Consumers in the UAE are increasingly open to trying out new products and services from abroad during Ramadan, and as a result are increasing their cross-border spending during the holy month, research has shown.
The study by Meta Platforms, formerly known as Facebook, in collaboration with market research firm YouGov, showed that about 64 per cent of shoppers in the UAE "get excited" about trying new brands and products from overseas, with 55 per cent more likely to purchase from abroad during Ramadan and Eid Al Fitr. This is more so if advertisements for these products are themed with the holy month.
This has resulted in increased spending on cross-border purchases, compared to previous years across different categories.
The top categories UAE consumers are most likely to order from abroad are retail (67 per cent) and consumer packaged goods (46 per cent), technology/telecom (28 per cent), entertainment brands (25 per cent) and travel (12 per cent).
"Gifting and shopping is a big part of the Ramadan moment. The change in every day habits leaves shoppers more open than usual to discovering new brands and products. This creates a unique opportunity for businesses to reach cross-border shoppers looking to discover products they’ll love," said Fares Akkad, regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at Meta.
The Emirates is a tourism and retail hub in the Middle East. The advent of technology that eases the way people shop has also significantly contributed.
The UAE's e-commerce market is forecast to grow 60 per cent to more than $8 billion by 2025 from 2021, as consumers across the region continue to shift towards online retail, according to a new report from e-commerce zone EZDubai and Euromonitor International.
And more than half of UAE consumers say they plan to use only cashless transaction methods by 2024, compared to the global average of 41 per cent, with more than two-thirds saying they abandoned a purchase in the past few months because digital payments were not accepted by the merchant, a recent study by Visa found.
These trends are reflected in the Meta study, which said 93 per cent of respondents made net online purchases compared to 26 per cent who bought in-store. Smartphones were the most used tool to make a purchase at 82 per cent, followed by desktop or laptop computers at 38 per cent.
The Meta study showed that people shop across borders for a variety of reasons, including trying to find products that are of higher quality product, with better price points, or not available in their local markets. This has resulted in more than 70 per cent making unexpected discoveries during Ramadan.
The window for gift shopping, meanwhile, often begins long before Ramadan starts, but also with a healthy dose of last-minute rushes and indulgences.
Advertising also plays a crucial role when it comes to creators: Meta said that with media and platform behaviours of audiences often changing during Ramadan as people "reflect, rejuvenate and celebrate", they look to brands to create content that makes them feel seen and represented and that comes across as "empowering and authentic".
Meta's study considered an eight-week period during last year's Ramadan, from the lead-up to the holy month to Eid Al Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month. It interviewed more than 13,000 respondents from 12 countries, including those from the Middle East, North America, Europe and Asia.
The operator of the world's biggest social media network opened its new regional headquarters in Dubai on March 8, reflecting the emirate's growth as a global business hub.