While marketing products online, Indian brands throw around keywords like “gender-inclusivity” or “gender-neutrality” quite often, especially in the fashion industry. However, many online product-selling businesses in the Indian eCommerce sector are unable to keep up with the growing demands of customers who don’t conform to traditional gender identities.
According to a study, 56% of Gen-Z (aged 13 to 20 years) said they are unaffected by gender-binary while shopping. These findings indicate a sea-change in the preferences and ideologies of the next generation of online consumers. Indian brands have to expect a parallel evolution in their domestic market segments and adapt to the evolving needs of the time.
4 Ways to Build Gender-Inclusivity in Your Digital Brand
Conventionally, brands have always had gender-specific zones in their retail stores. This is especially true for categories like fashion, beauty, and personal care. Some brands like Zara also boast separate floors assigned to men and women. This split continues to exist in their online product sale on digital marketplaces like Amazon. Sizes, colors, visuals, and descriptions all target the two genders, with barely any space representing other identities.
As the demand for gender-neutral products increases, let’s take a look at 4 tips that an online product selling business can use to improve their online product marketability on digital marketplaces like Amazon:
1. Optimize Gender-Inclusive SEO
Even today, searching the internet for words like “gender-neutral”, “genderless”, or “gender-fluid” barely gives relevant results with any Indian products online. At best, one may find news articles trying to spotlight independent fashion labels or mentions of diversity representation in marketing campaigns of big brands.
For example, in 2020, Tinder collaborated with Ritviz on a music video to celebrate “Pride Month” indoors. Yet, as of May 2021, an internet search for “gender-inclusive Tinder India” only yields a low-ranking on-site result.
Even though most Indian brands have marketing plans and branding strategies to sell products online, our online marketplaces still lack brands with gender identity planted at their core. For their products to sell online successfully, Indian brands must seriously rework gender-inclusivity into their SEO, product descriptions, keywords, meta-data, and digital media with content and products that are genuinely gender-inclusive or gender-neutral products.
2. Adopt Gender-Neutral Cataloguing
As soon as you navigate to the website of an online product selling business, you’re immediately hit by product options categorised by gender. In fact, we are so habituated to search for products in catalogues like “women’s shoes” that it doesn’t occur to us that such heteronormative indexing isn’t giving due representation to those among us who don’t identify as either male or female. Indian brands don’t realise that they are turning away good business simply due to poor categorisation strategies.
Fortunately, this trend is changing, albeit slowly. For instance, NorBlack NorWhite retails gender-neutral Indian clothing and crafts out of their Delhi design studio. On their website, the shop’s navigation doesn’t split merchandise based on gender. Instead, their products are categorised simply by filters like “Favs”, “Fresh / New”, and “Limited”.
3. Represent Gender-Fluid Visuals
For online business products to sell, brand assets like photographs, videos, graphic design, models, and written content are of key relevance. They flesh out a product’s style, fitting, finish, and vibe. Customers relate to such attributes of a brand, and in using its product, feel a connection with its personality. However, most brands adopt such personalities based on typical masculine or feminine traits that are largely stereotypical and remain quite far from gender-neutrality.
This marketing tradition can be ruthlessly alienating for people who don’t see themselves in the brand’s visuals. In order to increase representation for gender-neutral customers, some new-age brands have started using models with ambiguous gender characteristics for their marketable products or showcase one product on two different models with stereotypical binary identities. However, this is an insignificant change in the online retail ecosystem, and Indian brands need to take bigger steps to be more gender-inclusive with their content. Doing so will enable them with a first-mover’s advantage in a hitherto-overlooked market segment.
4. Create Unisex Products
Tokenism aside, Indian brands need to inculcate gender-inclusivity at the center of their marketable products if they want them to perform well in Amazon online product sales or sales on eCommerce marketplaces in general. This can be especially tricky for cosmetics, personal care, and clothing brands, as a major aspect of their products is either the size, fit, or colour: variables that are historically enmeshed with binary gender identities.
In this context, it’s imperative that Indian brands create not just inclusive sizes but also a diverse range of fits for their unisex offerings. Since the same apparel will be available in different sizes, it’s also the responsibility of the brand to present its cuts, fits, measurements, dimensions, and photos in a simple and standardised manner to avoid confusion.
How Does Gender-Neutrality Impact a Brand’s Marketability?
Imbibing gender-neutrality in your brand’s personality by offering inclusive and inviting products and services can help develop an extraordinarily delightful shopping experience for all your customers. The key is to maintain a balance between keeping your traditionally heteronormative customers happy while still creating a meaningful experience for the new era of non-binary customers.
The focus must shift to the young generation of Gen-Z customers, whose purchase behaviour isn’t necessarily impacted by a brand’s POV on gender. In fact, their progressive thoughts and eclectic shopping preferences will be the litmus test of an eCommerce brand’s success in the future; those who manage to keep themselves abreast with the changing views of the times will be the ones coming out on top.
Having said that, it’s also true that completely demolishing the binary gender system isn’t an immediate possibility for most Indian brands as they function in a predominantly conservative society. However, there are some easy steps, as highlighted above, that can help brands reach out to a fresh set of online customers without massively digressing from their core marketing strategies. Embracing gender-inclusive SEO, designing gender-fluid visuals and content, thoughtful cataloging, and creating unisex fits can go a long way to help people find your brand, regardless of their gender.
Powerhouse91.com is a tech-first eCommerce enterprise that’s into acquisitions, operations, and scaling of brands with category-winning products on eCommerce marketplaces. A new-age consumer company, Powerhouse91 brings over three decades of experience in eCommerce, marketing, supply chain management, and technology.
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