Research Perspective and Comments & Analysis
Working Women Consider Healthy Produce Purchases Throughout The Workweek
By Tara L. Peters, Director Of Marketing, Workplace Impact
It’s no secret that grocery marketers focus much of their energy and budgets on reaching women. While some men may be doing more grocery shopping than they did in the past, female consumers remain the primary purchase decision makers for weekly household supplies. Yet with the influx of women into the workforce since the mid-1900s, the profile of the female purchaser changed significantly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women now represent 47 percent of the American workforce. That means 68 million women leave their homes every workday and head to schools, offices, hospitals and other places of employment. Therefore, while working women still make most of the household grocery trips, their shopping patterns changed significantly.
A new study, From Planning to Purchase: The Shopping Patterns of Working Women, reveals the behaviors of this valuable demographic and equips produce marketers to better meet working women where they are on their unique path to purchase.
Working Women Are Concerned About Health And Wellness
One strong characteristic that influences the shopping pattern of working women is their strong focus on health and wellness. Not only are they responsible for ensuring their families eat healthy, they are in the workplace — an environment that is quickly becoming a key battleground for influencing healthy lifestyles. Since employers want healthy employees and are concerned about lowering their healthcare costs, many businesses are establishing wellness programs that encourage healthy eating. Working women are taking notice.
According to the study, 96 percent of working women regularly shop the perimeter aisles, and according to 2012 research, Working Women Healthy Lifestyle Survey (also conducted by Workplace Impact), fresh fruit was the leading food that working women take to work to support their healthy eating habits. Added to that, the current study suggests that working women like to take their time when making their produce-buying decisions. Produce was the leading category that working women give thought to throughout the entire path to purchase, with 41 percent indicating that they make their decisions both pre-store and in-store.
This has particularly strong implications for produce marketers, indicating that their messages should target working women during the entire path to purchase.
Convenience-Oriented Shopping Patterns
While not asked directly about their preference for convenience, the data shows this is one of the greatest influences on the shopping patterns of working women, and it starts with making a shopping list. Ninety-five percent indicated that they make a shopping list so they won’t forget an item; 45 percent said they do so to save time in the store. This indicates that the working woman’s shopping trip is strategic and focused. The shopping list serves its purpose well by helping women navigate the store as quickly as possible, and it prevents them from needing to make a time-consuming additional trip for a forgotten item.
While some marketers continue to view grocery shopping as a task that is planned at home, the data shows otherwise. Eighty-four percent of working women said they regularly/occasionally add items to the list at work. One reason this occurs is because when it comes time to make the shopping trip, it’s often between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Forty-nine percent of respondents indicated they make multiple trips to the grocery store Monday through Friday, and 46 percent regularly do so on their way to or from work or during a lunch break. What this demonstrates is that due to the nature of their hectic lifestyles, working women have no other choice but to blend grocery shopping with their workday activities.
These insights show that the shopping patterns of working women evolved to keep pace with the increased blending of work life and home life. Marketers have an opportunity to drive growth by keeping pace with this trend, and one way to do that is to include reaching women during the workday.
For a full copy of the study, From Planning to Purchase: The Shopping Patterns of Working Women, please email Working Women Shopping to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Non-Working Women Need To Be Studied Too
Do working women have different needs than women who do not have paid employment? It seems like that probably would be true, but the nature, extent and even the cause is not clear.
After all, women who don’t have paid employment can still be very busy — there is volunteer work, children, spouses, elderly parents etc., which can all drain time. And even if the needs are different, it is not clear that it is the work in and of itself that makes them different. For example, many people who do not have paid employment may have very high-earning spouses. If so, it may be affluence that causes both spouses not to work and changes in food purchasing habits.
This study is intriguing but raises as many questions as it answers:
1) Strong focus on health and wellness: Is it true that working women have a stronger focus on health and wellness than women without paid employment? There is no comparison group in the study, so we just don’t know.
2) Responsible for ensuring their families eat healthy: Once again, do women who work feel more responsible for keeping their families healthy than women who do not? There is no evidence for this.
3) Businesses are establishing wellness programs that encourage healthy eating — working women are taking notice. Do such corporate programs lead to behavioral changes? Maybe women who are not working have more time to go to the gym and get equally motivated in another way.
4) Ninety-six percent of working women regularly shop perimeter aisles.
But doesn’t almost everyone shop the perimeter aisles? It is not clear that working women “over index” here.
5) Fresh fruit was the leading food that working women take to work to support their healthy eating habits.
The wording here is a little confusing. That fresh fruit would be the No. 1 snack to “support their healthy eating habits” does not surprise. But isn’t this the same for women without paychecks?
6) Working women like to take their time when making their produce-buying decisions.
The idea here is that working women plan for purchase of fresh produce and evaluate the produce again in-store. This is almost certainly true but, once again, hardly seems a unique trait to working women.
7) Produce was the leading category that working women give thought to throughout the entire path to purchase, with 41 percent indicating that they make their decisions both pre-store and in-store.
This is kind of inherent in the nature of produce. One plans on buying apples, but determines the variety after seeing what is offered that day. The frustrating part of this research, though, is that despite this being an accurate description of the way working women shop, there is virtually no reason to believe — and certainly the study doesn’t tell us — that women without paid employment behave differently.
8) While not asked directly about their preference for convenience, the data shows this is one of the greatest influences on the shopping patterns of working women.
The fact that a woman is not working does not mean she wants to spend her whole life in the kitchen, and many non-working women have the means to do other things, so convenience can still be important. Sure some women, both working and non-working, have loads of staff to help them, so they may not care about convenience, but what percentage could that possibly be?
9) Ninety-five percent indicated that they make a shopping list so they won’t forget an item.
Yes, but do non-working women want to forget things? For this study to be particularly helpful, you need a comparative study with women who don’t work for pay so we can see if they approach things differently from working women.
10) Forty-five percent said they do so to save time in the store. Once again, just because a woman doesn’t have paid employment doesn’t mean she wants to hang out in the supermarket all day.
11) Some marketers continue to view grocery shopping as a task that is planned at home, but the data shows otherwise.
In fresh produce, this has never been the case. New-crop peaches just in, bananas not ripened properly, cross-merchandising promotions — all these things have always changed produce purchasing right at the store.
12) Eighty-four percent of working women said they regularly/occasionally add items to the list at work.
There are a thousand reasons — including hearing an ad on the radio or a friend mentioning a sale at the market — why a working woman would add or subtract things to the list during the day. But guess what? Non-working women do the same thing.
13) One reason this occurs is because when it comes time to make the shopping trip, it’s often between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Working women may run into a store to pick up something for their own lunch at an office, and while there, they may remember they need cans of soup or other grocery items. But, for the most part, working women aren’t likely to do a lot of perishable food shopping until the work day is done. It is not clear exactly how the shopping hours of working women differ from those of non-working women.
14) Forty-nine percent of respondents indicated they make multiple trips to the grocery store Monday through Friday, and 46 percent regularly do so after work or on a lunch break.
Once again, the question is how does this differ from non-working women?
The advice WorkPlace Impact gives is fine. Produce vendors should look to influence people at a variety of times and in a variety of ways. But for research about a particular population segment to be helpful, we have to have a point of reference.