The Gender Experience – Math, Cars and Vanilla?


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In a recent blog post, I shared my interest in the connection between gender and customer experience with you. In the past week, I came across an intriguing study published in Journal of Consumer Research (August 2011). Researchers Kyoungmi Lee, Hakkyun Kim and Kathleen Vohs explored the roots of stereotype-induced anxiety and its effects on consumer purchasing decisions: the results have serious implications for customer experience design.

Women face widespread discrimination, wed with false stereotypes, in heavily “math-based” disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The result? Women are left to cope with stereotype anxiety when performing math. When it comes to the purchasing decision, this has a powerful effect. The research showed that working with a female salesperson minimizes the importance of gender in a point-of-sale interaction and thus reduces the overall anxiety.

To reach this conclusion, the researchers showed both women and men advertisements for financial advisors. One set of advertisements showed math formulas while the other did not. The majority of women, when presented with ads containing the formulas, requested female financial advisors (there were equal numbers of male and female financial advisors). The same result held true in car dealership (a stereotypically defined “male” experience).

In a surprising twist, when women were given documents (covered in a vanilla scent, which has been shown to reduce anxiety) it had the same anxiety-reducing effect as working with a female salesperson – and they were equally likely to choose either a male or female sales person.

The findings of this study show that once again, customers have very different emotional needs. The challenge is to design and offer an experience to your male and female customers that caters to their subconscious needs.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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