Despite the advent of technology into consumers’ daily lives, many consumers are plagued by feelings of fear towards complex technology-related products. Feelings of anxiety and fear often lead to the avoidance of technology; in other words, so-called ‘technophobia’. This study aims to establish whether gender differences in technophobia and the adoption of high-technology consumer products continue to exist in this digital age, or whether they have indeed changed over time. Further, this study also aims to uncover the main social reasons that gender differences in technophobia can occur. The results of this study provide new insight into gender differences towards technology purchases. The findings should assist marketers by providing a clearer understanding of how men and women adopt new technology products in the 21st century. By understanding gender differences in attitudes towards technology, marketers are better able to target and communicate technology benefits that consumers can relate to and appreciate. Following a review of the available literature, the theory of the diffusion of innovation was presented as a foundation to studies of gender differences in technophobia. The Technology Readiness Index (TRI) was introduced as a sound means of measuring technophobia, based on an in-depth study of the available measurement scales to measure for technophobia. The study included men and women, aged between 25 and 35 years, of higher socio-economic classes, residing in the Northern Johannesburg regions of South Africa. Gender differences in levels of technophobia are studied in relation to three different technologies (computers, DSLR cameras and home automation technology) in order to compare gender differences towards technologies at different stages of the diffusion curve. Future research avenues regarding studies in to technophobia are also presented. The results indicate that traditional differences between genders towards technology still exist amongst South African consumers. Women continue to experience higher levels of technophobia towards new technology than men. However, the degree of these differences changes, depending on the technology used. Regarding why these gender differences may occur, levels of optimism, risk taking and cognitive involvement between genders were measured. In general, the results indicate that traditional gender differences towards technology continue to exist in South Africa. Thus, although marketers may assume that in the modern digital age, men and women are consuming electronics in the same manner, this study shows that this is not necessarily the case, and as a new product is introduced to the market, marketers need to employ differentiating strategies in order to target both men and women successfully. By tailoring the manner in which technology is advertised and shared to the female consumer, marketers are better able to capture this more ‘technophobic’ consumer. The advertising of technologies exasperates the gender divide by confirming established sex role stereotypes, and managers need to learn to differentiate and cater for both genders when advertising technology products. This study illustrates that the degree of technophobia women possess towards technology depends on the technology and its ‘inherent gender bias’ and marketers need to adapt their communications according to the technology being sold. Marketers in the electronics industry cannot have a ‘one-hat-fits-all’ assumption of women and technology, and need to analyse the ‘technology fit’ and communicate it to the market accordingly. By uncovering the social reasons why gender differences continue to exist, advertisers can use these inherent gender differences to test and design advertisements that improve female beliefs about the technology. Marketers are encouraged to experiment with different communication strategies that improve inherent beliefs based on social norms. This study found that women are less optimistic than men, exhibit higher levels of risk aversion, and higher cognitive-processing than men when considering technology purchases. The greatest challenge in stimulating the adoption of high-technology products is the perceived risk that a consumer undergoes when making a purchasing decision. Increasing levels of consumer resistance are also attributed to the sheer volume of new information in the digital era and managers thus need to employ simplifying strategies in order to help break through the messaging clutter and alleviate the information overload that the consumer is experiencing. Managers need to find a balance between being seen as innovative market leaders, and successfully introducing the technology at a pace that invites consumer adoption and acceptance. This study provides strong empirical support for managers attempting to successfully target technology products to men and women. By uncovering gender differences in the way that one reacts to technology, one is better able to understand the consumer and marketing efforts are strengthened. This study not only sheds some light on consumer attitudes, feelings and reactions to new technologies, but it also provides important insight into how men and women accept technology in the market.
Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2011.