Consumers are looking for a seamless and easy purchasing journey

RetailME Bureau

Consumers are increasingly using digital technology for more than just shopping, indicates PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) Global Consumer Insights.

The Middle East findings of PwC’s Global Consumer Insights survey that customer experience is at the heart of what Middle East consumers are looking for. For the first time in the 10 years that PwC has conducted this survey, consumers surveyed are using smartphones over other mobile devices to shop online, with 24% of consumers using a smartphone to shop online weekly.

In-store is still the shopping channel of choice at both the Middle East and global level, although smartphones are running a close second, especially in the region. This year, for the first time, smartphones outpace PC as a channel, with smartphone growth estimated at a 54% CAGR from 2016 to 2019 in the Middle East. The Middle East consumers’ in-store experiences rely on a balance of engagement through store layout, the store’s digital connectivity and personalisation.

Commenting on the online shopping trends, PwC shares, Over the years, shoppers in the region increased their shopping with Amazon, with 76% shopping with Amazon at some point. What is more interesting is that 23% of Middle East respondents use Amazon exclusively versus 12% globally.

Regional shoppers enjoy ordering their groceries online; but this is a recent trend. Seventy-three percent of Middle Eastern shoppers are overall ‘likely to purchase groceries online in the next 12 months’ compared to 50% globally. This is a noticeable increase from last year with 58% Middle Eastern shoppers likely to purchase groceries online versus 48% globally.

The survey reveals that the biggest growth in mobile payment was experienced in the Middle East, with a 45% increase in mobile payment usage over the period of one year. That is almost double the rate of western markets and globally, an overall increase of 24% was seen over the past year.

Of course, the Middle East results differ by geography with KSA leading the way, followed closely by the UAE. Egypt lags behind with only 29% choosing mobile payment options. This is a long way from a few years back when Saudi consumers preferred cash on delivery payment and reported the lowest percentage of payment via credit cards. However, consumers’ willingness to pay for quick delivery has declined due to an increase in retailer offering free next-day delivery. Only 21% of Middle Eastern respondents were willing to pay for same-day delivery versus 41% last year.

Meanwhile, the survey found that Middle East consumers are not afraid to pay a premium. This is especially true of purchases related to health and wellness products, followed by technology/home entertainment and fashion.

It is no secret that social media is more widely used in the region, than anywhere else in the world; and the power of social media on regional consumers’ buying behaviours came through clearly in the Middle East, when compared to global results. Sixty percent of Middle East respondents say social media influenced their ‘fashion’ purchases, followed by 53% who cited technology purchases.

“It is time for consumer related metrics – ROI should not be the only measure. Consumers are looking for a seamless and easy purchasing journey, and companies can achieve this by mixing physical or human elements into digital interactions. The result is a greater return on experience with the customer and more lasting results for businesses,” states Norma Taki, Middle East Consumer Markets Leader at PwC.

Since 2010, PwC has annually surveyed over 20,000 consumers around the globe to track shopping behaviour. In this year’s survey, PwC reached out to more than 22,000 consumers in 27 territories across the globe, including 1,004 respondents from the Middle East.