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UAE shoppers' online habits revealed; retailers beware of overestimating chances

Image used for illustrative purpose. online shopping or internet shop concepts, with shopping cart symbol.

Image used for illustrative purpose. online shopping or internet shop concepts, with shopping cart symbol.

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2017

Dubai: E-commerce retailers in the UAE shouldn’t rush to offer all types of product categories — nine out of ten shoppers prefer to go online to buy their travel tickets or for events. And, no surprises here either, 40 per cent search online for fashion purchases and 38 per cent do so for gadgets, according to a Nielsen survey.

What the findings also suggest is that online retailers here may be overestimating their chances when it comes to convincing shoppers to expand their basket of purchases, including grocery.

In fact, some e-commerce vendors recently made high-profile additions through grocery delivery services. For these e-tailers, the belief is that by putting up stocks of fresh consumables, they would get shoppers to become more regular with their online purchases and not limit themselves to the odd purchase of a new smartphone or fashion accessory.

But 63 per cent of online respondents in the Middle East and Africa prefer to buy their fresh and household groceries at a physical store and will not consider buying them online, the Nielsen report states. For comparison, 59 per cent of those polled suggested the same sentiment, as did 54 per cent in the US. But that hasn’t stopped Amazon from building up quite a presence in the sale and delivery of fresh consumables.

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In the UAE, shoppers still seem to want to touch and feel their vegetables and fruits before the purchase. Forty-one per cent stated that visits to a physical store help them decide which fresh groceries to buy, and the percentage is 36 per cent for personal-care and beauty products.

“This is consistent with the global average, 44 per cent for fresh groceries and 39 per cent for personal-care and beauty products,” states the survey. “For durables, store websites top the list of sources when it came to fashion [49 per cent], while 50 per cent cited brands websites as the most influential source of information for consumer electronics.”

According to Arslan Ashraf, managing director, Nielsen Arabian Peninsula and Pakistan, “The way forward is to blend the best of both online and offline channels to connect better with the shoppers. [The] physical store is a good avenue to advertise and promote the online stores — especially for consumer electronics and fashion products, while digital channels can be useful in augmenting information on variety of the product lines, offers and promotions.”

In fact, with the right incentives on offer, more local shoppers can be induced to go online as well. More than half of UAE respondents in the Nielsen survey said they are “already using or definitely willing to use online or mobile coupons, while 53 per cent are already using or willing to login to store wi-fI to receive more information on offers if these were made available in store.

“Fifty-four per cent are already or definitely willing to use [a] retailer app or loyalty programme app on their mobiles to receive information and offers while in-store.”

The ways to get shoppers to buy online

* For consumer electronics and fashion, the common information sources for purchasing decisions are digital touchpoints. Store websites top the list of sources used to make decisions about fashion products (49 per cent), and that source is the second most cited for consumer electronics (42 per cent), says the Nielsen survey.

* For consumer electronics, brand websites are the most widely cited resource, while store websites come third (35 per cent) behind in-person visits (40 per cent).

* For all categories, social media is more influential in developing markets than in the advanced ones. It is among the top three sources for fashion purchasing decisions in India, south-east Asia and Africa/Middle East, and for personal care and beauty decisions in south-east Asia and Africa/Middle East. In all regions, social media has little influence in fresh-grocery purchasing decisions.

By Manoj Nair Associate Editor

Gulf News 2017. All rights reserved.

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