June 19, 2023


Stop Gendering Shopping: An Open Letter to the Ecommerce Industry


Joshua Hobson

As Pride Month comes to a close, we call upon the ecommerce industry to carry on meaningful actions to create more inclusive experiences for our gender-neutral, gender non-conforming, non-binary, and transgender customers within search and merchandising ecommerce experiences.

Studies show that Gen Z are 3x more likely than older generations to categorise themselves as gender non-conforming. Gender-less fashion is also growing in popularity amongst those who do not consider themselves members of the LGBTQ+ or queer communities, and many major designers are listening.

This is not a fleeting trend but a profound shift in consumer behavior that presents a potential market share gain of as much as $120 billion. It is not only a business opportunity but a chance to foster inclusivity and respect for our customers' identities. Searches for fashion pieces including agender-related keywords increased 33% even way back in 2021. Yet, ecommerce websites continue to gender categories and personalization strategies.

Gender inclusivity is far more than androgyny. Gender inclusivity does not mean the end of masculine and feminine clothing. Gender inclusivity within ecommerce is all about making sure customers can choose where, how, and what to buy, without enforcing bias throughout the online experience.

Instead of organising products by targeted gender, we should consider organising them by functionality or other attributes. We should also strive to remove gendered imagery and language from our marketing materials. These changes will not only cater to gender-diverse customers but also offer a more inclusive shopping experience for all.

What actions can ecommerce brands, agencies and technologies take?

How can ecommerce brands, agencies and technologies create more inclusive and welcoming merchandising experiences:

  • Consider behavioural segmentation, rather than profile or demographic-based segmentation in your marketing efforts.
  • Make search more prominent than categories and/or have a unisex category in addition to your typical men’s and women’s categories.
  • Use diverse models in your images and product photography.
  • Make sure any AI personalisation resets regularly to ensure ‘the machine’ doesn’t carry any bias.
  • Ensure product recommendations are not unnecessarily gendered, especially with more unisex-type items.

The traditional retail blueprint of gendered categories and personalization strategies is deeply ingrained in our industry. Overcoming this will require innovative thinking and a willingness to challenge the status quo.

As stewards of online marketplaces, it is our responsibility to ensure that all customers can navigate our digital platforms comfortably, authentically, and without fear of judgement. The need for change is more than apparent - it's crucial. Today, we implore you to re-imagine the standards of merchandising, in ways that mirror our diverse society, embracing gender inclusivity and embracing every individual's right to self-expression.

It is now up to us, the ecommerce community, to catalyse these necessary changes. We are calling for a shift towards a future where customers are not restricted by preconceived notions, but empowered by choice and the freedom to express their individuality. We are on the precipice of a new era, one where we have the power to reshape the norms of digital commerce to align with the evolving needs and desires of our customers.

Be part of this transformation. Embrace these actions as more than just changes, but as opportunities for growth, inclusion, and a more vibrant ecommerce experience. The success of our businesses depends on it, but more importantly, the wellbeing of our customers requires it.

Sign our open letter here:


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