In a competitive marketplace, companies are continually looking for new ways to promote their brands and get customers to buy. Can promoting the owner of the company provide an edge?
If the owner is a woman, yes it can, according to data collected by Walmart. The retail giant’s consumer research has shown that 90 percent of female customers are willing to go out of their way to buy a product from a woman-owned business. That’s a potentially powerful impulse for female entrepreneurs to harness, given the fact that women make 70 to 80 percent of purchasing decisions across the globe.
So to help get that product information to shoppers around the world, in 2014, Walmart approached two non-profit organizations, WEConnect International and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, about creating a special label. That move led to the launch of a “Women Owned” logo, which began appearing on products in March 2015.
To print the logo on marketing materials and product packaging, companies must be certified by WEConnect International or WBENC as woman-owned. Any company that is majority-owned and operated by a woman is eligible to apply. There is no cost to apply or use the logo.
The logo benefits are threefold, according to Liz Whitehead, director of women’s business development at WEConnect: Business owners benefit from the opportunity to differentiate themselves in the market, buyers gain additional information about products, and retailers benefit by showing shoppers where their values lie.
The logo also helps consumers support women’s business success when making buying decisions. “The focus was on the purchasing power that we all have as consumers to put our money where our values are,” Whitehead says.
The Women Owned logo is one of a number of efforts to help consumers to buy with their values in mind. For instance, there are marketing initiatives that help consumers buy products that are environmentally friendly or made domestically. People are beginning to desire far more than just a product to buy; they’re seeking stories, according to Whitehead, and consumers want to be a part of that story. Many startups, like the The Higg Index, GoodGuide, Free2Work and 2nd Vote, are emerging that tap into this new wave of value-centric shopping.
There are other efforts to help consumers use their wallets to empower women. For example, BUY UP is an index and app that allows consumers “to make purchasing decisions based on a company’s demonstrated commitment to gender equality.” It evaluates companies based on the gender diversity of their workforce and leadership, the friendliness of their workplace policies, charitable giving to women and families, and whether their marketing techniques bust gender-role stereotypes. BUY UP hopes that the information its app provides will help shoppers use their dollars to make a difference by pushing companies to empower women.
The Women Owned logo, six months after its debut, is used by 20 companies. WEConnect says it’s working hard to boost that number by increasing awareness of the logo, whose creators have already won the agreement of a raft of large retailers to sell products that bear it, including online retailers like Amazon and brick-and-mortar retailers like Walgreens, Rite Aid, Duane Reade, Whole Foods, Big Lots and Dollartree.
Nu-Set Lock is El Monte, Calif.-based lock and home-security company that uses the Women Owned logo on its product packaging and marketing materials. Raylene Estrada, a marketing specialist at Nu-Set, says that the Women Owned logo is opening up doors for the company in a largely male-dominated industry. “When you’re buying women-owned, you’re promoting women,” Estrada says. “We need to work together to no longer be a minority.”
Asplund Coffee, a certified fairtrade and organic coffee company in Minnetonka, Minn., is also using the logo to promote its brand. Owner Patricia Asplund says the logo has helped it market its product more quickly and enter retail stores it otherwise may not have had access to.
But what about bottom line? Is the logo increasing sales? According to Whitehead, preliminary data shows a correlation between the logo and higher sales. But it’s too soon to know how significant the benefits might be. Walmart’s consumer research has shown that shoppers associate woman-made products with higher quality, Whitehead says, which suggests the logo could attract certain buyers.
Whether for quality reasons or simply to support women in business, Whitehead says “consumers everywhere are interested in women-owned products.” The logo is one tool to help them find those products — and support the women who made them.