E-Commerce, American Style

With the grim outlook for the online sales landscape, with companies shifting strategies to accommodate the downturn, e-tailers should be doing everything possible to court… well, me.

Unfortunately, even though we’re in a new economy, complete with new media, American men are being treated as if they’re all Fred Flintstone. Many Web sites for men emphasize “guy” stuff, including sports, cars and yes, women, but it does not appear that a major effort has been mounted to truly capture the diversity that exists within male buying population.

As a result, men are not embracing e-commerce the way they could. For Americanmen, e-commerce is becoming the equivalent of a well-worn chair in a department store, the one where the husband sits, holding his wife’s purse while she shops.

The Fatal Flaw

An October survey by ESPN found that online males who focus on sports have an average household income of US$64,000, and that 78 percent have purchased products online this year.

So there is a market out there. That’s good to know. However, all e-tailers would also do well to note that not every one of those dollars is meant to be spent on Terry Bradshaw throwback jerseys.

If there is a real weakness among e-tailers in their approach to male consumers, its that they give in so easily to the old stereotype that the No. 2 interest of men, after football, is spring football.

Sure, athletics may be a main attraction, but that doesn’t mean that non-sports e-tailers can’t use that attraction to appeal to the other interests of men.

Missing the Boat

Consider: If a male consumer goes directly to NFL.com for information about the big game, why aren’t more e-commerce companies representing themselves prominently on these sites?

The big advertisers on NFL.com right now are RCA, Ford and Miller Lite — all theoretically appropriate for the male audience. But where are the online travel companies that could be promoting Super Bowl packages on the site? Where are the hotel companies that could be wooing potential Super Bowl visitors to use their properties? Where are the rental car companies and the airline companies?

Plus, there’s no reason that the many branches of e-commerce can’t hit the typical ESPN male, while he’s watching television, with targeted ads showing us how simple and convenient it is to shop online.

A compelling multi-level marketing effort, incorporating all products and services male buyers might want or need, would make perfect sense. But it is not happening.

New Media, Old Habits

No, online marketing and advertising efforts seem resigned to hammering the same narrow point home. Making matters worse, they do so with no regard for the diversity of cultures and basic interests that exist among men.

I humbly admit that, as an American male, I don’t fit the profile that e-tailers have established for online male shoppers. I don’t have any kids, I don’t like to fish or golf, I don’t drink beer and I’m not into football. Want more? Okay, I’ve never owned or wanted a corporate issue burgundy necktie and I don’t rely on a woman to select my wardrobe.

So how are e-tailers marketing their wares to me?

They’re not.

It’s a shame, but e-tailers have yet to realize there are men out here who appreciate fine clothing, enjoy the comfort of first class airline seats, hang on every word of great novelists and savor the distinctive taste of a nicely aged wine.

The Diversity Dilemma

Admittedly, e-commerce had a rough year, but it’s tough to work up a sincere empathy for e-tailers whose view of male consumers is so limited that it assumes only young, white men will spend money online.

Not all men fit into that ESPN 18-to-34 profile, and not all men earn as much as $64,000 a year. And although it may come as a surprise to some e-tailers, some men are not white.

If e-tailers want to know what men want, I believe the answer is simple. Men — all men — want to be recognized as viable consumers and treated accordingly in marketing efforts and product lines.

Above all, e-tailers need to recognize men as the complex animals we really are. Hey, we’ve been known to enjoy Bordeaux, Barcoloungers and B-Ball, all at the same time.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

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Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.


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