New EY survey reveals COVID-19 driven pivot in GCC consumer behavior

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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A recent survey by one of the largest professional services networks in the world, EY has revealed that GCC residents are interested in saving more by restricting their expenditures to essentials and concentrating more on their health in the months ahead.

The EY Future Consumer Index reported that 25 percent of consumers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia stated that affordability is considered as the main priority in decision making. Their focus is on living up to their terms, with many stating that they don’t care much about the brands they buy but on what the product gives them.

Furthermore, 74 percent of buyers have described the price as one of the factors which is rising in importance, while 21 percent think it would take years to hit pre-COVID-19 levels, in terms of financial stability.

According to the EY data, 29 percent of consumers consider protecting their health and the health of their families as the highest priority. This focus is primarily driving the choices they make.

Shoppers also said that they prefer brands and items that they trust to be safe and also they prefer to buying online rather than in stores to reduce unnecessary risk as much as possible.

64 percent of respondents increased their spending on household products and household hygiene while 57 percent said they will spend money on items that help in improve health.

Ravi Kapoor, Mena consumer industry consulting leader at EY said, “Over time, we expect concerns around health and household to diminish as people, communities, and economies recover – but they won’t go away entirely”.

He further added that, as customers allow their shopping habits to be driven by new preferences and circumstances, organizations will be forced to weigh efficiency against the need to continue improving skills that will lead to growth. Organizations are yet to figure out how to satisfy health-conscious and value-conscious customers.

The results of EY are similar to recent research by PWC, which found that physical and mental health are essential for buyers in the Middle East.

Norma Taki, PWC’s the Middle East consumer market leader, said 88 percent of UAE consumers focus on their health.

She also noted that UAE retailers are now planning with two main elements, the store layout and the “huge” potential provided by online shopping in mind while considering new initiatives.

The survey also reveals that 90 percent of the consumers will continue using mobile shopping even if the situations of lockdown have been removed. And the online sale vs offline sales must be higher in the region, considering the youth population and mobile usage.

There was a big pickup over the last few years but the COVID-19 situation has accelerated it. “My view is that any retailer that does not have a connected retail strategy is late and will struggle to catch up,” said Taki.