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UAE residents hail ease of online shopping during pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the move towards online shopping for many consumers
Residents across the UAE have expressed their satisfaction with retailers launching various different channels that allow them to shop for items online, and many have said that they intend to continue to shop online after Covid-19.
Experts noted that the biggest driver for the growth in online retail was the convenience that it offered, along with ease of payment, and greater safety as residents practiced social distancing.
"Before Covid-19, Middle East consumers spent their disposable income on experiences such as dining out, travel, and wellness," said Norma Taki, Middle East Consumer Markets Leader at PwC. "After the Covid-19 lockdown, the top areas of spend were grocery, entertainment & media, and ingredient & recipe meal kit services - a move to essentials and in-home needs."
PwC's data showed that 27 per cent of Middle East consumers shopped for groceries exclusively or mainly online before lockdowns. Currently, 51 per cent are mainly shopping for groceries online/by phone during the pandemic. In addition, 92 per cent are likely to continue to shop online/by phone when social distancing measures are fully removed. Household spending witnessed a 50 per cent decrease when it came to clothing & footwear, a 42 per cent decrease in restaurant food delivery, and a 41 per cent decrease in health and beauty products. Mobile, PC, and tablet shopping increased since the pandemic, up by 22 per cent, 12 per cent, and six per cent respectively.
"In-store shopping has seen a decline of 28 per cent - not surprising due to the lockdowns imposed by governments to combat Covid-19," Taki said. "Most importantly, there are new consumers shopping online and although they were forced to do so during the Covid-19 lockdown, they plan to continue to do so going forward. One key matter to note is that consumers will begin to demand more choice in digital payment and credit solutions, whether that's contactless, ApplePay, PayPal, or other platforms."
"We've seen a surge in online shopping as a result of the pandemic with our sales rising in the UAE by 108 per cent between January and June 2020, when compared to the same period in 2019," said Philippe Peguilhan, country manager of Carrefour UAE at Majid Al Futtaim Retail.
Peguilhan also said that he expects this trend to remain into the future for the simple reason that shoppers were already moving towards online platforms - the pandemic simply accelerated the shift.
"Meanwhile, efficiency has risen among shoppers' priorities as they look to maintain social distancing," he added. "Listening to, and observing, these changes to shopper habits has never been more important. Specifically, we're seeing consumers take fewer and larger shopping trips when they do go in-store and, interestingly, we've also seen a marked change in what customers are buying. For example, demand for local goods is growing as customers seek out products they trust."
Frequent online shopper, Sanori Nilusha Shivaraj, shared how her online shopping habits had changed as a result of the pandemic and the nightly curfew. She noted that she had cut back on several of her usual purchases in an effort to save more money.
"The only thing I bought were some skincare products that I used on a daily basis," she said. "I also grocery shopped online for the first time ever."
Like many residents, she said that she would definitely consider buying all her groceries online in the future. "I would prefer to do it online until it is much safer to venture out. The only downside is buying perishable food like veggies and fruits, since you can't pick the items yourself. Also, sometimes not all the items you want are listed on the shopping website."
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