Ramadan 2021: Online shopping trend to accelerate during the holy month

95% of UAE and Saudi Arabia residents now shop online, new survey finds

Two-thirds of UAE residents expect the country to become fully cashless by 2030. Courtesy istockphoto.com

Almost 95 per cent of residents in the UAE and Saudi Arabia – the Arab world’s two biggest economies – are shopping online and this trend will accelerate in the month of Ramadan, according to a new survey by payments process Checkout.com.

Nearly 30 per cent of consumers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia said they make online purchases either daily or at least weekly, the survey, which polled 1,000 people in the Emirates and the kingdom in the last week of March, said.

Meanwhile, 76 per cent of respondents plan to buy online more frequently this Ramadan, while 26 per cent of those surveyed said they will be shopping in-person less frequently.

The findings are consistent with a September report by London-based Checkout.com indicating that consumers’ adoption of online shopping is a long-term behavioural change rather than a temporary shift resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Many traditionally cash-centric countries in the Middle East are now converting to higher rates of digital payments … the pandemic has spurred a payments revolution of sorts,” Mohammed Ali Yusuf, regional manager for the Middle East North Africa and Pakistan at Checkout.com, said

“This is particularly important during a period like Ramadan when competition among merchants is high … and businesses need to provide the online shopping experience that consumers are looking for,” he added.

The most popular category of products that consumers are expected to purchase online during Ramadan is groceries (60 per cent). This is followed by food deliveries (50 per cent), clothing (44 per cent) and household products (39 per cent).

The most common form of payment for the majority of consumers (67 per cent) is card payments and digital wallets, the survey found.

Nearly 37 per cent of those polled expect to use cash-on-delivery less this Ramadan compared to last year. Consumer preference for digital payments is higher during Ramadan than at other times of the year (59 per cent), the company said.

Founded in 2012, Checkout.com handles payments for many of the region’s companies including Careem, Deliveroo, Zomato and Hungerstation.

Digital payments offer huge scope for local merchants and consumers between 18 and 34 years will drive the adoption, Mr Yusuf said.

“With more consumers now appreciating the convenience of online purchasing and payments, there is a clear opportunity for forward-thinking businesses to do what they do better by unlocking more value in every transaction,” he added.

The UAE leads the region in embracing digital payments. The market has more than doubled in the Emirates over the past two years to $18.5 billion in 2020, according to FinTech company Stripe, which announced its entry into the Middle East market last week.

Two-thirds of UAE residents expect the country to become fully cashless by 2030, a poll by Standard Chartered showed in September.

Nearly half of consumers in the MENAP region are likely to increase their online shopping this year compared to 2020, Checkout.com found in its November survey.

Between March and September last year, it saw an 86 per cent growth in its own online payment volumes in the region. It had processed nearly 400 million e-commerce transactions in the region between 2019 and 2020.