Women start to get their due online

As women continue to migrate online, a small number of Canadian marketers have begun rolling out Web sites geared toward female consumers - and none too soon, according to a number of industry analysts. While marketing to women online hasn't had...

As women continue to migrate online, a small number of Canadian marketers have begun rolling out Web sites geared toward female consumers – and none too soon, according to a number of industry analysts.

While marketing to women online hasn’t had to be a major focus for marketers before now – women have never before used the Net to the same extent or in the same ways men have – the reality of online gender parity is one that has to be dealt with, says Sandra Tamburino, director of business development with ACNielsen-DJC Research.

‘Whether you need to market to women depends on your product, but if you do, you can’t just make a blanket statement,’ says Tamburino. ‘It would be wise to market specifically to them – and that comes with understanding not only their usage on the Net, but their traditional decision-making process.’

In anticipation of the female move online, Citytv’s home- and lifestyle-oriented television talk show CityLine recently made its debut on the Web. The Net version features how-to instructions, projects, recipes, an ask-the-experts section and the online CityLine AXS loyalty club. The site mirrors the show’s programming by covering several of the main subject areas – health and family, home, fashion, gardening and cooking – and targeting the same audience of women 25 to 34 years old. According to Maria Hale, managing director of ChumCity Interactive, Web-exclusive information will also be developed in an effort to further draw its strong female following online and encourage new viewers to both the show and the site.

‘We’re going to be featuring things like online chats, chats with our experts and a message board system so that our audience will be able to communicate with one another. This is one of the areas that we think will grow and receive a lot of attention moving forward,’ she says.

Last year, 51% of Canadian Internet users were women – a ratio that reflects Statistics Canada numbers for the population as a whole, according to Tamburino. In January, ACNielsen-DJC Research published the 4th annual Women Online Study, which polled a sample of 6,000 Canadians over the age of 12 who’ve used the Net in the last year. In 1997 and 1998, 47% and 49% of those online were women.

The percentage of men engaged in Net activities like downloading, clicking on banners and participating in newsgroups, however, is considerably higher than that of women, according to Tamburino. Women most often use the Net to find education and health information, participate in chat rooms, and obtain recipes. Kraft Canada’s Web site, for one, boasts several female-oriented features including an interactive kitchen, a meal planning service, and a recipe finder/cookbook.

Although women exert a great deal of purchase power, the study shows they are trailing men when it comes to e-commerce: 34% of men have made a purchase online versus 19% of women. And only about 20% of women do online research about future purchases, compared to 36% of men.

Tamburino says while women still do not use the Net as frequently as men, nor do they spend as much time per visit, the time spent online will increase as their experience and comfort level increase.

‘All the types of things women look for in the traditional environment, they also need on the Internet,’ says Tamburino. ‘If your site is difficult to use, loaded or embedded with all kinds of information and layers of content, you’re going to create a barrier.’

She suggests marketers build a community of interest among women by giving them something of value.

Ford Motor Company of Canada has been attempting to do just that by moving some of its traditionally female-oriented activities online, according to Lauren More, the automaker’s sales and marketing communications manager. The company features its Car Smarts Interactive Seminars program for women, offered in partnership with Chatelaine magazine, on its Web site. Bobbie Gaunt, president and CEO of the auto manufacturer, also recently hosted a one-hour live interactive chat from the Canadian Auto Show.

‘Certainly e-initiatives are a focus for Ford in general and the women market is definitely a focus. If you consider that one in three cars and one in five trucks are purchased by a woman, and 85% of all vehicle purchases are influenced by women, it’s absolutely an important market for us.’

According to Web measurement company Media Metrix, U.S. sites with a high concentration of women include toy, greeting card and health sites. In the U.S., women represent 48% of Internet users, with forecasts estimating they will begin to outnumber men online within the next 12 months, according to Jupiter Communications.

Christina Rodmell, co-founder of The Wired Woman Society, a Toronto-based association representing women who work in the online and digital communications industry, says advertisers and marketers need to forge connections and relationships with their female audience if they’re to thrive. They can do this, she says, by making their sites friendly, easy to use and visually appealing, and by including a mechanism by which women can ask questions and offer criticism.

‘The virtual world is slowly starting to reflect its brick-and-mortar counterpart. It’s important to tap into the female market, but you can’t umbrella us under one ad campaign. You really have to understand the dynamics,’ Rodmell says.

Estee Lauder celebrates the many #ShadesOfCanada

The inclusive campaign for the beauty brand's make-up line is supported by in-store events at HBC, Shoppers and Sephora.

esteeresizeYes, Canadians can (and do) buy makeup online, but holding up an arm next to a photo on a smartphone is not an ideal way to find the perfect foundation match.

“Especially when it comes to makeup, people are leveraging influencers and going on Instagram to learn more about makeup,” says Susy Brown, marketing director, Estée Lauder Canada. “But I really do feel like the in-store experience is what closes the sale. With makeup you still need to touch and feel, and at the end of the day you still need the guidance. It’s great to have a live expert who’s helping you through your process so we felt we needed the in-store as well as the digital.”

Estée Lauder Canada recently launched its #ShadesOfCanada campaign in support of its Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup with in-store events and promotions, which are complemented by online creative.


The campaign, which promotes its popular foundation line that was first launched in 1997 and now comes in 56 shades, kicked off right before Canada Day with in-store signage and events at Hudson’s Bay stores. Windows outside the department store chain in Vancouver and Montreal currently feature models with varying skin tones promoting the brand’s top selling product in Canada.

The shopper marketing program was launched inside several Hudson’s Bay stores during the department store’s “Beauty Week” in late June, with customers receiving guidance from makeup consultants IRL. People at the event were also given a $13 foundation pump with the purchase of any Double Wear product.

BA with customer

Following the Hudson’s Bay store activation, additional events will also be held in Shoppers Drug Mart’s Beauty Boutiques throughout July and August, and more events are planned for Sephora (which is also celebrating diversity these days) stores this September.

In Canada, Estée Lauder is considered a “heritage” brand that “may be perceived to be for a more mature customer,” says Brown. The #ShadesOfCanada campaign is a chance to reach out to both current fans and new customers.


For the campaign, the brand tapped a wide range of people, from the young male Canadian dancer by way of Ukraine, Oleg Kasynets, to the stylish septuagenarian Judith Bradley, who only started modelling in her 60s.

Susy Brown Headshot

“Ultimately we want all [people] to see themselves in this campaign,” says Brown (pictured right). “We wanted storytelling to happen so we wanted models who had a story to tell.”

It was also important to reflect the “cultural mosaic” here, added the marketing director. In a first since Brown has been with Estée Lauder Canada, her two-person marketing team (along with A Plus Creative) got to work on a Canada-specific campaign from scratch instead of merely tweaking American, or global creative.

“We are quite different, we are not an additional state,” says Brown. “We are a country with our own cultural differences and we speak to a different consumer.”

Part of speaking to that consumer is blending the in-store experience with opportunities for online promotion, by offering Instagrammable visuals that encourage people to snap and share their in-store experiences. Estée Lauder Canada created an “Instagram-type frame that can be used for selfies” featuring the campaign hashtag #ShadesOfCanada to encourage people to pose and post pictures of themselves in their perfect foundation shade.. There was also a series of photos and videos posted to the brand’s Instagram page, featuring models with a range of skin tones, gender identities and ages.

Estée Lauder started her eponymous company back in 1946 with her husband in New York City. In recent years a bevvy of trendy competitors have cropped up that also celebrate diversity whilst courting millennial and Gen Z consumers, such as Glossier, Fenty Beauty by Rihanna and Kylie Cosmetics by Kylie Jenner. DTC brands have arguably changed the face of the beauty business, with the global Estée Lauder Company having responded by buying a stake in the modern and sometimes controversial Deciem brand (which was founded by the late Brandon Truaxe in Toronto) in 2017.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the hashtag, it is: #ShadesOfCanada. 

Clarification: This article has been updated to make clear the target of the campaign is both current fans and new customers.