who has “endless” product knowledge. “They want to feel confident in their expertise,” he says. “And, men are enticed with product features like quality, design, and durability.”

Emerging Vision’s Spina agrees: “[Men] want you to explain what is good and why it’s good. It’s the full circle of customer service, being able to create the right experience for whatever market you’re in.”

Function and Price: At John A. Moran Eye Center in Salt Lake City, UT, optician and pediatric specialist Ellen Linde-Fagergren, ABOC, says that when men approach frame shopping, they look for function and price. “They ask me questions like, ‘Will this fit my progressive?’ or ‘What type of metal is this frame made from?’ and ‘How durable is this frame?’”

Help and Advice: “Men ask for help straight away,” says Linde-Fagergren. “They want your professional input from the start and they generally find a frame fairly quickly that suits their prescription, wants, and needs, and that is within their budget.”


Fashion Trends: “[Women] want someone who understands the latest trends, and who they can feel comfortable with to guide them in the right direction to fulfill both their style wants and functional needs,” says Beiner, who adds that women also look for uniqueness of products, assortment of brands, and style.

Appearance-Focused: When women approach shopping for a frame, they are typically more appearance-minded. “They ask me questions like, ‘Will this color look good with my lifestyle, skin tone, hair, and my wardrobe?’” says Linde-Fagergren. “Women will take cost into consideration, but that is not as high of a priority.”

Time to Browse: Unlike men, women do not want to ask for help immediately. “They love to browse for a bit, try on a lot of different frames, and then ask you for your help,” says Linde-Fagergren. “They like a little freedom to explore their options and then get your professional opinion after they have a few frames in hand.”

Service with a Smile: Women have done a lot of their shopping research before they even get into the store.

“That’s something that happens now that never happened before,” says Spina. “She is not only looking online at who you are and what products you have, she wants to be catered to by a personable staff.”


Are there any likenesses in how men and women shop? Eyecare professionals point to a number of ways in which men and women are alike in what they desire from their shopping experience.

“They are both concerned about product education, price, and the longevity of the glasses,” says Linde-Fagergren.

“They both also want to know what they are getting for their money, so they like to hear features and benefits of frames and lenses” she adds. “Both are concerned how long the lenses and frames will hold up.”

By the Numbers:
Mars vs. Venus Online

Segment of women who report they are more likely to buy from the brands they interact with on social media:

Men are more likely to leave reviews for the items they have purchased:

Found their most recent online purchase in a marketing email from a store:

More likely to actively hunt for bargains and deals:

More likely to recommend a brand, product, or service on social media:

Shopped online within the past 30 days:

Amount of time it takes to complete an online purchase:

More likely to use online coupons:

Men are more likely to buy expensive items.
The most costly item purchased in the past six months:
$1,000 to $2,500 Men
$100 to $500 Women

Source: Paymentsense