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January 31, 2005

Girl Power Online

Sarah Lacy

I blogged last week that venture capitalists are increasingly carried away with the spending power of Web savvy teens. Maybe they should take a closer look at women.

Today, Burst! Media announced that women who research airfares, car rentals, and hotels online are more likely to make purchases than male counterparts—a finding that surprised the researchers.

Like the old hunter-gather cliché, women typically compile reams of information before they buy online, while men are in, out, and on with their lives. The authors theorize that travel purchases are somehow, inexplicably different for women than regular online shopping. But I think the results are a sign of a change in female behavior Web-wide. (How convinced am I? This is the first blog I've done in a week that doesn't have a question mark in the headline!)

Studies show that it takes someone about three years to get comfortable online and about three years ago women outpaced men as Web surfers. So for three years, they've been getting their feet wet—now, on schedule, they are taking the plunge.

Just ask Overstock.com's CEO Patrick Byrne (or better yet, read what he said to me in this Jan. 4 story.) Women have made up 70% of Overstock's traffic for years, but only overtook men in actual dollars spent towards the end of last year-- a trend broadly seen in the 2004 online holiday shopping season.

This had real repercussions for e-tailers. Apparel was the top category with $3.8 billion in holiday sales—some $1.4 billion more than online shoppers spent on consumer electronics (although women are buying more there too: Witness that pink iPod minis were the no. 5 best selling MP3 player in the most recent stats.) And, big triple-digit gains came from nowhere in girly categories like jewelry, home and garden, and flowers.

My sense is this has caught much of the Web world by surprise. And although prices for girl-friendly keywords on Google and Yahoo are likely soaring, I don't think many Web sites have a clear idea of how to market to women. Those who figure it out, will have a clear path to besting competitors in the ever-more competitive World Wide Web.

08:27 PM


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