Web site caters to female car buyers
STAMFORD — Women interested in purchasing cars from Stamford Volvo might be comforted to note that the Myrtle Avenue business was recently certified as a "female-friendly" automobile dealership.
Patty, available on the Internet at www.askpatty.com, offers women
car-buying tips and trains dealerships on how to better sell vehicles
Larry Abear, Stamford Volvo's general manager, said the store began a relationship with Ask Patty about a month ago, and activated the service — which includes a phone greeting alerting customers that the business is Ask Patty-approved — last week.
He said Stamford Volvo deals with a very "large contingent" of women, and that the Ask Patty affiliation will help customers understand the business is friendly and ready to help.
"With this here I think people would be more inclined to think 'Oh, they don't mind us asking this,'" he said.
Ask Patty e-marketing manager Breanna Boyle said that is exactly the purpose of the company's certification process and Web-based question-answer service.
"We kind of call it a coffee shop," she said. "We want it to feel that way, so people can ask questions and not feel stupid."
The Florida-based company is just one of the many enterprises marketing mainly to women — several consumer magazines, sports agencies, education, food and medicine companies long-ago began the push to attract female consumers, Boyle said.
"Most people agree it's something needed out there and the auto industry is late to jump on the bandwagon," she said. "So many industries are marketing to women."
Car commercials, advertisements and sales people have typically targeted men, Boyle said.
"[The commercials say] look at all the horsepower it has, and look, it's great, it can roll over rocks... [women think] 'that's great, but what are the practical uses you're not showing me?'" she said.
The need for a female-focused automobile marketing campaign was needed, because women influence more than 80 percent of car purchases, Boyle said.
"Women shop differently," she said. "They're looking at different things, like safety, and women want a relationship with the people they're buying from."
It is important for sales professionals who often go for the "hard push," to note that women don't necessarily need to get the best price, they are more interested in buying a quality product from someone they trust, she said.
Ask Patty, which launched in August, gets 30,000 unique hits on its Web site each day and works with more than 50 dealers.
Many people, like Martha Lane, said they think there is "absolutely a need," for services like those provided for Ask Patty.
Lane is assistant to the president of New Hampshire-based non profit Bonnie CLAC, an organization that helps low and moderate income clients purchase cars. Bonnie CLAC offers financial services, transportation and also negotiates with dealers so buyers don't have to.
About 75 percent of Bonnie CLAC's customers are women, Lane said. Women are more likely to pay a higher interest rate than men are, she said.
"Personally, I think women aren't aggressive enough," she said. "They're a lot more reticent — I'm not speaking for all women — but sometimes [they just think] okay, whatever."
Deven McGraw, chief operating officer for the National Partnership for Women and Families, said marketing to women is a welcome trend.
"I think in a lot of ways its a recognition of women's market power," McGraw said.
She said it is important though, that marketing be based on research and not on "old gender stereotypes."
Although she was pleased overall with Ask Patty's Web site, she said she was concerned that it suggested women were wary of buying cars. People in general, she said, equate car shopping with "being in bed with the flu," and she questions if men and women are not equally uncomfortable with making such a purchase.
As long as women's buying habits are determined by research and not by assumed generalities, McGraw said the marketing push will help female consumers.
"It's no surprise that women communicate differently," she said. "I don't think it diminishes our equality at all to say we're different from men."