The role, and importance, of Male Shoppers is changing 

Gender roles and acceptance seem to shift almost daily. Commerce – whether it is of the digital or physical variety – is impacted by this shift as well. It’s a long held belief (stereotype, perhaps) that male shoppers are ‘hunters’. They are tactical about shopping and are focused on the end goal. “Get In and Get Out” seems to be the mantra most often used (whether it’s shopping for clothing or shopping for groceries). Female shoppers are perceived as more “Thinkers” or “Planners” as they are more strategic about shopping. Female shoppers are the most traditional target for retail brands as they spend more and shop more.

But wait a minute…

Today, these roles and beliefs are blurring. Specifically, more men are taking on greater household responsibilities from shopping to cooking to cleaning. In fact, a recent study by Men’s Health, found that 84% of men are now the primary grocery shoppers in their households. Full Disclosure: Only Male Shoppers were surveyed.

Brands – retailers and manufacturers –  have noticed this and adjusted assortment and messaging to appeal to male shoppers (without alienating women, of course). This is, in fact, no new phenomenon. In P&G created several “Guy Aisle” concepts at retail for their male grooming products. In 2012, Westside Market NYC launched a “Main Aisle”, including water, alcohol, soaps, shampoos, deodorants, razors and even staples such as beer, barbecue sauce, chips, coffee, salsa, and of course, beef jerky.

Not every RETAILER seems enamored with male shoppers

The goals of retail are ‘fairly’ simple. Drive Traffic. Increase Purchase Incidence. Boost Transactions and Basket Size. While the objectives may be simply stated, execution is the hard part. In some form or fashion, every retailer has these objectives at the top of their list. And, the objective at the top of the profit flow: Drive Traffic.

For most retailers, this means getting more male shoppers AND female shoppers into the front door (or onto their website). Unless of course it’s a retailer focused on serving only one of those audiences or some niche (lingerie, men’s shoes, etc). But, what happens when a MAJOR retailer loses sight of this? Or, in an attempt to attract male shoppers, falls prey to a stereotype that can alienate those same shoppers?

This past holiday season, Walmart (you may have heard of them) aired a TV ad to highlight their omnichannel commerce capabilities. The core message of the spot was as follows: “Don’t sweat it. With Pickup Today, get the hottest gifts even at the last minute that will rock this Christmas. Order by 4 p.m., December 23rd for free pickup on Christmas Eve.” That’s a strong, compelling message, but why did they choose to market this in a way that is arguably controversial and off putting to male shoppers? 


The reaction to this TV ad – at least based on YouTube comments – was mixed:

Reinforcing the gendered stereotype that men procrastinate their christmas, anniversary or whatever other date.

Hats off to Walmart for finding a funny way to approach an purchasing pattern that is absolutely true.

This is hilarious! I work retail and yes, near Christmas it’s about 90% men coming in asking for help because they have no idea what to get. Christmas eve I hardly even saw a woman in the store, just men getting gift cards.

So ladies/moms are looked at funny if they go pick up a last minute gift but it’s cute for dad to do it? Disappointed in Walmart for this one. Way to shame the ladies/moms….

Never happen ever that walmart pickup staff smiles at you when picking up your order. Takes hours of waiting. Like the commercial though. Hope it’s like that in the real walmart stores.

Commercial was funny enough for me to go on YouTube to watch it again

Addressing gender appropriately in marketing

Do you find the Walmart holiday ad funny or offensive (or both)?

Regardless, it’s an important lesson. From a marketing perspective it’s clearly critical to understand your shopper. It’s also critical to understand how society is changing and react accordingly.  

How both genders are portrayed in advertising is another issue being addressed. In 2016, Unilever, a brand known for its recent campaign highlighting ‘real women’ asked the industry to rethink how it portrays men, women and families in advertising. Why? They claim that half of ALL advertising does not show realistic or positive portrayals of women, yet their research indicates more progressive advertising is 25% more effective in delivering better branded impact. A reason for change, indeed.

Clearly understanding your shopper is good business, regardless of gender.