COVID-19: Visa highlights shift in UAE consumer habits

By Georgia Wilson
Visa’s latest initiative - ‘Where You Shop Matters’ - champions entrepreneurs and encourages consumers to support small businesses in the UAE...

With the launch of its ‘Where You Shop Matters’ initiative this week, the digital payments company aims to champion and enable entrepreneurs as well as encourage consumers to support small businesses in the UAE.

As part of this initiative Visa has released its ‘COVID-19 CEMEA Impact Tracker’ which highlights the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the commerce sector for consumers and small businesses in the UAE.

The launch of ‘Where You Shop Matters’ will support small businesses via the ‘Visa Small Business Hub’, the company’s merchant platform that provides tools and information on how to start, run, and grow a small business.

“At Visa, we are proud to support merchants and recognize that many small businesses have been most adversely affected by the pandemic. From eCommerce to security, our ‘Where You Shop Matters’ initiative aims to help support and empower the local small businesses that serve as the backbone of our communities,” commented Madhur Mehra, MENA Head of Merchant Sales & Acquiring.

The reports findings

Within Visa’s ‘COVID-19 CEMEA Impact Tracker’ report, the company discovered increased anxiety among UAE merchants with 89% of small businesses noticing a decrease in average consumer spend during the pandemic. As a result the revenue of merchants have been highly impacted with 83% of those surveyed reporting a negative impact on their revenue.

Due to measures made to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, many consumers in the UAE have started to shop online for their essentials. It was reported that 68% of consumers surveyed stated that COVID-19 has led to them conducting their first online grocery shop., while 70% have made their first online pharmacy purchase.

Other findings included:

  • 10% of merchants reporting that they have introduced online offerings as a direct result of the pandemic.
  • Merchants expecting a further 32% growth in contactless payments post COVID-19, due to consumers and merchants focusing on safety and hygiene
  • 59% of consumers admitting to spending less
  • Consumers optimising their shopping trips with 56% now buying in bulk, 50% making lists to avoid impulse buying, and 37% buying non-perishable items to ensure fewer trips
  • 79% of consumers are cautious about hygiene, while 70% of avoid rush hours

Ultimately the report strongly indicates a shift towards online commerce and optimised shopping, with physical cash transactions being replaced with digital payments to maintain safety and hygiene.

“The pandemic is impacting businesses everywhere. The findings of the COVID-19 CEMEA Impact Tracker suggest shoppers have changed how they shop, and this is already having a major impact on how merchants do business. As consumers adapt to the current restrictions, many have turned to online outlets for their shopping. These changes present challenges but also enormous opportunities for all merchants, including small businesses,” commented Shahebaz Khan, Visa’s General Manager for UAE.

“This report shows how cash-only retailers were most negatively impacted while merchants who moved online and adopted contactless payment systems have been able to better weather the adversity. It is vital that merchants across the globe understand the shift in consumer behavior and adapt accordingly. eCommerce and digital solutions are here to stay and the way forward for small businesses,” Khan added.

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