Because There Is a Difference . . .

Conventional wisdom has it that, compared to men, few women express much interest in consumer electronics, and especially audio equipment. In fact, according to Consumer Electronics Association statistics, women accounted for only 22% of the $81 billion spent on consumer electronics in 1999. Prognosticator Jupiter Communcations predicts that, in spite of this, women will account for 46 million online buyers by 2003, and will overtake men in online purchasing.

Online retailer Hifi.com took note of this phenomenon and spotted an opportunity. According to a national survey conducted by the company, over 55% of women feel consumer-electronics retailers do not completely address their needs as female buyers. Of those surveyed, claims Hifi.com, nearly 50% feel somewhat or very intimidated about buying consumer electronics. Further, 64% of those polled feel they do not have enough information to comfortably make purchasing decisions on the Internet.

In response, Hifi.com recently announced that it is launching HerHifi.com as a forum to "merge women's lifestyle and entertainment needs so they can comfortably learn about, compare, and buy consumer electronics and entertainment products." Hifi.com's Michael Sullivan explains the move: "Women have been traditionally under-served by the consumer-electronics market. Unlike any other medium, the Internet provides a tremendous opportunity to target and address the specific needs of the female consumer. . . . e-commerce companies need to address the buying power of this market segment."

Laurie Nova, program manager for HerHifi.com, adds that "our research indicates that women have a different approach than men when it comes to purchasing consumer electronics. Practicality and functionality are key criteria women assess prior to making purchases. We built HerHifi.com around this central theme. The site was designed by women for women and offers relevant, targeted information in a comfortable forum."

The company is planning to offer several features aimed specifically at the female customer: a "Shop by Room" navigation tool for selecting products categorized for each room of the home; "Ask Kate," intended to guide consumers through the buying process by explaining technology in "easy terms"; and female "Featured Editors." Hifi.com says it will also incorporate additional features and functionality into HerHifi.com, including "shop by lifestyle"/"by life event," as well as instant messaging capabilities so that customers can interact with company staff.

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