Meet the experts. If you are in the flooring business you need to understand the way women shop and how they make purchase decisions. Everything you do, from advertising to the way you present product in your showroom, should recognize that the overwhelming majority of floor covering shoppers are women.

When it comes to purchase decisions, flooring dealers would do well to remember two important words: Women Rule! Overwhelmingly, it is a woman-usually a married mom-who does the research, visits a few stores, interacts with the sales people and, ultimately, makes the purchase decision. They is no demographic more important to flooring stores than women. Still, most sales people on the showroom floor tend to be men. Typically, they are extremely knowledgeable about the products, helpful, courteous and upbeat-but too often clueless about how women shop, what they buy and why they buy it. 

So, as a service to floor covering salesmen everywhere, I offer the following rules for selling to women.              

Rule I: Women are wired differently.The way women think impacts the way they shop. Men are wired to compartmentalize. Their brains are like waffles-nice neat little separate compartments for information and details. Women’s brains are more like spaghetti-a twisting, interwoven and relational stream of facts, interpretations, intuitions, comparisons and emotions. Women are nurturing, relational and … serious shoppers. Sergio Zyman, former marketing guru of Coke, once observed that every detail can either make or break the sale. When it comes to women, nothing could be truer.

Rule II: Women raise shopping to an art form.David Ogilvy, the legendary ad man who founded Ogilvy & Mather back in the heyday of Madison Avenue, once said, “The consumer isn’t stupid, she’s your wife.” That was true in the 60’s and it’s even truer today. A woman’s shopping process is a better more interactive process than that of a man. Okay, I’m a woman, I can say it … Women were born to shop. We’re naturals and we’re very, very good at it. So let the seller beware.

Steer clear of out-dated ideas and stereotypes: The women shopping in your store today are smart, savvy consumers who typically have done their homework on-line before visiting the store.

Your approach to marketing, and the in-store experience you offer, must meet her standards. Do that and you’ll reap the rewards. The book Don’t Think Pink by Lisa Johnson and Andrea Learned says it best: “Research shows that companies that elevate their customer services practices based on women’s standards not only deliver more intuitive shopping experiences, but increase their appeal to both women and men.” But that does not mean you need to redo your showroom in bright cheery colors and add cut flowers. That won’t do the trick. Successful marketers reach out to women with programs and shopping experiences that demonstrate their appreciation of the female customers. Home Depot’s “Do-It-Herself” initiative is a perfect example.

Rule III: Women are shopping online more than ever.The Internet moved from a male-dominated medium to a female shopping tool of choice as high-speed connections grew in the nation’s homes. Now, with household penetration over 50% cable and broadband connections enable many women to see products in motion, with sound and in amazing detail. It’s like television on steroids. The combination of the Internet and her shopping prowess has created a shopping phenomenon for replacement flooring that I like to call the “Web-to-Store” cycle.

The Web-to-Store cycle starts with her real or perceived need for new flooring. It‘s confirmed by family and  friends who agree as well as shelter books and cable programming that entice with options she may have been unaware of. Then the cycle really kicks in: She does online research, visits stores, does more online research, visits more stores, and so on. The cycle may go one round or several. As the process continues, the intensity increases until she’s satisfied that a solution is within her grasp. That’s when her husband is brought into the process. This is why the retailer’s virtual domain (the website) and actual domain (the store environment) must be consistently female friendly.

Rule IV: Women are in a hurry.This is why shop-at-home services have thrived. A limited selection and higher prices can be traded for perceived time-saving convenience and immediate gratification of next-day installation. While it may be as old as the flooring business itself, the shop-at-home concept is also skewing to a younger demographic. If you can, creating your own shop-at-home capability and compete for this growing market.

Rule V: Avoid “Pink Thinking.”Don’t decorate your store or ads with hearts and butterflies. It’s like “green wash” to environmentalists-an obvious attempt to identify with a group but without the basis of any real understanding. So steer clear of out-dated ideas and stereotypes about women. Poor (or limited) service and uncreative thinking are a recipe alienating your core consumer group. And don’t worry about alienating men (you probably won’t if you do it right anyway). Will most women respond to a simple, shopper-friendly presentation that feels warm and inviting? Yes. Do most women respond to highly technical specifications for flooring? No. (And we have our doubts about most men, too).

Rule VI:  Be Master of the Web-to-Store Cycle.Meet her in cyberspace and sell her in-store. Women respond to websites that are easy to navigate and excite her with decorating ideas and possibilities. They pull their credit cards out in stores where they feel comfortable.

If you’d like a report card on how female friendly your advertising, website and store environment are, email me:

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of two installments focused on appealing to female shoppers.