The Resilient Middle East Consumer

May 16 2021 12:05:02 / By Wisoft Solutions

As we slowly emerge from the pandemic and imagine the world hereafter, we can be sure of only one thing: our old habits have changed and some for good. Consumers were already shifting towards online purchases before the spread of the COVID-19, but it gained momentum after government-imposed restrictions and social distancing turned Middle East consumption into a ‘homebody economy’. This new economy defines the shopping, learning, and communicating we’ve been doing online, all while staying home during lockdowns. And according to the Global Consumer Insights Survey (GCIS), consumers say they plan to continue shopping online even when everyday life opens up to the new normal. Some respondents who indicated a drop in household income also said they would be spending more on online purchases, showing the optimism of Arab consumers towards life in the new lane.

The homebody economy includes many categories from furniture to clothing, pet care and personal care products. There’s definitely a niche to be carved for every brand. In more good news, digital marketing agencies in Dubai have narrowed down some trends from this shift that can help brands thrive in the new economic trajectory.

Mobile Shopping

People are turning to their smartphones not only to stay connected but also to keep life close to normal on all fronts. The Global Consumer Insight Survey indicated the growing popularity of mobile payments among Middle East consumers, which in 2018 saw adoption of only 25%, but rose to 45% post COVID19 – the biggest increase compared to any other region. Unlike the western world, mobile shopping is still a nascent trend in the region here. Consumers who were previously hesitant to use mobile channels for payment were convinced now more than ever by the ease and convenience that comes with it.

Consumers are choosing mobile as their preferred online screen for shopping online and researching products, confirmed by 92% of respondents in the survey who are likely to continue shopping from their smartphones. Categories like electronics saw a spike in purchases made online, especially through a smartphone, whereas categories like home appliances still face a challenge with last-mile transactions and delivery challenges.

Digital marketing agencies in Dubai helped small and medium retail brands and malls establish their online marketplace for consumers to browse and purchase items during the lockdown.  Due to this convenience, new behaviors such as click and collect became popular and are likely to continue in the near future.

Grocery e-commerce shows promise

Consumers in the Middle East who saw a pandemic-induced drop in household income will be more mindful of their purchases going forward. While discretionary categories will see more measured spending, online grocery shopping seems to have taken hold as a habit for the long term. Shoppers were surfing online channels for daily necessities like fresh produce and frozen food that could either be picked up or delivered home.

The GCIS survey indicated a 24% increase in online grocery shopping compared to pre-COVID when only 27% of respondents were shopping online. This still indicates a small penetration of grocery e-commerce, perhaps due to the challenge of logistics for these perishable goods, and mainly because people still prefer to touch and gauge the quality of the items they purchase. Those who were shopping for groceries online were doing so less often but were filling up bigger baskets at checkout. Digital marketing agencies in Dubai see these challenges in grocery e-commerce as an opportunity for innovation. Though the startup culture is still nascent, specialized transport and storage options can help develop a robust supply chain to deliver the kind of quality customers expect.

Engaged with social media

Nine in ten Arabs post messages, comments, or repost content generated by others onto their social media accounts, leaving only a handful of passive users who do not interact on these apps. And as expected, the younger ones are more active users compared to their older peers. Nearly three-quarters of the region had increased their use of social media due to distancing and isolation, a significant increase compared to any other region. With e-commerce taking center stage in 2020 and going forward, understanding this trend in depth is especially important for B2C companies looking to market their category and to conduct market research through social media engagement.

Digital marketing agencies in Dubai can help establish digital solutions for companies looking to engage consumers on social media apps.  There is a high potential to convert these users into ‘social shoppers’ or people who purchase using inbuilt shopping features on social media platforms. Facebook and Instagram both allow brands to display products and checkout carts on the application itself, without having to leave the app. As we know Arab consumers to be shoppers who are influenced by what their peers are buying, for many consumers social media apps can be the start of a shopping journey.

In Conclusion

These trends show the future outlook for industries planning to do business in the MENA region. Retailers should look to maintain a balance between traditional offline purchases and the latest e-commerce checkouts. At Wisoft, we focus on complete integration of the two to benefit the brand and the consumer wishing for convenience and quality. This agility in operating in both spaces in turn will help build brand loyalty, which cannot be glossed over when the market is ripe with competition. A lot of bottlenecks in the supply chain will require bringing innovation into the game, one that can be a huge game-changer for startups looking to do business in the MENA region. Finally, for any business hoping to engage the Arab consumer, we develop effective solutions by understanding the culture as the turning point for marketing success. And there’s nowhere better than the ever-popular social media platforms to better understand this active shopper’s expectations and appeal to their taste.