A new leading player is stepping forward in today’s marketplace: the liberated single woman, whose sweeping influence on consumer markets can be compared to that of the Yuppies in the 1980s. That conclusion comes from Futurescope, a monthly product of The Intelligence Factory, an independent company within Young & Rubicam’s global communications network.

In the U.S. and in many parts of the world, single women are exercising serious purchasing power and social influence. This is due not only to their numbers but also better career opportunities in recent years, longer life expectancy and the advance in age at which they marry—if they choose to interrupt their busy, fast-track lives by marrying at all.

As more women exercise the freedom to make lifestyle choices, they become more difficult to pigeonhole. Single women are a diverse group, with an almost infinite variety of lifestyles. Some never married, others are divorced or widowed, and still others have chosen to cohabit rather than marry. A single-woman category includes the young and the very old; heterosexuals and lesbians; the unattached and people in long-term, monogamous relationships; single mothers and child-free women.

Despite their diversity, single women tend to share three characteristics that those who wish to win their loyalty would do well to remember.

They are info-savvy—ready, willing, and able to research the reputation of a product or service in detail before buying it.

They seek out quality relationships , which makes them strongly loyal to trusted brands.

Solo females are deeply influenced by the advice of personal confidants.

These independent women are turned off by advertising with a”woe is poor, unmarried me” attitude. They respond to messages that affirm their self-determination, intelligence and self-respect.

No matter which path a single woman chooses, today’s wealth of available career opportunities enables her to be self-supporting and to collect desirable consumer products and experiences.

Women are taking control of their financial futures, purchasing homes to provide for their future security and investing their hard-earned dollars. Those single women who are free of the financial burden of supporting a family have money to burn—companies that ignore that fact do so at their peril.

Fed up with struggling for recognition in the corporate workplace, a growing number of women are taking business matters into their own hands and choosing to play by their own rules. Equipped with skills and experience yet faced with domestic demands, many women are finding that starting a business gives them greater earning potential as well as more flexible hours.

In the United States, women own 9.1 million businesses—more than over a third of all U.S. companies. That number has more than doubled since the late 1980s. According to the National Foundation for Women Business Owners (NFWBO), women are starting their own businesses at 1.5 times the rate of men. Female-owned businesses employ a total of 27.5 million people and contribute $3.6 trillion in sales to the economy each year.

NFWBO also notes that 60 percent of U.S. businesswomen are online “often” and that female entrepreneurs buy more online than females who are employees.

This is due in large measure to the convenience factor. When female entrepreneurs shop in brick-and-mortar establishments, 67 percent say they want to get in and out quickly. They are also less likely to shop at malls and more likely to catalog buy.

Single women not only live fast-paced lives, but also are literally “on the go,” whether driving their cars or embarking on adventure trips. A 1999 Hyatt Hotels survey projected that women—who, more than men, tend to see even work-related travel as an escape from everyday pressures—would compose 40 percent of U.S. business travelers and one out of every four road warriors in the industrial world in 2000.

Owning a car is a symbol of independence, freedom and self-sufficiency—all key values of today’s single woman. Data from Young & Rubicam’s Brand Asset Valuator shows that 75 percent of never-married U.S. women own or lease their own cars—as do 82 percent of women living-as-married, 83 percent of widows and 85 percent of those who are separated or divorced.

By Jeff Rounce, Business Examiner staff & The Intelligence Factory