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Pandemic accelerates UAE's digital drive: survey

Issac John /Dubai
issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com Filed on September 28, 2020
Consumers in the UAE will continue using contactless payments more in stores.

In the UAE 73 per cent expressed their readiness for online shopping.

The UAE is on a fast track in adopting digital banking and cashless payments with the pandemic accelerating the digital drive, according to Standard Chartered's latest survey.

The digital readiness of the UAE consumers is also mirrored in the digital transformational strategy at the Standard Chartered. "We see consumers in the UAE, spending more on basics - such as groceries and healthcare - and digital devices than they did prior to the pandemic, and they expect this increase to continue in the future," said Sonny Zulu, head of Retail Banking, Standard Chartered UAE.

While across the globe almost two-thirds of survey respondents agree that Covid-19 has made them more positive about online shopping, in the UAE 73 per cent expressed their readiness for online shopping. But these respondents are also more careful with their spending and want new ways to track their money digitally.

In the UAE, 72 per cent said they preferred to shop in-person prior to the pandemic compared to less than a third online. But this has shifted significantly, with almost half (47 per cent) now preferring online payments to in-person card or cash payments.

"This increase in preference for online payments is true across a range of purchases, from groceries and travel to digital devices. As a result, almost two-thirds of people in the UAE (64 per cent in the UAE and 64 per cent globally) now expect the country to go fully cashless, with a majority of the public expecting this to happen by 2030," said the report.

In the UAE, more than half of people say they are now more likely to shop locally (61 per cent), more sustainably (59 per cent) and with small businesses (55 per cent). This is particularly true of younger generations (18-44), suggesting this trend is likely to continue.

According to McKinsey analysts, while the shift to online shopping has been near universal across categories, high-income earners and millennials are leading the way in shifting spend online across both essential and nonessential items. Gen X (born between 1965 and 1980) has experienced a similar online shift, although not at the same scale as millennials. Gen Z (the newest generation born between 1996 and 2015) has concentrated its shift online in particular categories: apparel and footwear, at-home entertainment, and food takeout/delivery.

A recent study by Dubai Police, Dubai Economy and Visa shows that some 43 per cent of consumers in the UAE will continue using contactless payments more in stores and 48 per cent will increase their use of online payments with cards or digital wallets for future e-commerce purchases.

In the UAE, almost 68 per cent of respondents in say they have spent less on travel/holidays than they did before the pandemic (64 per cent globally), while 42 per cent have spent less on experiences (41 per cent globally) and 64 per cent have spent less on clothes (55 per cent globally), Standard Chartered study said.

"This trend is expected to continue in the UAE with 38 per cent saying they anticipate spending less on travel/holidays, 22 per cent on experiences and 35 per cent on clothes in the future," the survey report said.

"Covid-19 has seen consumers across the world ditch cash and in-person shopping in favour of online spending," said the report. - issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com


Issac John

Editorial Director of Khaleej Times, is a well-connected Indian journalist and an economic and financial commentator. He has been in the UAE's mainstream journalism for 35 years, including 23 years with Khaleej Times. A post-graduate in English and graduate in economics, he has won over two dozen awards. Acclaimed for his authentic and insightful analysis of global and regional businesses and economic trends, he is respected for his astute understanding of the local business scene.

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