Think the U.S. or the U.K. leads the world in omnichannel digital shopping? Think again. That distinction goes to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), whose 8.8 million consumers take the prize as the most digitally engaged population on the planet.
This is a key finding from The 2022 Global Digital Shopping Index: UAE Edition, a PYMNTS and Cybersource collaboration, based on surveys of more than 2,000 shoppers in the region as part of the Global Digital Shopping Index, a six-nation study of digital habits among more than 13,100 shoppers.
The UAE edition also includes insights from a survey of more than 200 merchants, showing how digital transformation scales at a national level.
Smartphones lead the way
One of the major takeaways from study is that 65% of all consumers there routinely use smartphones to navigate shopping journeys, meaning UAE shoppers are 52% more likely than consumers in the six-nation sample to not only use their smartphones “at any time, for any reason” but also 55% more likely than consumers in any other country to complete their shopping journeys entirely in the mobile channel.
And it’s no surprise what they’re doing on their smartphones in retail settings: price comparisons, checking product reviews, and generally bringing dynamism to shopping trips.
As we’ve learned over the past three years, where you find heavy mobile usage, you also find more engagement with omnichannel behaviors like curbside pickup and in-store pickup. UAE consumers lean toward in-store pickup, with 25% of local shoppers having picked up their most recent eCommerce purchases in this way.
This high level of omnichannel activity would be impossible without merchant support, and the UAE certainly has it. Findings show that 62% of UAE merchants let shoppers buy online and pick up from in-store kiosks and 56% allow shoppers to make their online purchases in store.
“UAE merchants know how critical mobile commerce is for converting customers,” the study states, “and many are going out of their way to provide mobile-based shopping features. Nevertheless, the shoppers who use these features while shopping in-store encounter 10% less shopping friction than those that do not use the features in-store.”
That only goes to show that there’s room to improve even in markets where digital-first shopping habits have firmly taken root.
Friction still needs work in the UAE
Drilling down on some of the key findings, we see that in the UAE, almost one-third of all eCommerce shoppers picked up their most recent purchase either in-store or curbside, surpassing all other nations in the study except the U.S. and the U.K.
There’s a cautionary note there for retailers: “Merchants that fail to offer such options risk foregoing a sizable share of their potential sales.”
While delivery is hot, UAE consumers use it less. “Just 56% of eCommerce shoppers in the UAE had their most recent purchases shipped directly to their homes. In comparison, 71% of the consumers in our six-country study did the same. This means curbside and in-store pickup options are even more critical to success in the UAE than in most other countries,” the study finds.
It’s an important local preference that regional merchants need to strategize for. And they are: The data shows that UAE merchants are “far more likely than their counterparts in other countries to provide mobile-based features for their brick-and-mortar shoppers.” About 70% offer cross-channel digital profiles, allowing consumers to access their identification and payment information both in store and online.
Where UAE merchants still need work is reducing the friction associated with omnichannel shopping: “UAE mobile-assisted shoppers encounter 9% more shopping friction than mobile-assisted shoppers across all six countries, on average.”
It’s a powerful indication that “there is an issue with the quality of the mobile shopping features UAE merchants provide. They may not be as streamlined, quick, or user-friendly as they need to be.”