Report: Customers in the UAE choose online shopping in the stores


August 17, 2021 | By RetailME Bureau

A global survey conducted by Foresight Factory, released in partnership with Snap, has found that ‘connected shopping’ – where consumers combine a digital experience with being in a physical store – is key to bringing people back to the store, as shoppers say they want to enjoy the benefits of online shopping, in-store.

The findings show that despite many of the challenges facing retail stores across the world, the internet can be a powerful tool in driving people back into shops by giving them – in particular young people – a more engaging and efficient ‘connected’ experience. Increasingly customers are expecting the benefits of both online and real life across the entire shopping journey – embedding in-store convenience, while also providing enhanced product testing and engagement online.

The report finds that 58% of consumers in the UAE and 54% of Millennials and 58% of Gen Z always use their phone while shopping in stores, while 6 in 10 UAE shoppers would specifically visit a store if it had interactive services that allowed them to try on items virtually. Around 40% of shoppers say that not being able to see, touch and try out items are the most significant factors that put them off online shopping, highlighting the growing appetite for online product testing and try on.

The report into the future of shopping habits also found:

o    E-commerce has dramatically accelerated globally in the last year, with 65% of consumers in the UAE claiming to have shopped on their mobile more since the start of the pandemic

o    More than half of UAE shoppers already expect AR to be available now when they’re shopping for items such as clothes, beauty, furniture, luxury and cars

o    New technology could reduce the number of online items that are returned annually by up to 51%, with the study estimating that consumers in the UAE spent around AED 1 billion in the last year on clothes they have returned which could potentially be avoided by using AR.

o    63% of UAE shoppers have missed the human interaction that comes with shopping in-store

o    One third of consumers said they were more likely to shop in stores that offered common online features such as instant access to stock information, or a home delivery service

Foresight Factory’s comprehensive study – conducted across 12 markets: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, UAE, UK, US – highlights that there is a growing expectation that technology has an increasingly strong role to play in ‘real life shopping’ and that the mobile is at the centre of this shift, allowing consumers to discover and interact with items both at home and in-store.

“Consumers are demonstrating a clear desire for the human interaction that comes with in-person shopping, alongside the convenience and engagement of online shopping. ‘Connected shopping’ should be at the heart of brands’ strategies to drive shoppers back into their stores, as our study shows that when brands embrace technologies both in-store and online they could further strengthen and deepen their connections with consumers,”  said Meabh Quoirin, co-founder and CEO of Foresight Factory.

“The pandemic has had a significant impact on the shopping experience in the UAE, driving a major shift towards a more digital world while also affecting online shopping behaviours. Our study with Foresight Factory underlines that consumers nowadays prefer to have a hybrid shopping experience that combines the best of the physical and online worlds. To achieve that, brands should reimagine their approach to create a distinctive, social and efficient experience for their customers,” said Hussein Freijeh, General Manager of Snap Inc. in the Middle East

The report finds a massive opportunity for online retailers, in particular around innovation, with lockdown measures dramatically accelerating the already booming e-commerce market. 2 in 3 UAE consumers claim to have shopped online more since the beginning of the pandemic, while 74% of those who have used AR when shopping online said it encouraged them to buy. The report findings show that the current virtual economy market encompasses almost all of the UAE population, with 9 in 10 shoppers stating they would consider buying a virtual product for any reason

A key challenge for UAE businesses is that 1 in 2 consumers remain nervous about catching Covid-19 while in-store. Shoppers are still keen to try things on, with six in ten online shoppers stating they are put off when they are unable to do so, while a key frustration for almost half of global consumers during Covid-19 was the inability to try on products in-store before buying them. Shoppers expect to see technology to bridge this gap in expectations, with the study showing that 35% of UAE shoppers expect AR to be available in-store in the coming year, so they can try on clothes in-store, while feeling safer.

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