The common assumption in the solar industry is that men are the ones who drive solar purchasing decisions. I think I’ve seen two surveys that came to this finding, but the one I’m able to recall for sure and find is a 1BOG survey from 2011 or 2012. The 1BOG survey polled 200 solar homeowners. It found that, among married couples of the opposite sex, “the first person in the household interested in going solar” was male 68% of the time, female 11% of the time, and both/neither/other 21% of the time. “The person who did most of the footwork to make it happen” was male 77% of the time, female 15% of the time, and both/neither/other 8% of the time. (See an infographic with the results on the bottom of this page.)
This breaks with the norm for household spending and home improvements, which are 80% controlled by women and 80% women initiated by women, respectively.
However, men are known for being more into “tech” and especially new tech. So, those survey results (and perhaps others) seemed to fit. I know from moderating our comments for years that we have many more guys commenting on solar than women (very unofficial and anecdotal, but it fit the assumption). Also, our US demographics index has us at 153 male to 49 female (see screenshot on the right).
But a couple of ladies in the solar industry, Raina Russo of #SolarChat and Glenna Wiseman of Identity3, had a hunch that solar purchasing trends actually lined up more with the household spending and household improvements norms, so they went and conducted “the industry’s first woman-directed survey,” with “20 questions based on Marti Barletta’s five stages of buying.” Their findings did show that women dominated the solar purchasing process. Here are their findings in 5 stages of the purchasing process:
Stage 1: Deciding when to enter the market. About 63% of women surveyed said that if they’d had the discussion about going solar, they were the ones who initiated it. About 27% of discussions were initiated by both partners, with only about 11% by men alone. The numbers were similar for doing the legwork and research.
Stage 2: The short list. Over half — 56% — of respondents who had pursued solar for their homes talked to 2 – 3 companies once they were serious about it. While this result is not specific to women, it shows that we need to start by selling consumers the idea of solar, not a specific company.
Stage 3: In-person meeting. Choosing a contractor was more of a joint effort, with 67% of respondents doing that with their partner. When just one partner made the decision, though, it was far more likely to be the woman: women picked the contractor by themselves in 30% of cases, compared to 3% for men.
Stage 4: Paying bills. As noted previously, in most households, women are the ones who pay the bills and track the budget. That was borne out in this survey: 83% of respondents said they’re the ones who pay the bills.
Stage 5: Word of mouth. Women like to share information with their friends, family, and co-workers. But we don’t like to do it for money. When asked to rank the gifts they’d prefer as a thank-you for going solar, 76% of women said they’d like a check back, while only 26% preferred a check for each friend they referred — numbers were even lower for non-monetary gifts (the numbers reflect that each woman could rank multiple options). Given that women are such an important part of the market, solar companies may want to rethink giving referral checks.
So, is this a case of one survey getting it right and another getting it wrong? I don’t thin so, actually. My hunch is that the buyer process has become more in line with the norm (for household improvements) as the solar market has started to mature. Perhaps the huge rise in solar leasing as a percentage of the market has also had something to do with it. But who knows for sure? I think this topic does warrant more research to come to stronger conclusions.
What are your thoughts on this?