Gender Differences In Online Behaviour

Read some interesting stuff in New Media Age since being added to our distribution list for the journal. Picked up on an article looking at gender differences in online behaviour. Much of it is guff frankly and this sort of 'insight' is just some ropey stats and pop psychology cobbled together from piecemeal research. Much of this contradicted behaviours patterns which we know to be correct offline and I remain to be convinced that we fundamentally change our behaviour online.

For example, are women really more task driven online? Is this a result of their gender or their social circumstances? Are the two mutually exclusive and what has driven this statement? Warwick Cairns (planning director at Brandhouse WTS) isn't able to elaborate in the article.

Marketing differences I do concede exist. These seem to accord with offline research and I give them credence. For example, women appear to respond better to advertorial/editorial style marketing messages online. This would fit with our established awareness about the power of emotions in female interaction. Chris Price of ShinyShiny.tv (a blog-style "girl's guide to gadgets") clearly has a vested interest in this kind of stuff when he observes success marketing Sony TV's on his site, but it's no great leap to think the empathising brain will respond better to conversational sales and service messages. They begin, as the item says "making more lifestyle and emotional connections with the content they're viewing" [than the male, systemising brain]. To this end it perhaps informs us that we can be smarter about the type of content we serve online and think even more closley at segementation. Could we, for example, proactively serve live chat windows when an online form for a car brochure identifies a woman is completing it, or a page of technical data when a man is enquiring ?

It's really difficult posting this sort of stuff as you open yourself for criticism of gender generalisation. I would only counter that I'm basing this stuff not on one article in NMA but many years research and study in psychology and human computer interaction. I'm not saying this makes me right, just that it's worth thinking a bit more about.

(A bluffer's guide to theories of empathising and systemising and Simon Baron-Cohen's seminal work on the subject)

No comments: