What Women Want: The Science of Female Shopping Paperback – Jul 19 2011
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“With wit, razor-sharp analysis and a better understanding of what women want than most of us have – or at least realize we have. It will make female consumers think differently about their shopping and, hopefully, encourage stores to sell a whole lot differently.”
—Jayne O’Donnell, retail and consumer reporter, USA Today
"Underhill makes these fascinating details even more fun to read with a conversational, sometimes comic tone."
—St Louis Post Dispatch
“What Do Women Want? A man who gets it. Meet the wise, witty and only occasionally geeky Paco Underhill, who explained to me why I prefer curved shower curtains.”
—Christine Lehner, author of Absent a Miracle and What to Wear to See the Pope.
“What Women Want is not just a great marketing book, it is an astounding study of the socio-economic forces of the last fifty years. Paco Underhill blends social history with scientific data in a sensitive volume that is a must-read for anyone who wants to sell anything. Period.”—Susy Korb, Brand Strategist, Harry Winston
"Underhill shows himself to be both an amiable and a knowledgeable guide to the shifting retail landscape."
—Wall Street Journal
About the Author
Paco Underhill is the founder and CEO of Envirosell, Inc. His clients include Microsoft, McDonald's, adidas, and Estee Lauder. He is a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He lives in New York City.
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It's a sure bet that Underhill didn't write this book for women at all. He uses awkward phrasing, making it sound as if he's reporting anthropological findings about a colony of exotic specimens with quaint shopping habits. He shies away from the word "woman" most of the time, opting for "female" and "female of the species."
His major finding is that women like things clean. Clean stores, clean hotel rooms, clean restrooms. Here's a flash for you retailers out there - men like things clean too.
There are some useful nuggets in the book, if you're willing to wade through frequent speculations that women like curvy surfaces as opposed to more manly straight edges. For instance, in the chapter about hotels, Underhill notes that women are more concerned with security than men are. That means that a woman may not appreciate it when the clerk at the reception desk calls her by name several times as she checks in, so that everyone in the lobby knows her name. Good advice.
Unfortunately, you have to put up with a lot of generalizations and spurious factoids, such as "In general, females find it much easier to orient their way around if they can look at a 3D map." Here's a mysterious observation on parking lots in the Netherlands where - "Perhaps because of biological imperatives ... females are more comfortable positioning themselves - and their small cars - over something rather than within two defined lines. Men, owing to their own biology ... are more at ease navigating their vehicles in between a target."
I'd like to think that Underhill did actual research to come up with his advice, maybe some surveys and questionnaires, gathering statistics and such, but if he did, he doesn't mention it. We just have to take his word for it that "Reading ... has always been a more traditionally female passion than a male one. It's sedentary, meditative, personal. It's passive (I mean that as a compliment)..."
To be fair, Underhill makes generalizations about men too, as if men don't care if their hotel room or store restroom is clean, or that men are only about specs and power and don't care at all about convenience and comfort. Most of the improvements Underhill suggests would be as appreciated by men as they would be by women. Clear instructions, thermostat controls in hotel rooms, clothes that fit, who doesn't want those?
I preordered the book and waited in expectation for the day it arrived. I kept reading page after page wishing a golden gem would appear. "Why We Buy" is a great book with solid research that support his findings. This is a wandering, unorganized, pointless collection of thoughts that would be concluded by anyone who spends a day with their wife or close female friend.
Paco's and Envirosell's work deserves a better representation than this random collection of thoughts...
My wife, knowing that I'm a huge Paco fan, read the book before I could get to it. It took her less than a casual day's reading and she concluded that the introduction is more valuable than the actual content.
Women want: 1)cleanliness, 2)control, 3)safety, 4)you to be considerate...Now, stop there. The essence of the book has now been shared. Avoid the wandering remainder of the book.
This book has some of that in it. For example, he does well taking us around hotels, electronics stores, casinos, and clothing stores, and all with a special eye to female consumers. For example, ever think of a drug store as the female equivalent of the much more markedly male convenience store? Makes a lot of sense.
Unfortunately, the rest of the book comes nowhere close to these passages, or to his other books. Instead, what we get are rambling musings, with no real data to back them up. These cover areas that aren't suited to his retail approach - houses, kitchens, bathrooms - as well as others that might be - gyms, farmer's markets ...
Now, I would have been fascinated by what his research told us about these topics. And, yes, he's an interesting guy, a great writer, and certainly knows whereof he speaks. But, in the end, it's really mostly just musings.
Actually, the overall impression I got with this effort was that Underhill may have simply been "phoning this one in." The research is lacking, the writing is (though well done) perhaps a little too cute, and some things are repeated over and over (the supposed appeal of cleanliness and curves to women, for example).
So, deadline? Getting bored? Wanting to turn a quick buck? Nearing retirement age? I don't know. All I do know is how excited I was to see another book by him, and how disappointed I was when I turned the last page.
This is a book not just for marketers but also for executives and business owners. To illustrate, let me share a story from my early days managing a branch manufacturing operation in Fort Lauderdale for American Hospital Supply Corporation (now Baxter Health). My parents would always visit my plant when they visited us from Chicago. The first thing my mother would do would be to inspect the women's room. She held fast to a rule that the women's room of any establishment said a lot about the company and its management. Cleanliness, the availability of feminine hygiene products, and a pleasant atmosphere (colors, sofa, etc.) were at the top of the list. She reasoned that since most managers (1970s) were men, they generally paid short shrift to the needs of the female work force. Those that did had a much more productive and satisfied workforce.
Underhill underscores, among many other factors, the "cleanliness factor" in "What Women Want." Many of us, men, need to attention to the needs of women whether they are in the mall or in our companies. And this book delivers on getting us to think again about what we need to deliver to provide a positive "experience" for all women. "No business can afford to ignore their power and presence." - much like what we find in marriage!
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