UAE shoppers leading the digital adoption rate


August 7, 2023 | By RetailME Bureau

UAE shoppers leading the digital adoption rate

UAE shoppers continue to be the most mobile-centric and omnichannel consumers globally, stated a survey conducted by PYMNTS and Visa Cybersource.

The UAE has the highest Global Digital Shopping Index (GDSI) score among all countries surveyed, indicating that local merchants offer seamless shopping and payment experiences, found ‘The 2023 Global Shopping Index: UAE Edition’ study.

The country’s e-commerce merchants scored 134, significantly higher than the average score of 125 across all countries. The UAE’s GDSI scores have also increased over time, with local merchants scoring 11% higher in 2022 than they did in 2021, due to rising consumer awareness of available features such as online purchases and price matching.

“We are thrilled to see the UAE emerging as a leading country where consumers embrace and utilise digital shopping features with utmost enthusiasm. With the highest global digital shopping index score, it is evident that local merchants have successfully crafted seamless shopping and payment experiences for their customers,” said Salima Gutieva, Vice President and UAE Country Manager – Visa. “The fact that 94% of adult UAE shoppers have incorporated at least one digital feature during their recent shopping journey highlights the strong digital adoption in the market. As we witness this growing trend, Visa remains committed to partnering with UAE merchants to optimise their offerings and continue meeting the evolving needs of tech-savvy consumers.”

Key findings from the survey include:

UAE consumers like shopping online because they believe the deals and experiences are better. 

  • UAE consumers prefer online shopping because of free shipping (50% of the respondents), better prices (44%) and an easy checkout process (43%).
  • In contrast, the ability to obtain products immediately and find them quickly are important factors for consumers when shopping in-store, although it is less important for UAE shoppers than it is for other countries. Only 40% of those who prefer physical stores in the UAE consider immediate availability as essential, which is lower than the 54% and 53% averages in the US and UK, respectively.

Nearly twice as many UAE shoppers value payment choice than rewards or free shipping when selecting a merchant. 

  • UAE shoppers value payment choice most when choosing a merchant, with nearly double the importance of rewards or free shipping. When asked to pick one option only, preferred payment method was the top preference for 11.4% of consumers in the UAE, followed by rewards (6.9%) and free shipping (6.6%).

UAE shoppers use mobile phones as their shopping sidekick, especially when shopping in-store.

  • Mobile shopping is highly prevalent in the UAE, with 28% of consumers making their most recent retail purchase on their smartphones — the highest in any country, second only to India.
  • Both men and women shop on mobiles, with 33% of women and 27% of men making purchases exclusively from their phone.
  • UAE consumers also use their smartphones to enhance their in-store shopping experience. Men, at 55%, are more likely than women — 45% — to use their smartphones to enhance their in-store shopping journeys.

UAE merchants recognise the importance of digital shopping features and offer consumers smoother shopping experiences than other countries.

  • UAE consumers use more digital shopping features than consumers in any other country, with 94% having used at least one during their most recent shopping journey.
  • Merchants’ investments in digital shopping features and local shoppers’ keen awareness of those offerings make for a powerful combination. UAE merchants’ broad array of digital shopping features, including those that consumers can use in-store, has helped provide their shoppers with the smoothest overall shopping experience of any country that participated in the survey.
  • Research uncovered an overall increase in consumers’ awareness of which shopping features local merchants offer. Consumers appear to be more on the lookout for cost-saving features than they have been in the past. Fifty-one percent more local consumers were aware of coupons, promo codes or rewards in 2022 than in 2021. Moreover, shoppers in the UAE tend to overestimate how many features merchants offer.

The survey involved 13,349 consumers and 3,124 merchants across the UAE, Brazil, India, Mexico, the UK and the US.

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