Women make most purchasing decisions in the home—upwards of 80 percent of them, including home improvement decisions. In addition, women are also often the bill payers in the home. Yet it seems that marketers might not be targeting them when attempting to market residential solar energy.
That’s according to a ongoing survey “Shining a Solar Marketing Light on Women,” which is being conducted by Identity3 and of #SolarChat. “70 percent of us feel very misunderstood by marketers, so clearly there’s power in numbers,” Raina Russo, founder of #SolarChat said during a session of the same title at Solar Power International. Russo and Glenna Wiseman, founder of the marketing firm Identity3, introduced the survey on Oct. 9. It’s open through Nov. 13.
By the time of their session (Oct. 22) about 200 women from 27 states had responded to the survey, in addition to a number of women working within the solar industry. The preliminary results found that women are leading the charge into solar power at the home. The survey asked women whether or not they had solar—90 percent said they didn’t but knew someone who does. It also asked who in the household is responsible for paying the bills. According to Wiseman, 83 percent of respondents said they paid bills, including the electric bill. “They are the ones who actually know how much the household is paying for energy,” she said. As such, they’re likely more qualified to make an energy decision for the home.
When it came to starting a discussion about installing solar power, the women in the household often led the charge, the survey found. “Sixty-three percent of the respondents said that they, the wife, initiated the conversation about solar,” Wiseman said.
It also became apparent that the woman of the household also did the legwork for a solar array, researching the options and contractors available. An overwhelming amount of them, (61 percent) said the woman of the household conducted research, Wiseman explained. Another 27 percent researched solar with their spouse.
After getting more serious about solar, 56 percent of the households in the survey said they talked to two or three contractors. Ultimately, “Almost 68 percent say that both of them make the decision and 29 percent say they made the decision,” Wiseman said. She added that 97 percent of women respondents say they were either primarily responsible for choosing the contractor or they had a very big say in choosing the contractor.
Though the findings are still preliminary—Wiseman and Russo will close the survey Nov. 13, the same day they hold a Twitter SolarChat about the survey—it does show that perhaps solar installers should rethink who they’re marketing to and how they market. For instance, “We need to stop selling on features and start emphasizing female-centric benefits,” Keally DeWitt, SunRun social change marketer & community organizer said in response to the survey. “Benefits must appeal to a busy mother persona and market more effectively on social media, particularly Pinterest and Facebook, where more women tend to be engaged online.”
Likewise, Kristin Underwood, co-owner of Planet Earth Solar said that women tend to hold the pocketbook for the family and to be an equal decision maker on many or all of the sales that she has been involved in. “But more often than not, the salesperson directs the conversation to the man of the house," Underwood said. "This can tend to upset the woman and could potentially end the deal if she feels that she was not included or even worse—ignored.”
Other suggestions from female solar solar professionals included having more women salespeople in solar, as well as women solar installers. The survey itself also found that women would prefer an incentive check for going solar rather than a referral or reimbursement for prompting friends and neighbors to go solar.