Winning with self-employed women

Harbinger's Jennifer Lomax checks out what makes self-employed ladies tick when it comes to brand preferences.

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By Jennifer Lomax

According to government data, self-employment now accounts for more than 15% of the Canadian labour force. The motivation to stray from traditional employment varies wildly – ranging from employers’ reluctance to make permanent hires, desire for flexibility and to be one’s own boss, and growing access to reliable and affordable business technology. But who is the self-employed woman as a consumer, and what are the implications and opportunities for marketers?

When Harbinger conducted our North American 2014 consumer study, we asked about employment status, including whether they considered themselves to be self-employed.

The self-employed included a broad cross-section of women of all ages, lifestages and incomes. Mompreneurs (moms with kids under 21-years-old) accounted for about 40% of all self-employed females, meanwhile the women in dual income households without kids (12%) and independent women (11%) segments capped off the list. Half of the self-employed females were between 35- and 55-years-old.

Despite some significant demographic and sociographic differences among the women, our cross-section of self-employed female consumers shared a distinct set of common values, priorities, behaviours and brand loyalty drivers.

Here’s a snapshot of how the average self-employed woman stacks up to women who are not self-employed:

  1. Self-employed women are more likely to have a post-graduate education (18% versus 12%) or a professional degree (9% versus 4%)
  2. They are more likely to have a household income greater than $80,000 (45% versus 39%)
  3. Nearly half (48%) work more than 38 hours per week (compared to 14% for non self-employed women)
  4. These women are more likely to have a full-time/live-in nanny (8% versus 2%)
  5. They consider career, politics, travel and religion to be higher priorities than their counterparts
  6. Self-employed women are more interested in beauty, current events, fashion, pop culture, sports and rec, the arts and travel
  7. They are also more likely to aspire to status and creativity
  8. These women tend to be the sole decision-makers on 67% of household purchase decisions (compared to 57% for non self-employed women)
  9. When it comes to brand preference and loyalty, more than those who are not self-employed, she is influenced by brands that align with her personal values (50% versus 35%), make a significant positive impact on peoples’ well-being (53% versus 45%), “get her” (35% to 27%) and deliver value (83% versus 76%)
  10. Less than a quarter feel that brands understand what is important to her

Although, in many cases, it may not be sensible to target the self-employed consumer directly, there are clear instances where knowledge of this consumer would be beneficial. Take technology and travel for example: self-employed women are highly engaged with these categories and are inclined to outspend the average consumer on related goods and services. Meanwhile, consumer loyalty programs, specialty retailers and professional networking organizations offer interesting opportunities to execute focused marketing programs across a wide variety of consumer and professional categories.

Here are three takeaways for winning with mompreneurs and self-employed women:

  1. Ensure brand offering and shopping experience appeal to this group’s desire to feel understood and interested in the “new and now.” More than average, the self-employed target is interested in current events, pop culture and technology, so it is important that brands stay current to remain relevant in her world. There is also room for marketers to do a better job of showing they “get her.”
  2. Recognize self-employed consumers for being well-educated, savvy and independent thinkers. Skewing to more schooling, more purchase authority and fewer hours on the job, the mompreneur is more likely than average to do her diligence before making purchases. Enable her inner “Chief Purchase Officer” and give her credit for her smarts.
  3. Communicate exceptional value (this is not the same as low price). Perhaps contrary to popular belief, this higher-income woman is more conscious of what she’s getting for her hard earned dollars – make the value equation explicit so she can feel confident in choosing your brand.

Jennifer_Lomax_Headshot[1]Jennifer Lomax is VP strategic planning at Harbinger. 

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