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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How women shop- An ethnographic observation

A few weeks ago I was out to dinner with some fine ladies and the conversation turned to buying laptops. An interesting point struck me about the way women make certain buying decisions, and it is not based on hormones.
Alice (not her real name) pointed out that she had been in the market for a laptop with certain specifications which need not concern us here. Now Alice apparently had some leeway with spending money, so was not limited to the cheapest choice. However Alice pointed out that despite the fact that one brand and model had all the features she desired, she actually decided on another one which was just a little more elegant looking, and which did not have quite the capacity of the other. "It was just prettier!"

That reminded me of the reason why I had already decided that my next device would be an ipad rather than a netbook.
(For the record I got neither, after some education on their respective capacities).
From the moment I (a pc user) witnessed the launch of the ipad through a live streaming blog site early in the year, I (like a million others apparently, who bought it), developed a deep yearning for its light, sleek, transportable and sexy design. To my untrained mind, thinking like the average non-tech savvy consumer, this was freedom to carry around all the information I would need, in my handbag. And to access  that info on a large enough screen that was not a blackberry or iphone would make all the difference.

Just days before I had been complaining about the weight and design of my clunky laptop which was seriously compromising my mobility after work hours. The thing was so heavy that I could not contemplate going anywhere but straight home to dump it, after a day of working with it. It was impossible to make a few stops on the way home to get groceries, meet a friend, catch a movie or anything else. It certainly imposed restrictions on a city lifestyle where one gets around by foot or by subway.
So I had been dreaming of a device that was no bigger than an e-reader, when Steve Jobs announced the launch of the ipad.
I felt like a prayer had been answered!
Someone pointed out that if size and weight was a problem , why not just get a netbook?
But know what... How ugly is a netbook compared with the ipad.
Put a sleek device like an ipad next to a cute little netbook, and cute suddenly appears ugly.
So I the pc user was prepared to cross the floor, just for the sake of beauty.

Having said all that, I sadly trekked backed to the pc camp when I realised that the ipad is not actually a business machine. I now await delivery of my new small screen notebook as I also learned that a netbook is not a true pc.
I am a bit disappointed that I'm limited to black as that vendor did not have it in white.
How I would have loved to have an uncommon pristine white little laptop.
But for the designers out there, consider making a really elegant gold coloured one and watch what happens to sales.

As a total non sequitur  I noted an amusing difference in the way men and women shop for handbags when I owned a retail store a couple years back.
Women would hold the bag against their leg in front the mirror and make the decision based on how it looked against their person.
The boyfriends/husbands however, would examine the details of construction of the handbag and recommend the purchase to their partners.
How's that for an ethnographic observation!

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