According to the latest figures, there are 8.9 million women in the UK aged between 25-50 who have responsibility for buying CPG products for the home.
Of these, over 85% are online, with 60% of these internet users (4.7 million) using the web to search for CPG information.
These so-called ‘digital women’ represent a significant and active audience for CPG brands and advertisers.
So far, so well-known. However, if you drill down a little deeper you will find that far from being a static bloc of consumers, digital women represent shifting sands to brands.
To understand the lie of the land and the drivers for this change, we recently undertook a study into the purchase and online search behaviour of women looking to buy CPG products across food & drink, beauty & bathroom, household and baby care.
It showed how the CPG landscape is changing and also points to how online is shaping women’s approach to purchasing CPG goods
The most significant finding for brands is that digital women are less likely to be brand loyal than their offline counterparts but at the same time are more likely to make recommendations to others when they come across a brand they favour.
This is explained by the opportunities offered by online channels for sharing as well as gathering information about genuine experiences of a product.
Digital women therefore represent both a threat to established CPG brand marketing but also a significant prize in an emerging world where recommendations are easier to share and carry an increased weight of influence.
To see how digital women in the 25-50 years age group are taking a new approach to CPG purchases you only have to look at who they are.
Generally speaking, they are younger - with 59% under the age of 40 - wealthier - with only 29% earning under £21,000 - and more likely to be employed than their offline counterparts - with 80% having jobs.
Only 48% have families, meaning the average number of people in the households they are buying for is 2.83 (compared to 3.78 for offline).
Their smaller household size leads digital women to have a lower household spend on CPG products than non-digital women (£324 versus £427 per month) and you would expect this to lead to them spending less across the board on CPG products.
However, when you look at the per person spend the true picture emerges. When it comes to the largest CPG category, food and drink, their spend per person is 9% higher than that of their offline peers (£77 versus £71) making them higher value consumers for those brands.
While the amount they spend is largely down to their financial clout, the role of the internet in how they spend cannot be ignored.
When it comes to CPG products, an ever increasing number of women are browsing online and purchasing in-store.
This is important for the sector. Whereas non-digital women are largely influenced by in-store offers, digital women have more out-of-store information sources informing their product choices.
This results in a dilution of the impact of in-store offers on them even though the majority of their CPG purchases are made offline.
Television is still the biggest influencer for digital women, but the various online channels are having significant impact on CPG purchases, challenging the prime position of television and word-of-mouth.
While 15% of digital women indicated that TV was their ‘most influential source’, and 11% indicated word-of-mouth, the various online channels were the most influential source for 12% of the group.
The more individualistic approach the internet allows in terms of personalised searches and targeted advertising means that digital marketing is increasingly having a more direct influence on consumers.
Consequently, digital women who search for CPG products online are more receptive and positive towards online advertising.
The latest figures show just how receptive - with one-in-two digital women clicking on an online advert or enquiring about the product advertised. Moreover, CPG searchers also have a greater recall of adverts.
But what are they searching for and what type of adverts can achieve penetration? The most common reasons for searching for CPG products online is to find offers, promotions and price information.
And this is the most pertinent for brands as digital women seeking better prices and trying new products is having a significant impact on brand advocacy and brand loyalty.
The internet has increased the complexity of digital women's drivers of CPG purchase - making loyalty both easier to lose but more rewarding to gain.
Online CPG searchers are less brand-loyal and more price sensitive than their offline counterparts. While the proliferation of information sources online does mean that loyalty to a brand can be harder to achieve, it is not impossible - 67% of digital women stick to brands they like, compared with 89% of non-digital women.
Moreover, digital women who search for CPG brands are 70% more likely to be brand advocates than non-CPG searchers. This means that if you can get in front of them and convince them online that your brand is best, they will in-turn start to work for your brand.
To drive volume sales brands need to focus on digital women whose decision-making is more complex. With brand-loyal offline women representing just 4% of the UK female population, it’s clear that digital is now the battleground for CPG brands.
As their products are now widely discussed, reviewed and selected online, brands have to give serious consideration to multi-channel marketing strategies in order to be front-of-mind in the supermarket.
With the market size and value of digital women set to increase yet further, CPG brands must make sure they continually-revisit their multi-channel strategies to meet this opportunity.
Babita Earle, digital strategy director, GfK Digital