A survey commissioned by Kearney Middle East reveals that 79% of consumers in the UAE have admittedly changed their shopping habits during COVID-19 developments, spending more online they would have previously. When asked if they would maintain current shopping habits after the pandemic, 48% answered yes.
The survey of 1,000 respondents based across the UAE and Saudi Arabia was conducted from April 5-9, following the introduction of the 24-hour movement restrictions enforced by the respective governments to curb the spread of COVID-19 last week. Out of the 500 UAE respondents, 60% claimed that they spend more on essential products including groceries, food, healthcare and wellness items than they did before the pandemic.
Despite the 24-hour lockdown, visiting a supermarket was revealed as the preferred method of shopping, 34%, followed by online, 27%, neighbourhood grocery or convenience stores, 22%, and hypermarkets, 17%. However, consumers are increasingly turning to online shopping with over half, 57%, of respondents spending more online than they did before.
Unlike the UAE, the most popular purchase channel among respondents in Saudi Arabia was online, 37%, followed by supermarkets, 24%, hypermarkets, 23%, and neighbourhood grocery or convenience stores, 16%. When questioned about the criteria for purchasing essential products, UAE respondents highlighted excellent quality, 36%, and availability, 36%, as the most important factors, followed by price, 28%. This highlights that consumers are not trading down to lower price points counter to general perception.
Expenditure on non-essential items has also increased since the lockdown, with education and books being the most popular, 23%. This was followed by the entertainment category of music and movies, 21%, electronics, 17%, home improvement and decoration, 15%, fashion and beauty, 12%, and toys and games, 12%. Online shopping was the most preferred method for purchasing, 45%, with almost two thirds, 64%, of respondents spending more on non-essentials than they did previously.
Commenting on the survey results, Debashish Mukherjee, Partner and Head, Consumer Industries and Retail Practice at Kearney Middle East said: “Recent developments related to COVID-19 and measures being taken by governments to protect their communities around the world has impacted retail habits, which for the first time we have quantitative evidence to say, will stay in reasonable measure even after this phase is over. Though UAE consumers mainly opt for traditional supermarket shopping for the essentials, the survey highlights a growing demand for online shopping. This will undoubtedly shape the future of the industry by both accelerating the growth of online retail / e-commerce and driving a resurgence in local neighbourhood supermarkets and stores.”