Hunter Vs. Gatherer: Gender Differences in Online Shopping

 In Behavioral Analysis, Competitive Analysis, Consumer Behavior, Growth, Keyword Research, Marketplace Report, Online Advertising, Search Marketing, SEO, Site Analysis, Site Search, Traffic Sources, Trends

Walk into a women’s clothing store and you’re bound to see a familiar sight: bored men sitting on any flat surface they can find, holding purses and shopping bags as their girlfriends/wives/daughters scour the store.

Hunter-gatherer archetypes of men and women are often brought to life while shopping. Many women spend hours sifting through merchandise, looking for inspiration and taking care to ‘gather’ the items that suit them, while men tend to ‘hunt’ for the necessities, looking for what they need and exiting the premises as soon as they’ve found it.

While conventional wisdom declares that women drive shopping trends since they control up to 80 percent of household spending, new research finds that men drive nearly as much spending as women when it comes to online shopping. Women drive 58 percent of e-commerce revenue and tend to have larger checkout values, while men complete more small transactions.

Due to the these gender-specific online shopping inclinations, we wondered if the hunter-gatherer behavioral tendencies transcended the mall and into the digital world. Can men and women be placed into ‘hunter-gatherer’ buckets based on their online shopping habits? We decided to find out by analyzing search traffic, conversions and the keywords that led consumers and sales on the popular female fashion website Nasty Gal, and on the menswear-focused Bonobos. Our hypothesis was that if these behavioral archetypes are true offline they should also manifest themselves online, especially on sites targeted toward specific genders. Here’s what we discovered:

Women are unselfish shoppers

An overwhelming 92 percent of consumers on Nasty Gal are female, which isn’t entirely shocking given the site’s focus on trendy women’s apparel. However, what is surprising is that Bonobos’s visitors are almost evenly split between sexes: 54 percent of the site’s consumers are male, while 46 percent are female. One could assume that the percentage of males pursuing men’s wear-focused Bonobos would mirror the percentage of females on Nasty Gal, but this is not the case. The almost even split between men and women on Bonobos suggests that while a lot of men do take shopping into their own hands, a large percentage of them have women doing their shopping for them, behind the scenes (and their computer screens).

Nasty Gal and Bonobos Consumer Demographics

Men know what they want

Looking at the consumer-entered search phrases and keywords that drive people to and sales on a website is the best way to uncover consumer intent. Both websites mostly rely on organic search traffic (Nasty Gal: 78 percent, Bonobos: 89 percent) and keywords that contain their brand names (Nasty Gal: 90 percent, Bonobos: 87 percent). As a result, we decided to focus our keyword research on non-branded organic keywords driving traffic and conversions to these websites.

With the help of the Jumpshot Keywords Research tool we discovered that 48 percent of the organic non-branded keywords sending traffic to Bonobos contain the word “chinos” or “mens” and 74 percent of these organic keywords were between two to four words in length, meaning that they are mid- to long-tail keywords. This indicates that when men are searching for something to buy online, they tend to search for specific items. This targeted searching behavior on Bonobos can be compared to the more discovery-based search behavior on Nasty Gal. Most of Nasty Gal’s non-brand organic traffic was driven by very generic terms, with roughly 80 percent of that traffic derived from vague one to two word searches such as “party dress” and “platform shoes”.

Nasty Gal and Bonobos Organic Keywords by Length

Even though women represent just under half of Bonobos’s traffic, due to the masculine merchandise sold on this site it’s fair to say that they weren’t shopping for themselves, but rather for their man. Even if women were behind some of these searches and purchases, it doesn’t matter much because the searches were made with a man in mind (oftentimes a man who wants a “casual shirt for summer” or “summerweight navy chinos for men” – two popular long-tail search terms that sent people to Bonobos for further engagement). So even if the man himself wasn’t necessarily searching those terms, his targeted taste can be discerned in his female counterpart’s choice of keywords.

Men buy, women browse

Furthering the consumer behavior differences between men and women, Bonobos drove the highest search-generated conversion rate, driving approximately 6.5 times more conversions per visitor than Nasty Gal. This can be explained by the fact that Bonobos’s non-brand organic search traffic originated from longer keywords (58 percent were mid-tail keywords and 31 percent were long-tail keywords), indicating that their consumers know what they are looking to buy and just need to find the right deal. 73 percent of the non-brand organic search traffic to Nasty Gal originated from keywords containing only one or two words, indicating a less targeted consumer state of mind. These websites’ different user demographics – with Nasty Gal predominated by women and Bonobos split almost evenly between the sexes – combined with the different search behavior between sexes, can explain the difference in conversion rates.

Bottom Line: Our keywords data proves that men often take a more direct approach to online shopping, while women take their time browsing. When men search for clothing they often know exactly what they want to buy and which keywords they need to search to ‘hunt’ down specific items. They then click-through to an e-commerce website to fulfill their intent. On the other hand, women take their time browsing through the merchandise, often without intent to purchase right away – still they’re being careful and selective about what they ‘gather’, even if they didn’t have specifics in mind when they began their search. Next time you see a man yawning while sitting outside of a women’s dressing room, you’ll know why: data proves that he’s a hunter, and he’s bored watching as his female counterpart gathers.


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