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My CES Diary... Day Three

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Part of my Friday (day three of CES) was spent learning the differences between girls and boys. I know, it doesn't sound very revolutionary or even relevant, and I'm sure you think the differences are pretty obvious. But deeper than those--and pertinent to consumer electronics--are the differences in their buying habits.

This was the topic of discussion at the afternoon's "Thinking About Sex" panel, led by Fast Company senior writer Linda Tischler and Smart Design's Erica Eden and Agnete Enga. When it comes to men and women purchasing consumer electronics, it's not as black and white as simply considering differences in size and strength, for example. There are more subtle issues that need to be considered that can make or break a product.

However, because the consumer electronics design industry is about 80 percent male, designers end up creating surface solutions (think: a pink digital camera or floral patterned laptop bag). But in actuality, the panelists pointed out that only 9 percent of women want feminine looking products. They stressed that aesthetics are only part of the design equation. Designers (which could include you if consumer electronics is your specialty) need to be cognizant of purchase behaviors, and how and why people use a product.

  • Women are a filter for simple and intuitive products. They see technology as a way to simplify their lives. So if a gadget is difficult to set up or use, women have less patience, whereas men are willing to tinker around with it longer.
  • Women contextualize products and evaluate purchases. Men see a product for face value.
  • Women weigh lifestyle first and the product second. How will the product affect or fit into their lifestyle? Men weigh the product first and lifestyle second, deciding whether or not to purchase the product and then fitting it into their lifestyle.
  • Hormones contribute to how people react to products. Estrogen and progesterone in women are the nurturing, nesting and parental hormones. Testosterone in men contributes to drive competition and aggression.

When invisible/intangible differences like these are considered in the designing of consumer electronics, they'll be able to tap the huge market of women in the space--women influence 90 percent of consumer electronics purchases! Said Eden, "The companies that find that sweet spot have huge opportunity."

--Lindsay Holloway

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