More than two thirds of UAE shoppers are now comfortable making purchases and paying bills online, a new survey from global payments company Visa revealed on Sunday.
According to the poll of 600 UAE residents, 66 per cent of shoppers are now happy to buy online - a figure as high as 81 per cent for Emiratis - while 70 per cent are at ease paying utility or government bills using digital platforms.
Neil Fernandes, Visa's head of risk for Middle East and North Africa, said as digital commerce grows and new payment methods emerge, it is imperative that trust and confidence in the system are maintained.
"It is everyone's responsibility from consumers themselves to payment service providers to the banks and merchants, to ensure that card data is secure," he said.
Card payments are now the top method for online purchases for seven in 10 respondents, while cash on delivery has declined to 15 per cent from 22 per cent in 2017. The top drivers for paying by card are security, earning rewards and tracking spending, according to the study. The top reasons for paying by cash on delivery are to ensure delivery, security concerns and customers preferring to see the products first.
Jon Richards, the chief executive of financial comparison website yallacompare.com, said education and awareness have contributed to shoppers' increasing approval of online purchases.
"We’ve seen an uptick in the willingness among UAE consumers to buy online. A few years ago, maybe 1 or 2 per cent of insurance policies were bought online, but today that number is closer to 10 per cent," he said, adding that the emergence of new world-class payment gateways along with better card security measures have increased transparency for shoppers, making them feel safer online.
"All of these factors, combined with the obvious benefits of shopping online (better prices, home delivery), have contributed to a greater sense among UAE residents that shopping online doesn’t need to be dangerous or complicated," said Mr Richards.
When it comes to surfing safely, the majority (64 per cent) only shop at well-known e-commerce websites. However, the same number have also used an unsecured, open Wi-Fi connection, with 56 per cent of those polled doing so once a week.
According to a biannual survey by payment systems company ACI Worldwide in 2016, 27 per cent of UAE residents reported being a victim of credit card fraud in the past five years.
Mr Richards said online shoppers should always ensure the website they are using is legitimate and secure.
"Make sure the domain name is prefaced by ‘https://’, and if you’re still unsure, run a quick Google search of the website to find evidence that it’s a genuine online store. Chances are, if it’s a scam site, you’ll find plenty of complaints about it online," he said.
"It’s worth placing a spending limit on your card as well. Most banks will allow you to do this through your online banking platform."
UAE consumers are familiar with the emergence of payment technologies. More than eight in 10 are aware of contactless cards and digital wallets, the Visa poll revealed. Of those that possess such payment options, a similar number use them at least once a week.
The top items being bought by people using contactless cards are clothes and items in convenience stores or department stores, while digital wallets are used more for clothing, restaurant orders and electronic goods.
As the UAE moves towards becoming a cashless society, Visa has teamed up with Dubai Economy for the UAE consumer education programme Security Week, that aims to promote safe card-usage and help consumers protect themselves against payment related fraud.
To see the full results of the survey, click here.