Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What Women Want: Web Analytics

What is it that women want!?! Let's face it, one of the greatest mysteries in this life is figuring out what women want. Men sure don’t know and I would dare say that many women don’t either. Some might say that marketers have figured it out, these guys know what sale and what do not sale. But I think marketers have missed the mark. In this post I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that web analytics may actually be a tool to help all business persons male and female, understand what women want in online ecommerce or emergent mobile markets

Before you exit this page, press delete, thumbs down, or label me as some “crazy” feminist, allow me to explain myself. Every day, men and women and boys and girls are exposed to the ideas that are valued by those who control the purse. Unfortunately, it’s not the women who control the purse in the media and business world. Allow me to illustrate this example by sharing one of Colin Stokes’ observations he shared in a Ted video. He points out that seldom will you ever watch a movie where there are two women characters who actually have meaningful roles or even when two women converse about things other than their mutual crush. He adds that in "Argo," the critically acclaimed blockbuster, the major line said by a woman in the movie is "Are you coming to bed Honey?" Need I say more? The dearth of missing dialogue between women to women and men to women is a testament that men and some women don’t know what is important to women or that what is important to women is undervalued. Now where does web analytics fit in all this?

Web analytics, if used properly, can be a powerful tool. It enables website designers, marketers, and managers to have immediate feedback as to what “works” and what does not on a website. Web designers, marketers, and managers can implement A/B and multivariate testing to see what web pages have lower bounce rates, who seem to encourage conversion, and are the most popular among users. Web analytics can even have customer specific information that can be aggregated to show trends among clusters of users. Web analytics presents a great opportunity for designers, marketers, and managers to capitalize on the ability to experiment on their websites to actually understand better what it is that women want in a website. I will now elaborate on this idea by focusing on mobile fitness apps.

In my emergent technologies class the other night we were discussing what makes a fitness app successful. Words and phrases like “tough competition” “intensity” “muscle mass accumulation” echoed throughout the discussion (I think I even heard a few grunts of approval). But I couldn’t help but wonder if these are programmatic attributes that women want in a fitness app. The men in the class also suggested monitoring heart rate and calories burned. These are important to women of course too. But not a single classmate suggested a successful app might allow the user to track other weight-loss indicators such as the following:

- Emotional stability
- Frequency of emotional eating
- Frequency and potency of chocolate cravings caused by unbalanced hormones
- Level of pain caused by menstrual cramps

For women, these issues are inseparable from weight loss. Of course my classmates did not come up with these suggestions. They are men! It is not likely that they would come up with these suggestions...ever...Because men and women experience the world differently. Now, don’t get me wrong. Women are VERY competitive. We just compete in different ways and we are different from men physiologically. These differences need to be taken into account when designing websites.

If competition between participants is magic formula for male fitness app users, what is the female counterpart magic formula? Now is an ideal time to launch emerging market online and mobile apps that experiment and seek for the “magic” formulas that empower women.

We do need to be cautious, however, in our attempt to understand what women want by analyzing web analytics. The website needs to be designed strategically or we may take home the wrong message and find ourselves just as clueless as we were before. Avinash Kaushik explains in his book Web Analytics 2.0 that when taken out of context, the data pulled from your website can be meaningless or completely understood (2010). He also suggests adding context into your analysis by asking your viewers questions. I would dare say that he is asking us to couple quantitative analysis with qualitative research. For example, a manager might choose to A/B test two web pages that look like they came out of Cosmo and airbrushed photos of sixteen-year old girls that look like sex goddesses (Russel 2012). The manager will be able to see which page was more effective at getting conversion rates. However, the manager will be no closer at understanding what women really want then they were before. However, if a manager were to decide to implement a web pages that had more uplifting and empowering messages, followed up by a three to five question survey asking them about their experience, then the manager might have a better understanding.

Now is the time. More women have a college education then men in the United States. More women then men have taken management roles. The wage gap between men and women is decreasing. More men are taking on the role of care-givers. The world as “we” know it is changing (Rosin 2010). Why not design our websites and the tools that we use to evaluate them more strategically. Why design our websites and the KBRs and KPIs we use to judge the websites around what women really want?


Kaushik, Avinash (2009). Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity (p. 148). John Wiley and Sons. Kindle Edition.

Rosen, Hannah (2010). The End of Men: And the Rise of Women. Penguin Press. NYNY.

Russel, Cameron (2012). Looks Arent’ Everything, Believe Me, I am a Model. http://www.ted.com/talks/cameron_russell_looks_aren_t_everything_believe_me_i_m_a_model.html

Smith, Dorothy (1987) The Everyday World As Problematic: A Feminist Sociology. Northeastern University Press

Stokes, Colin (2012) How movies teach manhood. Ted: Ideas Worth Spreading.http://www.ted.com/talks/colin_stokes_how_movies_teach_manhood.html. .