What do women want from online content?

Oct 19 2016

What do women want from online content?

Anita Caras, Head Of International Research & Consumer Insights for AOL international, discusses the results of AOL’s Content Moments study in an attempt to understand what women look for in the online content they consume.

'What women want' is one of those million dollar questions with an endlessly diverse array of answers, ranging from evolution and behavioural science to comedy and popular culture – noughties rom-com anyone? But just because there is no one answer does not mean we stop looking for solutions.

At AOL, we are constantly striving to get to know our users in order to improve their consumer experience. Our newly released Content Moments research helps do just that, by getting to the crux of why people – in this instance women– engage with online content.

It is hard to overstate the importance of placing female consumers at the forefront of marketing activity. Starting with their historical role as primary household caretakers, women have always had a relationship with consumption. This is even more important nowadays, when women have access to higher levels of education, career paths and generally have more options in terms of life choices. This directly and positively impacts their decision and spending power. Women currently drive 70-80 percent of all consumer purchasing, and it is estimated that their global incomes will reach a staggering $18 trillion by 20181. With insights such as these, it is unsurprising that brands recognise the need to engage women on their own terms. The question is, how best do brands capture this vital audience’s time and attention?

AOL’s Content Moments research aims to gain insight into what women – amongst other vital audience groups and communities – want. A global study, spanning eight countries and four continents (running across UK, US, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Canada, Japan), Content Moments surveyed 32,000 online consumers (half of which were female) and 55,845 moments (28,000 female).

We investigated four main areas to understand the reasoning behind consumption of content: the motivations for going online, the emotions felt during the online experience, the content’s topic and the outcomes derived from the online content consumed. A gender-based comparison of the responses revealed fascinating differences between male and female preferences in terms of type of content they consume or share. Most importantly, however, we were able to understand what it is that attracts people to content in the first place, a critical aspect to know for effective marketing.

So what is it that women want out of online content? Here are a few observations:

Taking a Mental Break – Women consume online content in the hope of taking a mental break, aiding relaxation and finding out something new. This includes posts on social networks or window shopping for inspiration, browsing, searching online. This is in direct contrast to men, who are often seeking  visual stimulation, a different type of escapism through being shocked & amazed.   When men search online it is not solely to  learn something new but more steered towards being the first to know.

Feeling Inspired and Involved – Although the emotions felt while consuming online ranked similar to men’s, women seem to be more inclined towards feeling inspired, involved and connected with others.

Consumption Leads to Distraction and Entertainment – For women, consumption of online content leads to distraction and entertainment as top outcomes, followed by general mood improvement and ideas for new purchases and activities; this compares to a more introspective perspective for men; gaining confidence and learning more about themselves.

There are specific topics that are more likely to align to these motivations ranging from food to family, weather to wellness, parenting to pets.

Bringing all of the data collected together, we ran a multi-variate segmentation analysis and identified eight main content moments. From a female perspective, the most relevant moments are those which foster a state of relaxation and positivity – be that in Inspire (looking for fresh ideas/change of perspective), Entertain (escapism or mental break to improve mood) or Find (to learn something new).

We were also able to identify specific types of content that seem to work well under each moment. So, for instance, we know that when looking to be inspired, women go to product pages and online articles. One of my go-to places for inspiration is Huffington Post’s Good News section.

People wanting to be entertained usually turn to short or long form video. There are endless examples of entertaining videos, but a recent favourite is Dolmio Pepper Hacker. It tackles the very real issue of getting people’s (children in particular)  attention back at meal times, in a funny, engaging manner.

When it comes to the need to find or learn something new, the leading content formats are listicles and product pages and blog posts.

The global market of female consumers presents itself as a place full of opportunities for brands. We now know what women want out of their online content: inspiration, new ideas and uplifting moments. The question that remains is: how will you rise to the challenge?


1 Source: Bridget Brennan, 2015, Top 10 Things Everyone Should Know About Women Consumers.


Tags: Content Marketing, Content Moments, Anita Caras