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Women’s Choice

Furniture World Magazine


Is there a big difference in how women and men make furniture and bedding purchase decisions? WomenCertified’s Chief Mission Officer believes there is.

Delia Passi recently shared her thoughts with Furniture World about the differences between how male and female shoppers, on average, want to be treated when purchasing home furnishings. Passi is an authority on marketing to women and couples. She’s the author of “Winning the Toughest Customer: The Essential Guide to Selling to Women,” and the founder of WomenCertified Inc., producer of the Women’s Choice Award.

Her path to becoming the founder and chief mission officer of WomenCertified Inc., began when, as the publisher of Passi Publications, she had the good fortune to shadow one of her top salespeople.

“We were pitching a million-dollar ad program to a team from AT&T comprised of two women and one man,” she recalled. “When I heard buying signals from the man, I was ready to jump in, start closing and get them to sign a contract. My colleague motioned to me to stay quiet. At this point, she suggested to the group, ‘Before closing, let’s ensure everyone’s comfortable before we proceed with this deal. How about we go out for lunch next Friday?’

“’Are you kidding?’ I asked her after the meeting. They would have signed that contract.’ ‘Yeah,’ she replied, ‘but you may not have noticed that the women in the meeting haven’t yet bought into our program. My job is to get them to buy wholeheartedly so they’ll embrace this deal and renew ten months from now.’ That’s when I realized that selling to men differs from selling to women.

“The man in the AT&T meeting was interested in getting the deal done. For the women executives, the process was the game. Building trust with women takes time, and salespeople who understand how to build trust increase their returns tenfold. Men tend to be more price- or service-sensitive. They want to get what they need when they need it. Women are often more committed, patient and forgiving once a solid relationship is established.”

Passi subsequently sold her publishing company to publicly traded Group Seven, and then joined Working Mother and Working Woman magazines as publisher of that $100-million company.


Research-Based Approach

In 2006, Passi teamed up with the Wharton School to do the first-ever gender-based customer experience study on how men and women buy. That research became the foundation for her book and the new WomenCertified Inc. company she founded.

Before sharing more insights about selling to women, she explained that WomenCertified Inc. produces the Women’s Choice Award. “The award,” she explained, “was created to do research for female consumers. We rank, rate and vet brands. Those that meet a high standard of customer recommendation ratings and thresholds get to carry the Women’s Choice Award or be named by us on womenschoiceaward.com. Some companies recognized in 2023 were Restonic, Purecare, Serta, Spring Air, Armstrong Flooring, Intellibed, Leathermaster, Levolor and Reverie. Companies don’t pay to get named by us. Our mission is to empower women to make good choices.”

Ratings & Reviews

Furniture World asked her why female customers don’t just rely on other available published product ratings and reviews. She replied, “Star ratings and reviews have become a critical part of the buying process. Very few people will buy a product that doesn’t have a rating associated with it. The problem is that when people sort by four stars and above, they can still see hundreds of products. At that point, it’s a matter of what makes them choose one over another. Especially for big-ticket items like furniture and mattresses that need to last a long time, people feel they need to do a lot of research on their own.

“That’s why it’s helpful to have another level of validation via trusted third-party sources such as family, friends, a salesperson or an influencer. Their decision can also be influenced by seeing something as simple as the Women’s Choice Award seal that lets them know the research has already been done for them.”

Passi noted that when entering most mattress and furniture stores, consumers can get confused by all the similarities and choices.

“Validation can come from a price point, ticking pattern, color, warranty, or a comfort test. But often, buying decisions are made when something triggers an emotional connection. Most of the time, a subconscious trigger will fulfill a personal buying need and make an item being considered feel right. The Women’s Choice Award seal on a product can be a trigger that lets women know they don’t have to look further.”

On The Sales Floor

Showcase & Reward Performance!

Some of the following suggestions for sales associates and their managers may seem like common sense to many Furniture World readers, especially in an industry that has long viewed women as the primary decision-makers for furniture and bedding.

The truth, Passi explained, is that some salespeople are still unaware that the subtle ways they interact with women on retail floors hurt their sales numbers. It’s also misaligned with most furniture retailers’ stated missions to improve their customers’ lives, help them create beautiful homes and treat them as members of the family.


When asked if there is an effective way, other than dismissal, to change the mindset of a salesperson who is stuck in a 1950s mentality or needs coaching after being named in an unfavorable review, Passi replied “Not always, but suggesting little tips such as giving a bit more eye contact, pausing before interrupting, slowing it down and other techniques are sometimes things they’re willing to do to improve sales results.”

Diverse Communities: “Onboarding salespeople should include information on community traditions and preferences. Without this training, salespeople can unintentionally show disrespect to women. This training is a must for stores that operate in diverse communities.”

Eye Contact: “Let’s imagine,” she continued, “that a man and woman visit a store to shop for a sofa. He’s a talker who likes to take the lead. The salesperson converses primarily with him, even though he knows that women are almost always major decision-makers or influencers. Having been left out of the sales conversation, the woman might feel that the salesperson didn’t consider her important enough to engage with. Then, after the couple leaves without buying, the salesperson tells himself they were never serious about buying.

“The takeaway from this story is that men don’t typically notice when salespeople give more eye contact to a female partner, but women do notice if a man gets more eye contact. When a couple comes in, give them equal attention. Never interrupt any shopper who is speaking, especially a female shopper. Instead, pause for five seconds. Most salespeople have a tough time doing that, but it’s essential to emphasize that she’s being listened to.”

Mirroring: “Mirroring by confirming what she said is a time-tested technique that works especially well with women shoppers. For example, say ‘Here are the three things you must have. Did I get that right?’ If she uses words like sustainable, mirror that term as well. Let them know you carry a line known for their sustainable products.”

Think About It: “When women say they want time to think about a purchase, don’t automatically offer a better price or sweeten the deal with some added service. Instead, ask ‘What can I do today to help you move forward with this purchase?’ or ‘It sounds like you’re interested in this item. What can I do to help you make your decision?’ It’s generally a more effective approach than going for the hard sell.”

“A bit more eye contact, pausing before interrupting, slowing it down and other techniques are sometimes things they’re willing to do to improve sales results.”

Time and Space: “Reflect on what’s important to her; don’t make assumptions. It’s a mistake to stereotype women as a group. Having said that, our research shows,“ Passi noted, “that women tend more than men to see shopping as an activity, whereas men see it as a chore. Selling to women can require more patience and may take a little longer. Give them time and space to think, but never get so far away that they can’t easily ask questions.”


Passi explained that retail management can help smooth the way for salespeople by prototyping target groups of shoppers to help them understand likely purchase triggers for a baby boomer mom or perhaps a more mature, retired woman.

“Often, salespeople who take a bit longer to get to know women shoppers at the beginning of the sales process close quicker and with fewer objections toward the end.”

Customer Service

Passi, who does a lot of customer service training, suggested that “customer service reps might use a technique, known as cushioning, which is just a way to be or seem more empathetic. It includes acknowledging a woman’s reason for seeking customer service by saying, ‘I can understand why that would concern you’ or ‘I can see why that would upset you.’ This language tends to calm people. When someone gets angry or anxious, stress hormone levels become elevated. Showing that you understand is conflict avoidance 101.

“When cushioning is appropriately done, customers are more willing to listen and resolve problems.”

Women Salespeople

Furniture World asked if women tend to relate better to women than men when shopping for home furnishings.

“That’s not as important as you might think,” she replied. “Most female shoppers say they don’t prefer working with female salespeople. They just want to work with people who will treat them the way they want to be treated. They may initially be a little more open to working with a female salesperson from a relationship perspective, but that depends on the individual salesperson. Ultimately, it’s more about how well someone listens and appears interested in her concerns. Often, salespeople who take a bit longer to get to know women shoppers at the beginning of the sales process close quicker and with fewer objections toward the end.”

Advertising & Signage

Furniture World asked if there are do’s, don’ts or red flags regarding advertising to women.

“It’s easy to market to women based on generalities and play it safe,” Passi said. “But connecting requires creating messaging that gets her excited. Consider what happened to football when Taylor Swift recently showed up at a football game. It changed the conversation and created a different value proposition. Buyer motivations and the nature of conversations between brands and customers can change with the news cycle.

“Digital ad messaging should be highly targeted by directing messages to specific customer groups with different personas. That requires doing some research, which doesn’t mean convening a focus group of one. Marketing decisions shouldn’t be made by men sitting around the table reviewing ad text and layouts.

“WomenCertified helps manufacturing brands and retailers do research with what we call the ‘SHE Survey.’ It’s a simple 10- to 15-question customer survey. Retailers can do something similar by emailing targeted lists of customers, and asking them to respond in exchange for a coupon or similar reward. However, my experience is that companies often ask questions that get them the answers they are looking for. It takes a lot of thought and experience to write survey questions that yield real insights vs. validation.

“There are a lot of marketing triggers that can lead to a sale.” Passi continued. “Price point is always a strong consideration for furniture retailers. It’s one of many factors which lead women shoppers to think they will get greater value. When the value exceeds the cost, people buy. Examining value propositions presented in ad copy is something every retail marketer should do if they want to develop messaging that is likely to trigger a conversation with women shoppers.

“Good signage is important for any customer, especially women. Research using heat mapping that measured where women’s eyes go when looking at ads shows that color, images of people, pets and the Women’s Choice Award seal were hot spots within the ads and websites. Signage that includes a powerful offer on certain products can also be highly effective.”

Follow-Up & Service Calls

“Women like to help other women. When doing post-sale follow-up, ask them if they know people who might benefit from hearing about your store’s programs, sales and products. Use ‘benefit’ instead of ‘recommend’ because it implies you want to help rather than infringe on people’s privacy.

“Always be courteous and ask permission. When making house calls, for example, ask if they would be more comfortable if shoes were removed or masks were worn.”


It’s no surprise to anyone in the home furnishings industry that approaching people where, when and how they want to be approached is paramount to retailing success. That’s why it’s important to consider the differences between customer groups, then create sales and marketing triggers that best attract, engage and close sales most effectively.


Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada.  In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact editor@furninfo.com.