Women Online Shopping Behavior and Travel IndustryBlog Article | October 10, 2012
Needless to say, men and women occupied different position in today’s market in terms of consumer habits and needs. Different consumer groups need different approaches not only in terms of which product might be suggested to which audience group but also in terms of multiple factors, from color and design preferences to the language that you use for marketing.
Most websites tend to use same approach for both genders. The first reason they do this is that e-commerce is a relatively new channel for business, so other priorities, such us making the purchase process more efficient or enhancing the product range, are focused on before thinking about what different genders need. On the other hand, when e-commerce sites address a mass audience they tend to assume that this mass audience consists of men. And the language, product and design inevitably address what men want to see and what men need.
There are major big mistakes inherent here. First of all, unless websites offer a specific product range which is associated with a specific gender like cosmetics or clothing, they position their online business based on a sweeping assumption that “men are decision makers and they decide what can be purchased” or “men tend to purchase online more than women”
That assumption is completely wrong. In the UK market, for example, according to a current survey by payment provider WorldPay, men only spend marginally more than women online, typically spending an average of £3,495 a year, where women spend £3,120.  However, the same survey shows that different genders have different consumer habits online. Men spent £145 more a year on electronics, £150 more on lifestyle and entertainment and £235 more on travel. Women, on the other hand, spent more on fashion and clothing with an average of £315 compared to £188 spent by men.
That slight gap between the two genders is almost the same for Travel and Tourism. Men are again only slightly more likely than women to have stayed in paid accommodation, by a narrow margin at 61%, compared to 58% of women in 2011. [Table 1]
As both studies and many others illustrate, women are a significant consumer group only slightly behind men. Therefore, it makes no sense for Travel Websites to be positioned as if designed for a male audience.
In fact, our claim is having things that the other way round provides a much greater advantage compared with targeting a male audience. In terms of travel or holiday, another parameter should be taken into account: the Decision Making Process. Mary Beth Bond, the “Gutsy Traveler” and so-called #1 expert on women’s travel in the USA, noted on her website that 80% of travel decisions are made by women, regardless of who’s travelling, where they’re going, and who’s paying.
Another resource addresses the decision making process for family holidays: “Early research into the decision-making process for family holidays identified the man in the house as the lead decision maker and traditional ‘head of the household’ who would plan the family holiday. This was followed by a move towards the idea that women generally made shopping decisions and, therefore, the travel-buying decisions.
These findings were later supplanted by the idea of sub-decisions being made which break down a holiday into its various components, with men deciding cost, place and length of the break and women making decisions about how to travel and what activities and places to visit. However, more recent research now recognises that most travel decisions are made jointly between adults. Women tend to do the research about where to visit, but the adults as a group actually make the final decisions together. Researchers also tend to identify women as more active in the decision-making role when children are involved as they tend to empathise more with what the children may want to do.” 
Different Preferences in Travel
Women and men have slightly different reasons for going on holiday. Women are inclined to take a holiday in order to spend time with family and friends as well as City and Culture trips. [Figure 1]
In terms of choosing holiday destinations, women again incline slightly more towards selecting “Traditional, Well-known destinations” [Figure 2]
Men were more likely to have traveled to their main holiday destination by car or motorbike (46% vs. 41% of women), however, women tend more to use public transport such as Airplane, Train or bus.
- Women and men have slightly different attitudes when it comes to travel expectations.
- Women comprise the biggest decision making group for tourism.
Web Design Preferences Across the Genders
From the day that babies are brought home and cradled in their pink or blue blankets, implications have been made about genders and colour. While there are no concrete rules about what colours are exclusively feminine or masculine, there have been some studies about gender colour preferences and web designs can be matched to gender differences in the last decade. Current studies show that males and females have different design preferences, which can help make your website irresistible to a specific gender.
Before drilling down leading Travel Websites in the UK, we would like to highlight female preferences in terms of web colours, design and the language that you use on the web or social media.
Colours that are traditionally considered feminine colours or that appeal most strongly to or are more closely associated with women can be good choices for marketing messages, Websites, and interior designs targeting women. Colour studies carried out over the years indicate that the favourite colours of women and men do differ. Some of these differences in favourite colours may be attributed to cultural use of colour and conditioning. However, certain universal generalizations are possible based on various colour studies.
According to the same experiment , while female preferences are:
- Female Top 3 Favourite Colours: Blue, Purple, Green (all cool colours)
- Female Top 3 Least Favourite Colours: Orange, Brown, Gray (warm and neutral colours)
- Among least favourite colours (all genders), dislike of orange increases with age.
Male preferences are:
- Male Top 3 Favourite Colours: Blue, Green, Black (2 cool and one neutral colour)
- Male Top 3 Least Favourite Colours: Brown, Orange, Purple (neutral, warm, mixed colours)
- Among favourite colours, preferences for green decrease with age (both genders).
- Among least favourite colours (all genders), dislike of brown and purple decreases with age while dislike of orange increases with age.
Besides many significant differences about gender colour preferences, there is one quite major preference which has a direct effect on web design. In the experiment, both men and women had the same general preference when it came to light and dark colours. However, the experiment showed that woman gravitate toward soft colours, while man like bright ones.
Web Design Preferences
According to a study by G Moss, R Gunn from business school while men preferred male-produces websites, women prefer female-produced websites.  Like gender differences on the colour preferences, males and females have different preferences in terms of web design as well.
Another study shows that mainstream web design, which basically can be defined as white background, black text and blue link, corresponds to what men like to see on websites.  [Figure 6]
Besides some major different preferences in terms of colours on the web page and links, research shows that women would like to see large images and clean web design.  That finding is supported by many studies. For example, Project COPE by Rutgert University suggested similar results: “Males require more information from the websites while females would like to see more related images and videos in the websites” 
The language that you use for marketing communication with your audience, is subject to many parameters such as your brand policy, your market etc. But resent research shows that language preference also has some differences between genders. For example, In the UK market, women incline towards informal language more than men; in other words, they prefer informal language over formal more than men do. 
Another main difference about gender preferences in the online world is about politeness. Results of a research by Davis Huffaker from … indicate that gender and language in online messaging (blogs, social media, chat etc) and web content are not different from face to face interactions and include similar features of “verbosity, assertiveness, use of profanity, politeness”
“A study of 2692 messages from an internet discussion group finds that groups dominated by females tend to ‘self-disclose’ and avoid or attempt to reduce tension (Savicki, 1996). Similarly, Herring (2000) finds that women are ‘more likely to thank, appreciate and apologize and to be upset by violations of politeness (Herring, 2000)
In contrast, discussion group dominated by males tend to use impersonal, fact-oriented language (Savicki, 1996), and males seem less concerned about politeness and sometimes violate expected online conduct (Herring, 2000)” 
This fact about language differences has been proven in many studies and it’s not a secret any more. As we now know well , men’s goals in using language tend to be about getting things done, whereas women’s tend to be about making connections to other people. Men talk more about things and facts, whereas women talk more about people, relationships and feelings.  At this point, a critical question comes up: “Are websites for tourism/travel meeting women’s language requirements in the UK?”
- Women have different preferences from men in terms of web design when it comes to colour preferences, design and language.
- Websites that are designed by women are found more attractive by women.
Examining Major Online Travel Agencies in UK
In this section we are going to examine major OTA’s in UK in terms of the extent to which they meet female audience needs. Our research, which will be revealed in this section, shows that the main visitor group for the top ten major websites consists of women. That finding proves that women are the main researchers and most likely the main decision maker for selecting and researching holidays. However, women tend to research more on holiday websites than on websites devoted solely to flights. The high women audience percentage for top major OTA’s should not be considered an indication that those websites cater for women’s preferences on the internet. There are a number of factors which made females their major audience. The first factor is that women are already the main holiday consumer (or decision maker) in the UK market. For this reason, we are going to examine each leading website in order to find out what their weaknesses or strong points are in terms of meeting women’s needs. However, we are going to look at similar websites in order to compare them in terms of female preferences. These websites are Lastminute.com and Opodo.co.uk ,which were not in the top 10 travel websites list in May, 2012.
It’s a well-known traditional agency website. Therefore, it’s not possible to evaluate this website irrespective outfits good reputation on the market. Most likely, it is that good reputation, previous experience and its trusted position that draws female attention. Another factor is that this website is designed in compliance with female consumers’ web preferences.
- Well-known tourism agency. (not only OTA)
- Large images, limited texts.
- Main colour is blue, which is a common preference for both genders.
- Clear and easy to navigate website.
- There is no offer on the welcome page.
Expedia is the world’s leading OTA. That strong position also enhances its position in UK market. However, it’s not a female oriented website. Its female audience is only slightly higher than its male audience.
- Well-known Online Travel Agency.
- Additional logo which can be associated with families.
- Too much text.
- Not enough large striking images.
Last Minute is a purely Online Travel Agency. In other words, it’s not a traditional travel agency. It was established in 1999 in London.
In this respect, it is comparable with Expedia, travelrepublic and Opodo, which we will be examining shortly. Apart from well-known travel agencies like Thomson and Thomas Cook, Last Minute holds second position when it comes to attracting a female audience, following Travelrepublic. As listed below, it has some strengths that attract women apart from those that other –leading pure OTAs- have.
Another significant achievement for this brand is that attracting more women gives Last Minute a leading position as a UK based OTA investment.
- Using female colour preferences (purple)
- Big striking images.
- Wide range of services offered, which attracts women’s attention. As described above, cultural and city activities are draw much more female audience attention. The Last Minute website offers art and city activities from its home page, in contrast with other OTAs.
- Not easy to navigate.
Skyscanner is only flight search web site on top ten web sites list. UK Based company, arguably, does have very successful web site based on female audience preferences.
- Trusted brand
- Usable web site
- Clear design
- Offers on home page
- Big fonts and search boxes
- soft colors
- not too much, confusing content on home page.
- It’s not an Online Travel Agency, therefore, all booking process can’t be completed on the web site.
Opodo is another UK based Online Travel Agency. However, it’s not in the top 10. In Google adPlanner statistics, it’s a website preferred more by males than females. They should have noticed same drawbacks and have updated their website design last year. Based on their old design:
- Trusted brand
- More text on the home page.
- No large striking pictures.
- No colour choice compliant with women’s preferences.
- No good icons (they fixed this problem on the new website)
Arguably, between pure OTA websites, websites which are designed in compliance with women preferences have a better position in the Market.
According to the basic analysis in the sections above, a women targeted travel website should be:
- Easy to reach by phone;
- Easy to navigate;
- In feminine colours,
- With big striking pictures;
- Short texts with bigger fonts in informal language.
- Art, City Tours,
- Sun/Beach Holidays,
- Mostly well-known destinations.
 Colour Assignment, Joe Hallock, 2003
 The Secrets about Men and Women Web Preferences in UK, G Moss, R Gunn, Glamorgan University Business School in Wales, 2006
 Colour Preferences in Web Design, Professor Carl Nelson Blue, University of NorthernIowa, 2008
 The Secrets about Men and Women Web Preferences in UK, G Moss, R Gunn, Glamorgan University Business School in Wales, 2006
 Gender Similarities and Differences In Online Identity And Language Use Among Teenager Bloggers, David Huffaker, Georgetown University, 2004, Page: 12