She Speaks: Ten Things You Need to Know About Women in MENA

Women are one of the most powerful consumer segments in the world. Not only does their influence extend across major categories, they are also the main influencers when it comes to purchase decisions relating to the household.

Their strength as a consumer segment is also evident in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. As such in order to harness the potential that can come about from understanding the sengment in MENA, Ipsos launched "She Speaks", the most comprehensive syndicated research effort studying women in the region, shedding light on their attitudes, aspirations, lifestyles and behaviours, thus providing a holistic understanding of this segment across various aspects of their lives.

The headline findings reveal ten things you need to know about women in MENA.

1) Women are the main household shopper in many markets

Amongst women who are heads of their household, eight in ten are responsible for shopping. This figure ranges from 94% of women in Egypt to 46% in Iraq – the only country where the figure is less than half.

2) Women are involved in household purchase decisions across many categories

Female household heads’ involvement in key purchase decisions is high: in 96% of cases for personal care products; 93% of food and beverage purchases; 89% of household appliances; and 88% of furniture and accessories

3) A minority of women earn their own living

66% of women in the Middle East get their primary income from an allowance, and just 16% overall derive theirs from paying work. The country with the highest proportion of women dependent on an allowance is Iran, with 83%. The lowest is Kuwait, where it is 41%.

4) Women’s product selection is balanced between choosing quality or offers and promotions

55% of women are more focused on choosing quality or a trusted brand name, whilst 45% give preference to a lower price, or offers and promotions. In richer Gulf countries there is greater emphasis on quality (66% in Saudi Arabia choose this over price), whilst elsewhere views are more closely balanced.

5) Brand loyalty amongst women is middling, with a majority always looking for offers and deals

Exactly half (50%) of women say that they always stick to the brands they know. That said, 57% are always on the lookout for the best offers and deals. And 40% of women say that they always buy things they didn’t intend to on impulse.

6) Women look for information to help them shop around before buying

53% say they always look for information before buying a product. Iranian women are the savviest, with 66% looking for information prior to purchase, whilst just over one third (37%) of Jordanian women do the same thing.

7) Middle Eastern women’s access to the internet is high

Overall, seven in ten (69%) women have access to the internet, ranging from 99% of Kuwaiti women down to 54% of those in Morocco. Across the region, 86% of women with internet access use social media. YouTube is the top social media platform, with three-quarters (75%) using it, but all the key social media platforms - Facebook (71%), Instagram (64%) and Snapchat (59%) - are used by a majority.

8) But women still rely on “traditional” media for most news on products or brands

Three-quarters (74%) of women say traditional media is their main source of information on products or brands – it is only in Kuwait where a thin majority get their information from online platforms (54%). Younger women look set to change this picture however; 47% of 18-24 year olds get their information from online platforms.

9) Women’s interaction with their favourite brands is high

Half (49%) say they have interacted with their favourite brands; in the Gulf countries this figure is much higher than average, with 79% of Emirati women, 72% of Kuwaitis, and 62% of Saudis claiming to have interacted with a brand. The most common interaction is liking a brand on Facebook (39%), followed by recommending a brand to others (33%).

10) However, the prevalence of online shopping amongst women is low

Despite high internet access and use of the internet to shop around, just 14% have ever purchased a product online. 25% in the UAE report having done so, compared to just three per cent of Egyptians. Even when products are ordered online, women prefer to pay cash on delivery, which is seen as being more accessible, convenient and trustworthy.