UAE consumer behavior sees a seismic shift triggered by COVID-19: VISA Study

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Contactless Payment
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The latest global Back to the Business study conducted by payment technology giant Visa reveals a dramatic shift to digital commerce in response to the pandemic, driven largely by changing consumer expectations for a safe and touchless payment moment.

The study reported that as small and micro businesses (SMBs) continue to endure the financial impact of COVID-19, rethinking the checkout or point-of-sale (POS) experience is essential for survival.

The study revealed that 90 percent of customers in the UAE changed how they pay for purchases due to the pandemic, including shopping online when possible (59 percent), using contactless payments (52 percent) and not using cash as much (40 percent)

Consumers now prefer digital-first commerce

Safety means touchless: Contactless payments have become a driving differentiator. Almost every (90 percent, compared to 63 percent globally) UAE consumers were willing to switch to buying from a store that installed contactless payment systems. In fact, 72 percent of UAE consumers (compared to 48 globally) wouldn’t shop at a store that only offers payment methods that require contact with a cashier or other shared devices.

Small business optimism vs. consumer realities: Irrespective of the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, nearly all (94 percent, compared to 67 percent globally) SMBs in the UAE are beginning to feel optimistic about the future of their business but estimate it will be about six months before their businesses are back to full operation.

Despite COVID-19 struggles, Small businesses are keen to adapt

Pivoting to a digital-first mindset: 94 percent of SMBs in the UAE, compared to 67 percent globally, have adapted to keep their businesses on track since the outbreak. 44 percent, compared to 20 percent globally have allowed contactless payments for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Additionally, 59 percent, compared to 33 percent of global SMBs reported their business has accepted less or stopped accepting cash during the pandemic.

Long-term outlook and top concerns: Despite their willingness to adapt to new trends, 92 percent of merchants in the UAE (compared to 74 percent globally) still have concerns about shifting their business online or increasing online presence, highlighting the need for additional support to help SMBs transition to digital. Other major concerns highlighted by merchants were’

Data Privacy and Security concerns – 48 percent, compared to 32 percent globally.

Employee Safety and Health – 48 percent, compared to 27 percent globally

An overwhelming majority (89 percent) of UAE consumers, compared to two-thirds (67 percent) of consumers globally, are taking measures to keep their payment cards clean.