What Women Want (In a Pool Store)

Cailley Hammel Headshot
photo of someone sunbathing by a pool

From a sales standpoint, women are a force to be reckoned with. To start, they are responsible for 80 percent of all consumer purchases, not just in the U.S, but around the world. More than half of all new cars are purchased by women, and single women in particular are a growing segment in the housing market. When their kids have grown and established their own households, women over 50 use their discretionary income to spend more than 2.5 times the national average.

And this power isn’t going away anytime soon. Experts speculate that over the next 10 years, women will control two-thirds of the consumer wealth in the U.S.

In short, women are your customers. And if you want to see more of them in your store, Anne Obarski, founder of Merchandise Concepts, has some advice. Obarski is an author, international speaker and business coach with 30 years of experience helping businesses improve their customer service, retail strategies and, of course, the bottom line. And she says there’s one thing all businesses need to do:

“Look at your business through a woman’s eyes,” she says. “Businesses do themselves a disservice by not considering what women look at either prior to buying or prior to using a company.”

In advance of her seminar at the PSP Expo in Orlando, we chatted with Obarski about how pool and spa businesses can make themselves more female friendly.

Winning With Words

The battle for a woman’s business begins before she sets foot in your store, Obarski says, namely through testimonials they read on your website and online review sites. The research backs that up. In a survey about retail habits, marketing firm Interactions found that 91 percent of surveyed women research products online before making a purchase, and 92 percent will pay more for competing products that receive better reviews.

“Women buy emotionally, so they want to hear what other people say,” Obarski says. “They want to read those words.”

The lesson is clear: Keep a close eye on your Yelp page and solicit great testimonials to place on your website. A poor reputation has a hidden cost.

“Many times,” Obarski says, “we will lose a potential customer and never know about it because they never took that next step to pick up the phone or come visit the store. And it’s because of what they either didn’t see or didn’t like on the website.”

Creating an Experience

If your website has testimonials and your reputation pages have good ratings, you’re off to a great start. But when female shoppers do visit your store, Obarski says retailers tend to stumble on a common hurdle: presenting their wares the wrong way.

“They think, ‘We’re selling a product.’”

Instead, Obarski suggests seeing your store as a place people can experience. Take a look at your own store and ask yourself — what imagery does this create?

“It’s more, ‘This is how it’s going to make you feel. You’re going to enjoy sitting out with your glass of lemonade. Imagine listening to the waterfall, imagine floating in your raft in a pool.’ You’re really just trying to set the stage and build a picture for a woman,” Obarski says.

For example, don’t cluster all your hot tubs together in your showroom. Take one or two and create complete vignettes with pavers, flowers, towels and even a drink on the corner. If you sell patio furniture, create table settings with silverware, decorative lanterns and fashionable cushions. For inspiration, look to stores like Williams-Sonoma or Pottery Barn.

“Even if it’s as simple as somebody running a hot dog machine, so you come in and you smell the hot dogs, and maybe there’s iced tea in one of those big pitchers, and someone says, ‘Here, can I give you a glass of iced tea while we walk around?’ It’s setting that stage so that when I leave, I felt like it was an experience,” she says.

Creating a memorable in-store experience can be a challenge, yes, but it’s something your customers won’t find in big box stores.

“She can go anywhere else. She can go to Lowe’s, she can go to Home Depot, she can go, frankly, to Costco or Sam’s to purchase outdoor furniture to create that outdoor feel that won’t necessarily require a landscaper or someone to come in and build something. So I think you have to have all of the senses at work. Smell, touch, taste — whatever it takes.

“In the pool and spa industry, we’ve got to be better at offering things you can’t get other places and offering them in such a way that the experience is so cool, you have to come back.”

On Site

Trust is an essential part of the pool purchasing process for any customer, but especially for women, Obarski says. And at no point is that more important than during the building phase.

“Our media is very big on saying, ‘Don’t answer the door to people. Make sure that if there’s a man on your property, you know who he is and you trust him,’” she says. With that in mind, a woman may have some questions and concerns about the people building her pool:

“I want to know what your guys look like, because I want to know them when they come on my property. Are their trucks clean? Are they dressed professionally? Do they meet and greet me at the door? Do they call me by my name? Do they arrive when they say they will, and leave my property neat and clean? Are they not smoking on site? When I speak to what women want out of landscapers, that’s it.”

It may take more time and work to make sure your staff meets these expectations, but doing so can pay dividends in the long run, especially in the form of testimonials and referrals.

“From what you do in the initial stages all the way along the journey, it’s about getting her to become an advocate and cheerleader for you,” she says.

Anne Obarski will be speaking at the PSP Expo in Orlando Thursday, Nov. 6 at 8 a.m. in a seminar titled “Uncover the Real Secrets of What Women Want from Your Outdoor Living Store.”

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

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