Made by her vs. him: Gender influences in product choice
Benedikt Schnurr | Georgios Halkias
Due to technical advancements in production, markets are increasingly characterized by standardized and impersonal offerings, alienating consumers from producers. In response, consumers are increasingly seeking alternative ways of making purchases, such as buying products directly from the producer. For example, in 2021, almost 100 million consumers bought handmade products on Etsy. Buying products on such online marketplaces where people sell their handmade creations can satisfy consumers’ need for unique and personal purchase experiences. Indeed, on these platforms, consumers have access to various information about individual producers, the most common and easy-to-detect one being the producers’ gender.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, Benedikt Schnurr (TUM School of Management) and Georgios Halkias (Copenhagen Business School), investigate whether the gender of the producer—whether a product is made by a woman or by a man—influences consumers’ purchase decisions. In other words: Are consumers more likely to buy products made by women or products made by men? A total of thirteen studies reveal the following:
First, while female consumers show a strong and consistent preference for products made by women, male consumers do not show a clear product preference. In a field study, for example, more female consumers bought face masks that were made by a woman than face masks that were made by a man. In contrast, the share of male consumers buying face masks made by a woman did not differ from the share of male consumers buying face masks made by a man.
Second, the authors find that compared to male consumers, female consumers more strongly believe that buying products made by women can contribute to restoring gender equality in business—what the authors call action efficacy beliefs, which leads them to prefer products made by women. As a consequence, the difference between female and male consumers’ product preferences is smaller when the revenues from sales of both female and male producers go to a gender equality charity.
Third, the authors find that female, but not male, consumers’ product preferences depend on the extent to which they believe that women are discriminated against in business and on the extent to which they are motivated to change gender disparities. Specifically, the more female consumers believe that women face gender discrimination in business, and the more they want to act against it, the greater their preference for products made by women.
Fourth, the authors find that female consumers’ higher action efficacy beliefs drive their preference for products made by women more than their beliefs that their product choice reflects their identity and that female and male consumers do not judge women’s and men’s production skills differently. That is, women and men are believed to be equally skilled in producing various products, such as potted mugs, smartphone cases, and leather wallets.
These findings have important implications for producers, managers, and policymakers. Female producers selling their self-made products should highlight their gender as prominently as possible to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace and should especially target prospective female buyers. In return, managers of online marketplaces, such as Etsy or Amazon Handmade can boost sales by promoting products that are made by female producers. Finally, the findings elucidate the conditions that can promote prosocial behavior. Acknowledging that social inequalities exist and being motivated to act against them seems necessary, yet insufficient in driving people to align their behavior accordingly. Instead, consumers need to believe that their seemingly trivial individual actions (such as buying products made by women) can contribute to the cause. In this sense, consumers need to believe that their actions matter.
Benedikt Schnurr | Georgios Halkias
1TUM School of Management,
Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany
2Copenhagen Business School,
Source: Schnurr, B., & Halkias, G. (2022). Made by her vs. him: Gender influences in product preferences and the role of individual action efficacy in restoring social equalities. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 00, 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcpy.1327