IMM: GUEST COLUMNIST: SURVEY SAYS WOMEN WANT WEB SITES THAT BUILD RELATIONSHIPS

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The biggest news on the Internet is women.

Some 40% of online users are women, according to "NetSmart III-What Makes Women Click," a survey released last week.

These female online users are prime advertising prospects, given that women account for 70% of retail sales. The average woman online is 41 years old with a household income of $63,000. Some 64% work full-time; 54% have children; and the average woman is online at least 6 hours a week.

What makes women click? New products are the primary motivation for clicking on banners (74%) and visiting new Web sites (79%). These women are both early adopters and more important, opinion leaders.

What are they looking for?

The deceptively simple answer is relationships. Men focus on transactions while women thrive on making personal contacts.

Based on a phone survey of 500 female users, NetSmart created six strategies for marketers to reach women with their sites.

Initiate the relationship. Welcome visitors with home page links that let them know you understand why they are there. "What to fix for dinner?" Click here. "Free sample?" Click here. Ask women to register for customized navigation on repeat visits, 71% of the women surveyed said they will.

Nurture the relationship. Make it easy for women to find exactly what they are looking for. Some 86% rated "ease of navigation" as their top priority; another 73% leave Web sites out of frustration. Advertisers should consider navigational functions based on lifestyle needs and interests rather than product lines.

Sustain the relationship. Give women a reason to return. Some 81% of women are motivated by updated content. And women, much more so than men, are sharers and joiners. They love to talk and hear the opinions of others (91%). Build an online community around personal interests with chat rooms, expert forums and lifestyle content.

Invigorate the relationship. These early adopters are also keenly interested in new products. Preview upcoming products or breakthroughs on your Web site.

Use value-added extras like contests to enhance the interest on low involvement sites or entertainment sites. Women, more so than men, like contests (51% vs. 23%) and they are much more interested in new products (79%). Only 21% are interested in games-use them as a last resort.

Deepen the relationship. To draw your audience in, use online questions to find out about your customers' interests and lifestyle. Some 78% of visitors will participate if the initial four or five questions are personally involving and/or thought-provoking.

And by promising to post results online, you will motivate many to return and compare their responses with others.

Extend the relationship.

Marketers can maintain ongoing contact with customers by e-mailing or faxing customized information after they've left the site.

This is a great way to extend the relationship and maintain top of mind awareness. This content can be pertinent news about new products or ad-sponsored content from a third party. Some 68% of women are interested in self-selected push content. But you must first make sure to get permission from users. And then select the content carefully.

As many sites for women prepare to launch this fall, advertisers are just beginning to understand the media. Sites without interactive involvement will fall flat. On the Internet, if content is king, relationships are the trump card.

Ms. Tracy is president of NetSmart Research, New York, which specializes in surveys with strategies and tactics for Web sites. She can be reached at

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