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Why Do Men and Women Shop Online Differently?

Anyone who has ever stepped foot into a mall can tell you that men and women shop differently. When it comes to what we buy, how we buy and why we buy it, the gender divide is apparent.

But what about when it comes to online shopping? Do age-old generalizations—ladies take longer in the dressing room, men are in-and-out shoppers with tunnel vision—ring true?

We wondered if the same rules apply when men and women shop online. So we started asking questions: Who shops faster, spends more and is more apt to keep that midnight impulse buy? Thanks to the vast pool of shopping stats available to the Extrabux.com crew via our website, we crunched the numbers to find out.

men-vs-women-shopping-infographic

Some of the intel surprised us, so we asked Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research and a leading expert on eCommerce, consumer behavior and trends in online shopping, to weigh in on what we found. Here you’ll find a breakdown of the results.

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Ladies, have you ever asked a man to accompany you to a mall on the weekend? And did he seem like he’d rather be doing, oh, like a million other things instead? Yeah, we thought so. As it turns out, guys don’t do much online shopping on the weekends either.

In fact, women are much more likely than men to buy online on weekends. As shown in the graph above, guys are much more inclined to shop online on Mondays instead, with 16.4 percent of all online purchases made by men occurring then.

Still, Mulpuru says that doesn’t mean men aren’t hitting the strip mall on the weekends. While men are very driven by the value and price they can find online, Mulpuru says they may still peruse physical stores on the weekend to do some reconnaissance.

“I hypothesize that people, men especially, will do their browsing in a store like a consumer electronics store or an appliance store or wherever it is that they do their physical store shopping and then go promptly to the internet…as soon as they get to work on Monday, looking for the best value for whatever item they want to buy,” Mulpuru says.

While guys do most of their shopping on Mondays, women do most of theirs on Thursdays. That isn’t as easy to explain, but we have a sneaking suspicion that is has something to do with women wanting to finish up their shopping before getting wrapped up in the goings-on of the weekend.

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There is a reason why brick-and-mortar retailers love selling to men: Once the product is paid for and out the door, it probably isn’t coming back. Men aren’t known as frequent returners, Mulpuru says.

When it comes to eCommerce, however, our numbers showed that men and women return an equal portion of their purchases. Must be the ease of those peel-and-stick return labels.

And when we looked at who returns online purchases faster, the chart didn’t lie. Guys are much faster to do the deed, with women taking about 43 percent longer to return a purchase then men, which adds up to 30 days vs. 21 days on average. That got us thinking: Do women just have a more difficult time deciding if they should return an item?

Not necessarily, Mulpuru says. It’s more of a matter of priorities—and of trusting yourself to actually remember to make the return.

“If a guy really wants to return something, he’s going to return it immediately,” Mulpuru says. “My husband, if he sees something he doesn’t like, he’s got to take it back within an hour. Otherwise it’s never going to get returned.”

But women take their time. Maybe it’s because they’re too busy to get to it right away. Or perhaps, unlike Mulpuru’s husband and many guys the world over, most women trust that the act of actually making the return won’t be forgotten or buried on a to-do list. Even if they don’t pack up a return right away, most women know it isn’t destined to remain in the closet, unworn, for eternity.

men-vs-women-online-shopping-time-of-day.png If you’ve ever suspected that your female coworkers are shopping on their lunch breaks, you’re probably right. Our findings showed that women shop online most from 12-1pm. But men wait until after hours to do their online browsing, with eight percent of all purchases made by men occurring between 7-8pm.

Why? Women are busier, and that hour of sweet freedom in the middle of the workday may be the only time they can finally update their summer wardrobes. “They have families at home, and that’s the only time they have, whereas men are more likely to be multitasking in front of the TV,” Mulpuru says. “Even if they are with their family, [men] are breaking out the netbook or the iPad while helping their kids with their homework.”

There is also a pronounced spike for female shopping at 10-11pm, and that’s no fluke. Women shop about twice as much as men in that hour. If you consider that this is often when the kids are fed, bathed and tucked in—and when the to-do list has also been laid to rest—it makes sense.

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Remember that age-old shopping rule we talked about earlier—the one that says women always take longer in the dressing room than men? As it turns out, it isn’t much different in the virtual world.

From the time they logged on to Extrabux.com to the time they actually made their purchases, women took about 40 percent longer than guys. On average, women took 14 minutes to make a purchase where men took just 10 minutes.

Mulpuru attributes this to the core ways that men and women consider what they purchase. One is a tactical execution, she says. The other is a philosophical examination.

When men decide to buy an item, Mulpuru says they often research it by quickly going to five websites and purchasing the product from the site with the best offer. “Whereas a woman’s way of considering is, ‘Do I really need this? Let me think about this for another day or couple of days. Let me ask my friends,’” Mulpuru says.

men-vs-women-average-online-purchase-price.png Men are clearly bigger spenders, as they tend to spend 31 percent more on average on an online purchase than women. As Mulpuru points out, this may be a case of men simply buying more items all at once to minimize virtual shopping trips. But there may be something bigger at play.

You see, men tend to be more tenured online shoppers than women. Especially because they are typically the early tech adopters. “Definitely the more tenured you are as a shopper, the more likely you are to buy anything and everything online,” Mulpuru says.

So that humongous home entertainment system the guy next door just bought with a single click on the web—complete with TV, game system, surround sound and Blu-Ray player? That’s not so crazy after all. Veteran male online shoppers are just wired that way.

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If we told you that, according to our numbers, annual online spending for men and women usually peaks somewhere between ages 25-44, you probably wouldn’t be surprised.

After all, this is a demographic that has both tech savvy and purchasing power, the dynamic duo behind online buying. Yes, Millenials have the know-how, but they’re lacking the dough. Or, as Mulpuru puts it, “You’re never going to see 18-year-olds driving eCommerce—they just don’t have any money.”

These numbers may change in years to come, as older demographics become more and more comfortable in the virtual world—and as their income travels with them into the tech frontier.

What’s interesting is the spike that happens in annual online spending for both men and women ages 55-64. After dipping off in the prior decade, consumers of both genders seem to undergo some kind of online shopping rebirth once they get midway through their 50s.

So what accounts for the dip in online shopping from ages 45-54? “My only thought would be that women who are shopping online at that age demographic are just busy,” Mulpuru says. “That’s a woman who is in the prime of her career.”

Perhaps the same could be said for men, but their dip is much more dramatic. Maybe men shop less online once they hit the 45-54 range because they’re too busy with their midlife crises. You know, that time when men are supposedly off buying Ferraris, getting hair plug implants, and trolling Craigslist. It’s tough to say. But when it comes to researching stats, even we won’t delve too deep into that one.

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