Behind The Wheel: Insights On Women Drivers In Saudi Arabia

Sara Hamdan / July 2018

With Saudi women being allowed to drive in the kingdom from June 24, Google and Kantar TNS launched a new piece of research to understand more about their plans, ideas and research behaviors. The findings lend valuable insights into how women in Saudi Arabia are preparing to make decisions once their driving dreams become reality.

Conducted in January 2018, the study surveyed 1,000 Saudi and Arab expat women living in KSA between the ages of 18 and 59. With 79% agreeing that the change would strongly influence their own lives, most expressed newfound feelings of independence and empowerment: 79% said that it gives women a better reputation, 89% said it empowers them to try out new things and 87% said it makes them feel more independent.

Beyond the psychological boost, there’s a practical angle at work as well: overall, respondents felt that getting around would become easier (76%), affecting both leisure and work. For example, 62% said they thought shopping would become easier and hence happen more frequently, while 79% foresaw benefits to their social experience.

So that offers a glimpse into what women are thinking, but what about active planning? The survey demonstrated a strong response among Saudi females, with a large portion wanting to take action and either buy (40%) or learn to drive (61%) a car. And these women are wasting no time in turning their plans into reality: 70% want to start learning immediately after classes become available and 67% want to buy a car immediately after obtaining a license.

When it comes to researching their car purchases, it seems the information-gathering journey is well underway. The study revealed that 97% of women have already started to do research about their plans online. In terms of devices, 7 out of 10 women who have performed online research have used their smartphone to do so.  

Out of all research touchpoints that respondents have used to date, online sources lead the pack. Online video platforms are the most popular (95%), followed by search engines (85%), dealer websites (74%), manufacturer or brand websites (55%) and social media platforms (51%). Trailing behind these are family, friends or colleagues (45%), vehicle review sites (33%), TV ads (29%) and general online magazines or news sites (28%).

Other media such as print are seen to be significantly less useful. For instance, magazines, newspapers, brochures, books, flyers, mailings, billboards and posters all have been used by less than 20% of respondents in their research so far.

With videos proving a widespread method among Saudi women for obtaining information, the survey aimed to discover where women are watching videos online. It turns out they’re looking to social media platforms (34%), vehicle review sites (20%), manufacturer websites (18%), dealer websites (15%) and driving school sites (13%). But by far the most common place to watch is YouTube (77%).

When asked what types of online video are suited to providing information about cars, women favor those that have been professionally produced, either by the vehicle manufacturer (67%) or a third party (52%), over amateur films (23%). When it comes to content, women prefer to see highlight videos about features and technology (45%), interior and exterior vehicle walk-arounds (43%), consumer reviews (36%) and third-party reviews, test drives and comparison tests (35%).

Since the announcement was made last September, Google queries have seen a notable spike in driving interest in Saudi – a 227% increase in searches related to women driving in KSA, with more than 80% of searches related to driving coming via mobile. Searches around the topic of drivers’ licenses peaked upon the announcements of the decree and the new license requirements, and practical skills remain at the core: searches for driving schools and lessons surged last September and continue at higher levels than average.

It’s clear that women are actively looking for information online, both via search and video. But a quick survey of the online content that’s available shows that not all of their questions are currently being addressed. A lot of content is still generic and doesn’t address the obstacles women have in navigating the journey from deciding to drive to learning to drive to getting a license to buying a car and so on. For businesses, the opportunity is ripe at this critical moment. By being a hub of information for female drivers in KSA, they can capitalize on interest and make it easy for women to find what they need.

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