FEATURE5 April 2017

Female focus

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Features Impact Middle East and Africa Retail

MIDDLE EAST – Women in the MENA region are the force behind many purchase decisions, but are often overlooked by brands. New research by Ipsos sheds some light on their pivotal role in the household. By Mohammed Minawi

Female focus

Women are one of the most powerful consumer segments in the world and their impact on the economy is growing each year. Not only does their influence extend across major categories, but they are also the main influencers when it comes to household purchase decisions. Yet companies and brands are falling behind when it comes to relating, and appealing, to women.   

To harness the potential that can come from understanding the vast and diverse female consumer segment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Ipsos launched She Speaks, a comprehensive research effort studying women across the region. More than 13,500 women across nine markets were reached to gauge insights on their attitudes, aspirations, lifestyles and behaviours, leading to a holistic understanding of this segment across various aspects of their lives.

Through the research, it became evident that women are the main household shoppers in many markets. Among those who are heads of their household, eight in 10 are responsible for doing the household shopping. This figure ranges from 94% of women in Egypt to 46% in Iraq – the only country where the figure is less than half. Women’s involvement in household purchases in many categories is also high: 96% of cases for personal-care products; 93% of food and beverage purchases; 89% of household appliances; and 88% of furniture and accessories.

Despite their strong decision-making influence, only a minority of women in MENA earn their own living. Around 66% of women in the Middle East get their primary income from an allowance, and just 24% overall derive theirs from earning a paycheck through work. Iran has the highest proportion of women dependent on an allowance, 83%, while Kuwait has the lowest, 41%.

This reflects on product and brand choices – a balance of quality versus price. More than half of the women are more inclined to choose quality or a trusted brand name, while 45% give preference to a lower price, or good offers and promotions. In more affluent societies – such as those in the Gulf – a greater emphasis is placed on quality ( 66% in Saudi Arabia choose quality over price), while quality and price are closely ranked in other markets. 

Brand loyalty among women is middling, with a majority always looking for offers and deals. Exactly half ( 50%) of women say they 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 they always buy things they didn’t intend to, on impulse.

Many female shoppers in MENA stay informed about products they intend to buy before making the purchase, with 53% saying they always look for information before buying a product. Iranian women are most informed, with 66% looking for information before purchase, while just over one-third ( 37%) of Jordanian women do the same.

Being knowledgeable about a product or item requires research and online access. Middle Eastern women’s access to the internet is high: overall, seven in 10 ( 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 platform, with three-quarters ( 75%) using it, but all the key ones – Facebook ( 71%), Instagram ( 64%) and Snapchat ( 59%) – are used by the majority. But women still rely on traditional print media for most news on products or brands. 

Nearly 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 small majority get their information primarily from online platforms ( 54%). Younger women are changing this picture, with 47% of 18 to 24-year-olds getting their information from online platforms. Half ( 49%) say they have interacted with their favourite brands; in Gulf countries, this figure is much higher than average, with 79% of women in the UAE, 72% of Kuwaiti women, and 62% of Saudi women claiming to have interacted with a brand – most commonly by liking it on Facebook ( 39%) and recommending it to others ( 33%).

Despite high internet access, and using the web as a source of information on products, only 14% have ever purchased a product online. In the UAE, 25% of women admit to having done so, compared with just 3% of Egyptians. Even when products are ordered online, women prefer to pay using cash on delivery, a payment option seen as being more accessible, convenient and trustworthy.

Mohammed Minawi is regional senior director, Ipsos in MENA