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Which Do You Want More: Male or Female Shoppers? Here’s The Answer

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By: Jenn McMillen |

Posted on December 7, 2023

7 Differences Between Male and Female Holiday Shoppers

One group prefers gifts cards, the other is more brand loyal. As retailers prepare their holiday marketing, they should keep these male/female shopper differences in mind.

By Jenn McMillen, CLMP™ Founder and Chief Accelerant of Incendio 

Is a “50% off” sign more masculine or feminine? Product promotions aren’t typically designed to be either, but it’s something retailers might want to consider going into the holidays.

Consumers are expected to spend $875 apiece on holiday-related goods this year, the National Retail Federation reports. Of that, $620 will be earmarked for gifts. As retailers vie for their chunk of that money, they should factor into their marketing that their female and male customers have very different triggers when it comes to their choices.

One group is more loyal to brands. The other examines return policies. And, not surprisingly, one of these two carries a longer list of gift recipients.

What both men and women have in common is that if they like it enough, they’ll put a bow on it. Here’s how to tell who likes what, and how much.

Above All the Bustle, This Is What All Genders Hear

Scanning recent research results into consumer behavior, here are seven distinguishing factors about male and female holiday shoppers that can be re-gifted as sales opportunities.

  1. Bros stick with brands. More than two-thirds of men, 67%, repurchase the same brands they have bought before, PwC research shows. By comparison, 59% of women are brand loyal – meaning they have an eye out for better value, new competitors, or completely alternate products. In planning their promotions, retailers can analyze the unisex brands more likely to be purchased by their male shoppers – such as Nike and Patagonia – and reconsider their markdowns based on stock levels. These promotions can be featured in endcaps that visually appeal to men.
  2. She wants a gift card more than the sweater. In general, women like to browse. So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that 38% of women want a gift card this holiday season, while just 26% would prefer physical gifts, PWC shows. And gift cards keep giving for retailers: Six in 10 people redeeming gift cards spend beyond the value of the card, Capital One reports, by an average of $31.75. Retailers can sweeten the deal by offering double reward points on gift cards, or more personalized gift card options, such as adding a name to a card ordered online (for a minor fee, or as a rewards membership promotion).
  3. Women gift more, so they spend more. Nearly half of women (49%) buy holiday gifts for others, compared with 41% of men who buy for others. As a result, women are expected to spend 11% more this year than in 2022, outpacing the overall population’s 7% increase, PwC projects. That means while the average consumer is expected to spend $1,530 on holiday gifts, entertainment and travel, women will spend slightly more. And they likely could use a little help choosing all those gifts. Marketing that matches affordable gifts to specific recipient categories, such as the Prime delivery person, mail carrier, teacher, and hair stylist, can lead to more purchases.
  4. She’s an early bird; he’s an Ebenezer. Like Scrooge, men tend to be last-minute holiday shoppers, and that doesn’t appear to be changing yet this year. Nearly 30% of women had started shopping or planned to holiday shop in in September, Gallup reported. That compared with just 18% of men. Instead, 27% of men planned to kick off their shopping in December, when just 13% of women will. Retailers can staff their stores with this customer mix in mind, with a focus on promoting items men will buy for themselves, for added purchases.
  5. She’s more likely to go to the Amazon. Women represented the lion’s share of bargain-seekers on Amazon Prime Day this year – 78%, Numerator has reported. Retailers have been stepping up their competitive efforts against Amazon on past Prime Days and did so during its October Prime Big Deals Day event, which kicked off the holiday shopping season. Some, including Target, are extending their offers through December. Competing retailers might be able to further boost market share if they nestle limited-time holiday promotions on specific products within their extended “big” sales.
  6. She’s more likely to snow you about loving her gift. This might not be a shopping issue, but it is a retail-marketing opportunity. More than half of all women, 51.4%, are prone to say they like a gift when they don’t, reports Enterprise Apps Today. Men are more likely to reveal their disappointment (just 35.5% will fib). Retailers could shift post-holiday discounts away from traditional men’s gifts, because they’ll likely be keen on making a swap regardless of price. Pre-holiday messaging (in-store and online) should include return and exchange guidelines that are easy to swallow.
  7. Women prepare for gift fails. See above. More than half of women who buy holiday gifts, 52%, prioritize free returns when considering where to shop. That compares with 41% of men (whose female recipients are more likely to “love” their gifts). Women might tend to think in longer terms. They might just be prepared for children (and men) to give honest opinions about their presents. What should matter to retailers is if their female shoppers are willing to shop around based on return policies this holiday season, they risk losing sales. And while looking at return policies, they should think about giving the 30-day window an extension; it’s the holidays.

Rushing Home with Their Treasures

Would promotional signs that are personalized to read, “50% off for him,” “50% off for her” be more effective in selling goods? They might get a beat more attention than a plain “50% off” sign. And one beat can be enough to trigger a meaningful number of sales.

However, it’s not just words that matter – the insight that goes into them is probably more important. Because in gift-selling, just like gift-giving, it’s the thought that counts.

This article originally appeared in Forbes.

Forbes.com retail contributor Jenn McMillen is nationally renowned as the architect of GameStop’s PowerUp Rewards, and is Founder and Chief Accelerant of Incendio, a firm that builds and fixes marketing, consumer engagement, loyalty and CRM programs. Incendio provides a nimble, flexible and technology-agnostic approach without the big-agency cost structure and is a trusted partner of some of the biggest brands in the U.S.