Women Are Clicking: The Online World Becomes a Vital Platform for Reaching Female Consumers of All Ages

Article excerpt

When American Airlines wanted to attract more female flyers, it didn't reupholster its seats in pink or order up a series of relationship-themed television ads. Instead, it went to the Internet.

AA.com/Women debuted this spring--billed as the first major airline website devoted to women. It includes information about safety and security, saving time and money while traveling, and a virtual space to share stories and tips with other female travelers. The site, says AA's Nora Linville, Director of Women's Sales and Marketing, is designed to cater to the airline's growing female market--now at 48% of American's total customer base up 6% since 2001. The new site recognizes the value of female travelers to AA's growth, says Linville.

It also acknowledges a trend in marketing to women. Increasingly, companies are emphasizing new media when reaching out to women. In its early days, the Internet was considered a man's world. Women, marketers said, would never give up the chance to touch and feel merchandise, hear and see a sales person, and experience the social aspects of shopping. But as technology has improved and the Web has become more a part of everyday life, women have embraced the virtual world as a place to shop and buy and generally receive marketing and advertising messages.

"The stereotype that they're not aggressive Internet users or online shoppers is definitely proving to be incorrect," says Lori Bitter, Senior Partner at JWT Boom, a division of J. Walter Thompson devoted to Baby Boomer marketing.

The numbers show women are a force in the medium. JWT Boom's most recent research shows Boomer women spend over 15 hours per week online. They are shopping for a wide array of products and services--health care related items top the list--and they are making final purchases both on and offline.

eMarketer's most recent estimates find women to be the majority of the online population--and the gap between male and female is expected to widen. In 2007, 51.7% of Internet users are women. By 2011, eMarketer forecasts, women will make up 51.9% of the online universe, as marketers and content providers offer more to cater to female interests.

As a result, marketers are revving up their virtual marketing to women.

In the consumer products market, where research shows 85% of the buyers are women, Kraft is participating in an ambitious new marketing effort tapping the interactive online world "Second Life." Kraft will promote its wares in a Second Life online world called "Phil's Supermarket" in partnership with supermarket guru Phil Lempert. The virtual world will showcase new Kraft products and allow virtual visitors to interact with Kraft experts. …