Shopping in the UAE: Retail trends from the Emirates

Blis conducted research into the buying opinions and habits of shoppers across UAE

The UAE is a leading tourist destination, with visitors flocking to indulge in a slice of luxury offered by its glamorous cities. It’s home to the world’s tallest building, with an eye-watering 163 floors, the world’s longest zipline, where you can travel at speeds of 90 miles an hour and the world’s biggest and most visited shopping malls.

The luxury market in the Middle East is projected to reach $15.1 billion by 2022, driven by an increase in omnichannel strategies and the continued rise in the tourism industry. A young population, with almost half of the region’s population accounted for by those under the age of 24. This audience have, on average, more disposable income and plenty of opportunities to spend it within the flourishing luxury sector in the UAE.

In 2019, Blis conducted research into the buying opinions and habits of shoppers across UAE, Italy, Germany, the UK and the Netherlands. Our research study, “The Real Retail Story: Evolving Shopper Behavior in EMEA”, indicates that consumers in the UAE enjoy shopping as a hobby and are most often on the hunt for value for money deals. By interviewing 4,681 consumers across these regions we uncovered some lessons brick and mortar stores can learn from online stores (and vice/versa), and observed key market differences across the EMEA region.

Overall, it appears shoppers in UAE  share a similar profile to other shoppers in EMEA – with 38 percent of shoppers saying that they are always on the hunt for bargains. 86 percent of UAE respondents said that they use their mobile phones whilst shopping, the highest out of all the respondent groups. In line with their Bargain Hunter status they said that the main reason for using their phone is to compare prices online to ensure the best deal.

Retailers in the country and brands trying to reach consumers here should take note of the habits of these savvy shoppers. With such an array of options available, price and value for money play a key factor in deciding whether to make that purchase. For these shoppers, the main reason for going to the physical store was that they wanted to check the quality of the item and test it before buying and for 39 percent of respondents larger stores with all of the options available are preferable.

96 percent of the population of the UAE are smartphone users and 91% of those mobile users browse the internet using their mobile device. That’s a huge opportunity for  marketers to consider leveraging mobile strategies and location data. From our research we found that, a whopping 83 percent of those surveyed admit they’ve seen an online advert while out and have then gone to a store in search of related products, while 94 percent have actually gone to the nearest store to purchase advertised products. Given how responsive shoppers in the UAE appear to be to mobile ads they see on the go, mobile is truly imperative here.

By using mobile location data to understand consumer shopping patterns, retail brands will be able to know their target consumers far better. Brands cannot truly understand their audience based on their online history alone. Far deeper insights into the habits and interests of consumers can be revealed through location data, which groups offline behaviour and reveals how consumers are spending their time. This can improve the effectiveness of ad targeting by putting products and offers in front of those consumers who are most likely to have brand affinity or to visit a store following exposure.

Mobile may be the key to engaging and winning shoppers in the UAE, and the real-world insights gained from location data are equally important to understanding who these shoppers are, as well as how, why and when they’re likely to buy.

For more insights about shoppers in UAE and across the EMEA region, download the report here.