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A peek into the changing shopping habits of Indian women

Women’s role in consumer cycle has been evolving drastically

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MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: India is the world’s fastest growing economy, a rising global hotspot in making for their biggest trade needs. Home to the youngest and most dynamic of the globe’s population, the country is a dream to set up shop at. In the past few years, it has witnessed the entry of global giants like Walmart on its grounds and has the largest user base for tech giants like Facebook. At the heart of this growth is the 50 per cent women population, which is estimated to be driving around 85 per cent of the purchase decisions of an average household. And with more women flocking the labour force, and having access to more disposable income, the capitalists of the town can’t ignore the power these women have over their businesses, even if they don’t reach most of their boardrooms.

Speaking about the power and influence that Indian women have today, Runwal Group CEO - malls  Rajiv Malla quotes, “Gone are the days when a woman’s purchasing power was limited to just grocery shopping. In India, almost 127 million females, almost 25.6 per cent is from the working class. Today, women are actively involved in decision making, from buying a car to property, women drive 70-80 per cent of all consumer purchasing which is a huge shift from earlier days.”

According to photographer Namrata Rupani, women have become increasingly more informed and demanding, with the availability and abundance of products and services as well as a plentitude of retail stores and online purchasing channels. They tend to invest more time and energy than necessary to research and compare products, which highly drives their consumer decisions.

Ontological coach and author Geeta Ramakrishnan attributes this growth in women consumer’s behaviour to the awareness and information explosion, which has led to more opinions, more freedom, and more choices. “Their earning and spending power has increased, which actually gives women a sense of fulfillment, security, and confidence.”

They have become their own in-charge when it comes to financial matters as well. Ramakrishnan insists that women of today are more than willing to choose the EMI option or take loans.

She says, “There has been a big mindset change. Many years back it was shameful to take a loan and people lived by the salary including saving for the future. Today with banks and the leading institutions easily offer loans and EMI solutions, one can easily extend oneself many times over and way beyond what one earns.”

Her claim is supported by a CIBIL report that indicates credit applications by Indian women grew by 48 per cent in 2018 from 2015. The consumer loans taken by women were up by 31 per cent and the two-wheeler loans taken by the fairer sex saw a rise of 14 per cent.

Another recent survey done by IndiaFirst Life Insurance shares some interesting insights into the credit-seeking behaviour of Indian women. As per the survey, 75 per cent of Indian women, belonging to the low income group, prefer savings accounts over life insurance or securing their lives. 70 per cent women have some sort of long-term saving for their future goals and 17 per want to have flexibility to pay more and get their cover increased, while 12 per cent women want to get higher return than what they invest.

Aditya Birla Health Insurance CEO Mayank Bathwal also admits of seeing a major shift in buying pattern among women in 2019-20 as compared to the previous year. “We launched ‘RakhoPooraKhayal’ campaign last year to raise awareness among Indian women to be the ‘Total Health Guardian’ of their family. Traditionally, health insurance companies communicated directly with the men of the house. However, we intended to break this narrative and further urge women to complete the health protection circle by helping to choose the right ‘health’ insurance for themselves and their families. We witnessed a 57 per cent growth in February this year, in the number of Women Proposers as compared to last year.”

According to industry experts, women still hold the major purchasing power when it comes to categories like jewellery, make-up, apparel, mean household accessories, and children’s products, but their role in other categories like electrical appliances and financial products is improving by day. Also, their lifestyle preferences are evolving substantially.

Malla notes, “There has been a change in the buying behavior pattern of women consumers based on their age, occupation, preference and marital status. Their buying decision is typically influenced by the organisation they work for and the title they hold. Power dressing is particularly useful in leadership roles and women dress in a way that reflects their position, hence there is a constant need to groom themselves. Research states working women are increasingly becoming price and quality conscious, and are likely to be store loyal in comparison to non-working married women.”

He further adds, “Women today are considering sustainable fashion, clothes which are washing machine durable, wrinkle and crease- free. They are becoming increasingly conscious of the environment and are opting for eco-friendly fashion and jewelry instead.”

Lakhani Infinity Footcare Private Ltd director Mayank Lakhani shares that there has been a shift in the sort of shoes women prefer to buy, as well.

“Since women across ages are joining the health and fitness wave, we see an increased interest in health-tracking shoes, more specifically keeping age in mind. Also, more women are working now and require a range of good-looking footwear that can serve multiple purposes. Shoes that are both stylish and comfortable are in demand, such as stilettos, pencil heels, and sleek looking office wear,” he reveals.

When it comes to goods from categories that have been predominantly male-centred, women are bringing out a fresh change in narrative there too.

Speaking about their role in buying electrical appliances, a Voltas Beko spokesperson says, “It is certain that the role of women in the purchase decision making process has drastically changed over the past few years. However, women are directly involved in decisions regarding building a home, creating an environment to make life easier and giving the family more time as they are the gatekeeper or nutritionist. For a household planning to buy a cooling product like an air-conditioner, women play a significant role as influencers. In fact, research states that almost 1/3rd of the AC brand decision is finally taken by women in Indian households.”

He adds, “In the larger consumer durables market, which includes panels, air conditioners, and music systems that are largely male dominant products, the decision making by women would be around 5-7 per cent but it is growing steadily. Family decisions in terms of large purchases like LED TV or an air conditioning system are led by men. For larger appliances like refrigerators and washing machines, around 55 to 45 per cent is the decision making of the women.”

According to the Interio Index, shared by Godrej Interio, India’s men are extending their decision-making influence further into the home but the strings are still in the hands of women. As per the Index, the female homemaker has the final say on home furnishings in 23.1 per cent of Indian households.  

“In the kitchen, for instance, female home-makers have the last word on interiors in 38.1 per cent of Indian homes, compared to just 17.1 per cent for men. 24.6 percent  have the final word on furnishings in their living or dining rooms, and 29.3 per cent have exclusive choice on furniture in their bedrooms. 80 per cent of women in the household are active decision-makers in India’s living/dining rooms as compared to men. Men are making the final choice in one-in-five homes only.”

The average Indian woman of today has also risen up from her domestic roles and is taking care of her needs and desires more than ever now.

Forevermark India president Sachin Jain insists that there has been more self-purchasing of diamond jewellery among the young working women. There has been a rise of 21 per cent in the number of women buying their own diamond jewellery since 2013.

“Interestingly, when women contribute to the cost of their engagement or wedding ring – or pay for it in full themselves – they tend to spend more than when their male partners alone pick up the tab,” Jain quips.

As shared by TravelDilSe co-founder and director Sumita Tulsiana, women are also travelling more than ever now. “In India, several travel industry reports reveal that over 35 per cent of women have taken a holiday on their own over the last two years.  Oyo and Booking.com have seen a significant increase in solo travel bookings especially women travellers.  Technology plays an important role in making this possible.”

Adda52Rummy head of marketing Ashish Bhakuni highlights an increase of women players in the online gaming world as he says, “Out of 2,000 smartphone gamers in India, there are more female players who indulge in mobile games such as Clash of Clans, PUBG, Candy Crush Saga and more. Today, we have 95 percent active female users to 85 percent of their male counterparts.”

He adds, “Not just in urban centres, an interesting trend is emerging out of the Tier 2 and 3 markets where women play more mobile games as a way of distraction. The number of downloads aside, women also spend more time, 70 minutes on an average playing games compared to males who spend less than an hour. Also, what’s important to note here is that mobile gaming is bigger in tier 2 and 3 centres whereas PC gaming and console is more prevalent in big cities. 40 percent of the entire worth of online gaming market in India comes from online rummy.”  

Talking about the women participants on his app, 9Stacks CEO and co-founder Sudhir Kamath elaborates that 10 per cent of the user base on app is women, which has grown from 1-2 per cent in the past few years.  “More than 85 per cent  of women gamers fall in the age group of 20-35 years. Most of them are professionals working in jobs in areas such as finance, analytics, and tech. On average each woman player plays about 1500 hands of poker each month, which is similar to male players.”

Not just in gaming, rural women are showing a change in their consumer pattern in other categories as well. As per a study on ‘Women Consumers in Rural India’ by Accenture, rural women have become more independent and aspirational. They are more discerning in their choices and have become “street-smart” about common retailer schemes aimed at winning their business.

As revealed by the study, 37 per cent of the rural women make purchases on their own, and this number goes up to 40 per cent for working rural women. Out of these, 84 per cent travel outside their villages to make purchases. 60 per cent of the working rural women and 67 per cent of the nonworking rural women buy branded products for their trustworthiness and reliability. 76 per cent of the rural women admitted of making impulse purchases as well.

The modern Indian woman is tech-savvy, discerning, and an aware consumer. Her role in the consumer cycle has evolved greatly in the past few years, and along with being prime influencers, they are rising as equal buyers too. The trend is expected to remain healthy in the coming years as well and that’s why it is important for brands to approach the women they deserve, or better, now demand to be approached.

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