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Once thought of by manufacturers and retailers as the ultimate boy toy, flat-panel televisions have brought to the market a form factor and design style that have captured the imaginations of women, as well as men.
Instead of fighting their husbands over the look and size of the once obtrusive black boxes used to house CRT-based big screens, women are choosing to step up to flat-panel TVs or compact micro-display rear-projection sets for their thin, trim and cleanly styled cabinetry in addition to delivering high-resolution digital images.
Cognizant of the trend, many flat-panel television suppliers are now adapting advertising and marketing campaigns — and even product designs — to fit the likes and needs of women shoppers.
“A good percentage of plasma TV purchase decisions are being influenced by women,” observed Leo Delaney, Hitachi's marketing VP. “Television manufacturers kind of ignored that in the past to our peril. We might have sold a lot more-rear projection televisions in larger screen sizes if we had paid more attention to reducing the depth and overall bulk of the product, and concentrated on a more attractive industrial design.”
According to a four-year analysis of flat-panel television end-users by Quixel Market Research, men and women show similar intentions to purchase flat-screen TVs and the vast majority of the time purchase decisions are mutually made within families and couples.
“What varies among the genders are the drivers for a final purchase decision,” said Tamaryn Pratt, Quixel principal. “When deciding to purchase a flat screen, men rank technical specifications, sound and the overall wow factor as very important, while women are more interested in the whole product offering or the warranty and services wrapped around the product. Aesthetics also rank as highly important for both men and women — however, women rank the importance for TVs to fit into their existing décor much higher than men.”
Vendors and analysts said such findings should influence some retailers to tailor their sales and merchandising approaches to fit these influential customers.
“If it's not OK with the wife, it's not going to happen,” said Liz Pemble, Runco's marketing director, adding that Runco's product literature focuses on bringing Hollywood home, using lifestyle photographs of high-end home theaters featuring Runco projectors.
According to a recent HDTV end-user study by Lyra Research, married households were more likely to say they had an HDTV than unmarried households, and among married households, 73 percent of married men said they were the one primarily responsible for an HDTV purchase, while 25 percent of married women said they were the primary purchaser. Among married women, 51 percent said the purchase was a joint decision, indicating that some men may not even realize how much influence their wives have had in the purchase.
“Armed with this information, I think it would behoove some retailers to go out of their way to train sales people to pay careful attention to women in the purchase process,” said Steven Hoffenberg, Lyra Research's media research director. “From what I've observed in some sales environments, it is very easy for the sales person to get into the specifications side of the purchase. But in many cases women will be less concerned with the data and more concerned with how the picture actually looks, in addition to styling and the fit with the décor of the household.”
Bruce Tripido, Sharp's display devices product marketing director, observed that the numerous models and styles of flat-panel televisions now available are making the purchase more enjoyable for women, and retailers need to sustain that experience by taking confusion out of the selection process.
“Retailers should make a conscious effort to proactively address women when they are in the store — too often, women are ignored,” he said. “Dealers should assist by making the purchase process easier to understand, as there are so many issues currently involved with a TV purchase.”
Bharath Rajagopalan , TTE North American Profit Center's general manager, encouraged retailers to “clarify, simplify and demystify” the sales process.
“Make sure your customers understand what they are purchasing and the advantages as well as limitations,” said Rajagopalan. “Make sure you understand how and where the product will be used so that consumers derive maximum enjoyment. The retailer that can quickly assist customers in making sense of the confusion wins.”
To help bring more women and men into stores, some manufacturers are preparing advertising campaigns to reach both sexes.
“We have shifted our advertising media placement over the last few years,” said Tina Tuccillo, Toshiba's marketing communications VP. “In past years we tended to focus on enthusiast/buff magazines. Now we've expanded that to include lifestyle magazines. You need to shift advertising to follow your customer.”
She added that Toshiba is using photographs of TVs on Drexel Heritage furniture to give readers a look at how its television designs fit into the home décor.
Similarly, LG Electronics has broadened its print advertising to reach more varied interests this fall, said Tim Alessi, LG's product development director.
“We are very conscious of women as we build our media plans and focus our advertising,” Alessi said. “It used to be that our demographic for TVs was very heavily skewed toward men. Now I'd say it's at least 50/50, which is a very dramatic change over the last several years.”
Panasonic, meanwhile, is targeting television programs with equal appeal to men and women for the recently launched national television campaign supporting its plasma line.
“We don't necessarily target towards women, because I think, in the end, men and women want the same thing in a plasma TV,” said Andrew Nelkin, Panasonic's consumer displays VP. “Most people are looking for a thin, cool-looking TV that fits the needs of their living space.”