The Male Museum Store Customer

July 6, 2015

by Andrew Andoniadis

If you are a retailer, you know that there is no single way to increase sales from male museum visitors. As a retailer you have tried different things to get men to buy but have not found a consistent solution. This dilemma can potentially be solved by looking back to our ancestral roots: men are hunters and women are gatherers.

Four out of five women shop like gatherers, browsing until they find what they want at a price they want to pay. Women regard shopping as a form of leisure and are happy to roam until they can gather what they want. Men, on the other hand, approach shopping as a mission. Upwards of 70 percent of men know exactly what they want before going shopping; they know where to shop, and they go straight for the kill when they get there.

Then there are the economics of shopping, some of which work to the retailer’s advantage. While women make approximately 70 percent of all retail purchases, men have access to a sizeable reserve of disposable income. Men move more rapidly, ask fewer questions and make up their minds quickly. They really can be efficient transactions.

The first step to selling to male visitors is to believe there is a male market that wants to buy. Men are either in your museum store as a primary customer or they are accompanying partners, spouses, children, other family members and friends. So, if you believe, take the time to try retailing tricks that may stimulate their interests and lead to incremental sales. And, once they have made up their mind to make a purchase, men are less concerned about price. A range of price points, however, should be available.

Museum-oriented Twists That Work

Customer Experience
Staffing with knowledge. Men often lack detailed knowledge of products and can be discouraged by too many undefined choices. A staff person with product knowledge, exhibit answers and focused recommendations will more easily make a connection.

Killing two birds with one stone. Gift cards work well for the male buyer and the recipient. Use suggestive selling to promote them. When the recipient comes to your store—whether a man or a woman—there is a good chance that browsing will lead to a purchase beyond the amount on the gift card.

Making assumptions. Don’t bother to ask a man if he needs help. Assume that he does and that he probably will not ask. Initiate some no-pressure, informative interaction. “What was your favorite part of the exhibit?” is a good, proactive opening line that can be followed up with product recommendations.

Making him feel at home. Prior experience with a product has a strong influence on purchasing, so brand names and exhibit images that evoke familiarity will reduce buying resistance. After they feel comfortable in a store, and especially with the staff, men can be very loyal customers.

Product Selection
Sports, financial, electronic, gadget, nostalgia and transportation motifs are naturals for male shoppers. This is one reason why, in my experience, stores in museums with related missions seem to do better with male visitors. Even if these areas are not part of your institution’s mission, exhibits with these components can be highlighted in the store or used in merchandise displays. When choosing male-oriented products, remember that in the home décor, desktop, tabletop and gift areas, function is preferred over fashion. Look for items that have leather, suede, wood grains and texture components.

Merchandising and Display
Do not forget about gatherers and hunters when merchandising and displaying. Put male-oriented products at the front of the store. Women will readily walk through the male-oriented section to get to their areas of interest, but men are far less likely to walk the entire store in search of something of interest. One exception may be books, which are often a natural draw for men.

Men influence what women buy and, perhaps most importantly in this context, how long they stay in the store. An impatient man, perhaps negatively influenced by uncomfortable environmental factors, will shorten the buying window. So, while marketing to men will drive purchasing, keeping their interest and making them comfortable will also allow members of their party to linger longer and buy more.

Just like men don’t know what to buy for women, many women don’t know what to buy for men. By focusing the merchandising in a part of your store toward men, you will also be facilitating purchases for men by women.

Twists That Don’t Work
Many of the environmental factors that have a negative impact on male shoppers will also influence the buying patterns of women, but may more heavily impact men. Take the time to consider these factors and make adjustments to maximize the possibility of motivating men to buy.

A warm store
Men will simply leave a store that is too warm much more quickly than a store that is too cool—taking the rest of their group with them.

Strong smells
Merchandise products that have a strong scent near the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) in order to dissipate the smell.

Crowded visitor, fixturing and merchandising conditions will shorten the stay of the male shopper. Spread things out so they have room to breathe.

Long lines
Men may actually spend a reasonably long time in your store, but when they are ready to leave, they are ready to leave. Do your best to minimize lines toward the cash register.

Bad information
Poor signage, especially missing price tags, apparel sizes and provenance information, will require a man to ask questions. Take steps to help men avoid drawing attention to themselves.

Untrained salespeople
Overly talkative and/or under informed salespeople can quickly cancel out all of your efforts to market to men. Train salespeople on the differences between male and female shoppers, and be sure they are fully informed about male-oriented merchandise.

In conclusion, I am not advocating that retailers treat men like Neanderthals. After all, we are not extinct. Male Neanderthals did exhibit intelligent behavior, and the hunting instinct has served men well over the millennia. The challenge for retailers is to play tricks on the hunter to get him to hunt more.

This article first appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of Museum Store magazine.

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