The science of buying: Women are at the wheel

The website She-Conomy (a site that focuses on the business of marketing to women) recently published the article “Men, Women Lead 4 Out of 5 Stages of the Buying Process.” This interesting article discusses Marti Barletta’s research in the book Marketing to Women and how when “men and women buy as partners, women control at least four out of five stages of the purchasing process.”

The five stages of the buying process are Kick-off, Research, Purchase, Ownership, and Word-of-Mouth. Barletta’s research found that the only stage of the purchasing process men dominate is the actual laying down of the cash, and that women are in control of the other four. Then, she implies that men don’t actually control the buying, even though they think they do.

The explanation about the Research stage of the buying process is eerily similar to how we plan purchases in our home, except it isn’t always me taking on this role:

Once the decision has been made to make a purchase, it is the woman who does research to develop the short list. She may begin with numerous options, but she is very detail oriented as she narrows the field … They consult with close friends and family, as well as experts, Web social networking, local news and magazines. Once she feels she has investigated all of her options thoroughly, she compiles the short list or makes a final decision.

It is this list or choice that she shares with the man. So if your product or service doesnโ€™t make it on this list, it is very unlikely it will be considered when it comes time to make the purchase. After all of the research and time she has put into it, she typically knows exactly what she wants.

In my relationship with my husband, we usually alternate who is the researcher and who is the buyer based upon who is interested in the purchase. Having the researcher not being the person who is putting down the money for the product usually means that we’re spending more wisely than we do independently. We’re smarter consumers because there are two of us involved in the process.

Even if the research is true and the majority of women in relationships do control the five stages of the buying process, it doesn’t always have to be this way in your home. You can mix things up as a way to keep your spending in check and be smarter consumers. If you’re not in a relationship, you can use these five stages as a checklist to ensure that you’re being a smart consumer and not simply purchasing things on impulse.

Overall, I found this article to be a fascinating analysis on the buying process and how products find their way into our homes. The more we know about the science of buying, the better, more informed consumers we can be.

Thanks to reader Deb for introducing us to this research.

18 Comments for “The science of buying: Women are at the wheel”

  1. posted by Jen on

    This is really interesting. I laughed at the “men don’t actually control the buying but they think they do” part. My husband and I also don’t follow this exactly, in fact I’d say he does more of the research than I do because he is insistent on doing a very thorough job of it, no matter how small the purchase. But we follow a pretty similar rule to you – whoever has more expertise regarding the item to be purchased takes the lead on most of the steps toward purchasing it. I agree that it makes for a more informed decision overall, since we’re combining our strengths.

  2. posted by irishbell on

    All I know is that I’m glad we discuss it beforehand when we purchase something, including the industrial size deep fryer he wanted to buy last month- for the ONE turkey we cook every year at Thanksgiving. He says “But it’s on sale…” Talk about clutter!

  3. posted by Michele Connolly, Get Organized Wizard on

    Like you and your husband, Erin, my husband and I alternate the research process based on interest as well.

    I used to be a very detailed researcher, but the web has made me far less thorough. Now I’ll do a Google search, ask a friend or two, and then make a rather intuitive choice. Happily, the outcomes of my purchasing decisions don’t seem to have suffered. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. posted by Franklin on

    I’m curious about the nature of this five-step process. The author theorizes that women control 4 of the 5 steps – which means they control “ownership”. I’m having trouble deciphering what that means.

    Is this article saying that women use the things they buy more than men? I’d also like to know if this is the author’s original research. Just curious.

  5. posted by Franklin on

    Addendum: I read the linked page and it sheds some light on all five steps in the buying process, which I think is an interesting addition to the article posted above. Always a good idea to read the sources before posting. My bad ๐Ÿ˜›

  6. posted by Sue on

    I also break this mold a little. I mostly control the entire process.

    If it’s something my husband wants specifically for himself, he does the first two steps (Kick-off and Research). He tries to pass Research on to me sometimes, but I make him do his own homework. I then take over, make the purchase, and deal with any issues that come up afterwards.

    If it’s an item for our house – I let my husband make the final call. He has a better eye than I do, and a better ability to make a decision quickly, so I trust him to look at a selection of items (paint chips, coffee machines, floor tiles) and pick the best one.

  7. posted by Eternal*Voyageur @ Venusian*Glow on

    I think this is very true, especially as men usually have the feeling that the woman know better what the home needs… unless it comes to “guy” stuff like a car or tools.

  8. posted by Coyote Hunter on

    Who declared these so-called “5 Steps of the buying process” to be accurate? For example, according to the link, Step One is “Kick Off.” What’s that? What research are we relying upon? “Kick Off” had to have been based on some “idea” that may have come from a multiplicity of sources, or pure inspiration. There certainly was some sort of evaluation of that idea that led to the need for research. Generally, men, tend to own those first ideas but gladly delegate wives/significant-others the research duties depending on the decision that being considered. Wives must get approval before the buying decision, so men tend to own the process.

    Women do have clout and can nix an idea early. But mistaking ownership of the process versus the data gathering duties as control just isn’t accurate.

    This 5 step thing may seem accurate for a kitchen mixer, or bedding-but it hardly holds true for the purchase of things like cars, HD TV’s, or boats. You know, maybe that’s why they are called boy toys.

  9. posted by Mike on

    Is this why a woman takes all afternoon to run to the store on an errand that typically takes a man around thirteen minutes?


  10. posted by Germaine on

    These five steps of the buying process are labelled as “facts”, yet they seem rather subjective. Let s/he who has research proving these steps bring it forth.

  11. posted by Kirstine Vergara on

    In our household, I have the buying power when it comes to home needs. My husband is in-charge of electronics and cars. Though he still asks/tells me before he buys something, I allow him to make his own decisions. That way he won’t feel like he has no say in our household. Women are normally the ones in control because they know better when it comes to the “actual” necessities in the house. Though there are single dads who can take care of a family in the absence of his wife, we, women are born to be the responsible ones. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  12. posted by Lindsay on

    It is that way in my home on most purchases, but mainly because my husband is so frugal and I am so not. He really helps me to control my spending, but sometimes I will decide I need something, research it and present the case to ask what he thinks. It isn’t because he holds the purse strings, it’s because he’s so frugal. He will ponder whether or not he needs something He told me he wanted a new desk months ago, and he did research and picked one out. Hasn’t bought it yet. I mainly have become more frugal out of sheer guilt. lol

  13. posted by Lindsay on

    Kirstine, in my house it’s the man who knows better what the actual necessities are! I had to convince him we “needed” a digital thermostat, after which he picked one out and installed it (our sky high air conditioning bill helped with the convincing). I have yet to convince him that we “need” an elliptical machine. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. posted by Coyote Hunter on

    @Kirstine: You “allow him” strikes me as a real laugher. He’s only allowing you to think he needs to be “allowed,” which he doesn’t. Or he’s really wimpy. Whoa is him.

    For chrissakes people, we’re only talking about buying stuff-most of it is just incidental, some of it is real, tangible good stuff. Stuff you hand down because someone actually wants it. Most of this stuff, assuming you’re dead, nobody wants. It’s truly just stuff. The real stuff gets carried home by the family members who think it’s good stuff.

    This whole process “piece” and especially the comments are stuff. The process as described is bunk.

  15. posted by Rosa on

    I don’t know, the process rings true to me, and it’s congruent with a lot of different marketing research I’ve read.

    In my house, the initial idea that we need something could come from either one of us but he’s never ever going to go buy something, so if I agree with him that we probably need or want something, I do the research and think about it and make a decision and then tell him I want to get X – and then he goes and redoes all my research because he has to convince himself. Even though we generally agree at the end, he has to look at it himself.

    For instance: our son wants a trail-a-bike, he’s tired of being hauled like luggage in a bike trailer. So last fall I started researching different kid-and-stuff hauling options – I need to be able to take the kid and also haul everything from groceries and library books to sculpture and animal bedding. The thing I want, that fits the budget and our other requirements, when I first mentioned it to my partner he said “that’s stupid, that would never work, it wouldn’t be safe.” But this week he’s been re-doing my research and now we’re buying one, because it *is* the thing that appears to fit all three of our requirements.

  16. posted by Izzi on

    I wholly support the idea of making informed choices and targeting purchases, but there is a kind of mental clutter that can result from obsessive research. In the search for a perfect cell phone, camera, dishware set, or comforter, there may very well be “the perfect One” but there are also a lot of “really good” options as well. With exhaustive research also comes a lot of pressure to make the right, or best, decision, which can be mentally draining– what if after all that work, the product fails to meet expectations? Is it really efficient to spend days on the web and in magazines and talking to friends? I’ve noticed more and more that I enjoy my purchases more by cutting off the research phase after a certain point and accepting the “good enough” option.

    This also applies to more frequent purchases: yes, there may be a wonderful new shampoo or make-up out there, but do you need the mental clutter of constantly being on guard for what’s better than product that works well enough for you right now? I think you can increase efficiency by paying attention to the amount of time we spend preparing for purchases and knowing when enough is enough. There was a great article on this in Real Simple magazine.

  17. posted by Suzy on

    Yup – This is true here. Plus I have two daughters, and a frugal husband, so it’s a no brainer. All three of us got iPhones this week; the girls wanted them; they researched the differences in plans; they came up with the proposal. I put my stamp on it. Dad went out and bought them.

    On the other hand, if we need a new refrigerator or washer-dryer, there might be 3 functions I *must have*. Armed with that knowledge, my husband and I can go to a multi-brand store independently and choose the exact same model. We think that much alike, so he has no problem turning it over to me, or I to him.

  18. posted by Steve on

    It really depends on both the item and the two individual human beings comprising the couple.

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