Eight in 10 UAE consumers plan to do their holiday shopping on a mobile app

Consumers in the Emirates have an average of five shopping apps stored on their devices, a new survey finds

Person with credit card using a computer for internet shopping. istockphoto.com
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More than 80 per cent of UAE shoppers plan to do their holiday shopping on apps, higher than the global average of 58 per cent, according to a new survey from Salesforce.com.

Eighty-three per cent of consumers plan to make purchases via a mobile phone app, the company's Connected Shoppers Report found, the second-highest rate globally behind Indonesia at 87 per cent. Respondents from the Emirates hold an average of five shopping apps on their mobiles, compared to three in the US and two in the UK and Ireland.

“UAE shoppers are among the most digitally-savvy and brand conscious in the Emea region,” said Thierry Nicault, regional vice president of Salesforce's enterprise business unit for the Middle East, Africa and central Europe.

Three quarters of UAE consumers also plan to make more purchases online during the holiday season this year compared to 67 per cent globally, the survey of more than 10,000 consumers in over 20 countries, including 200 in the Emirates, found.

Retailers in the region have increased their digital presence in recent years with online marketplaces such as Amazon.ae and noon.com leading the shift. E-commerce in the GCC is set to grow at around 40 per cent a year over the next five years, increasing its penetration to 9 per cent from the current 2 per cent, according to a fashion sales report from McKinsey published this month.

On a global scale, the digital shift has been going on for longer, but retailers are still discovering the right balance between brick-and-mortar and online channels. Major US retailers closed more than 5,500 stores last year, according to the Salesforce report, citing Coresight Research.

“It’s no surprise that retail is in the midst of a revolution,” said Salesforce, a customer relationship management and cloud-based software company, in its third annual report. “But the story of retail transformation can’t be boiled down to stores versus e-commerce.”

For example, for first-time purchases, 71 per cent of global respondents and 74 per cent of UAE respondents chose to shop in a physical store rather than online. In contrast, for repeat purchases, 25 per cent of global shoppers and 20 per cent of UAE shoppers opted for in-store. The top reasons UAE shoppers chose stores over online included the “in-store experience” and “to touch and feel merchandise”.

Brand is important for UAE consumers, with 77 per cent shopping with a specific brand in mind, the same as in Hong Kong. In the US and UK, 46 per cent shop based on brand.

In the UAE, 36 per cent of online purchases were made through a digital marketplace, around a quarter each through a brand website/app or a retailer site/app, and 14 per cent through “emerging digital purchase points”, the survey said. These include mobile wallets, social media and messaging apps.

A higher percentage of UAE shoppers are willing to shop through these “emerging” purchase points than in most of the other countries in the survey. More than half of UAE respondents said they would make purchases through mobile wallets, 48 per cent through social media and 28 per cent through messaging apps.

The top factors influencing holiday purchases for UAE shoppers were: sales or promo codes, shopping apps and what’s available in digital stores.

“As winter holiday shopping approaches, brands, retailers and online marketplaces must go wherever UAE shoppers are — in-store, mobile, social media — and become companies that consumers love,” Mr Nicault said.