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10 observations into consumer behavior in UAE

When it comes to shopping, the UAE is home to some of the world’s most extravagant spenders, with 34 percent showing strong loyalty to preferred brands despite price.

Yet, retaining UAE shopper loyalty is tough due to their high expectations. We demystify the profile of shoppers in the country and look at what consumers prioritise:

1. They’re brand conscious

In the UAE, consumers place a high value on brand reputation and recognition. They often associate well-known brands with quality, luxury, and prestige. As a result, luxury brands have a strong market presence and can command premium prices. Companies that can establish a reputable brand image can gain a competitive advantage in the UAE market.

KPMG’s survey on “The truth about customer loyalty” reveals that product quality holds the highest influence on loyalty among UAE consumers, with 77 percent considering it a key factor. while, value for money, customer service, and product consistency all tie for second place with 66 percent attributing their loyalty to these aspects.

2. They’re tech savvy

The UAE has embraced technology and the internet, leading to a significant increase in digital adoption. The 2023 Global Shopping Index study on the UAE found that the tech-savvy consumers in the UAE are comfortable using smartphones, social media, and online platforms for various activities, including shopping. This is why e-commerce has seen substantial growth, and businesses that offer convenient and secure online shopping experiences are likely to succeed.

3. They are family-centric

Family is central to UAE society, and this has a direct impact on consumer behavior. According to the book of Principle of Marketing from Saylor Academy, when making purchasing decisions, individuals often consider the preferences and needs of their families. Marketing campaigns that emphasize family values and inclusivity can resonate well with consumers in the UAE.

4. They prefer quality

UAE consumers are willing to pay a premium for products and services that are perceived to be of higher quality. Brands that prioritize quality and maintain high standards in their offerings are likely to gain loyalty and trust from consumers. Price is not the sole determining factor; consumers prioritize value for their money. Tesla serves as a prime illustration of a brand that has excelled in its approach. Besides introducing their flagship Model S and X vehicles, they established a pop-up shop in the Dubai Mall, a Tesla Ranger product support service, and a dedicated service center to cater to their customers’ needs effectively.

5. They have local and global tastes

The UAE’s diverse population, consisting of both locals and expatriates from various countries, has resulted in a blend of local and global preferences. The UAE presents a highly distinctive market landscape, with over 88.5 percent of its population comprising expatriates representing more than 200 nationalities. Jollibee, as a brand, recognizes the significance of segmentation for success in the UAE. The Filipino fast-food chain made a significant impact by strategically targeting the country’s expat community, which played a key role in their success within the region. Businesses need to be mindful of catering to this diverse market, offering products and services that appeal to different cultural backgrounds and tastes.

6. They have seasonal buying patterns

Given the extreme heat during the summer months, consumers’ buying patterns shift accordingly. There is an increased demand for indoor activities, air-conditioning, cooling products, and hydration-related items. Understanding the seasonality of demand can help businesses tailor their offerings and marketing strategies accordingly.

“All this is obviously emphasized by the fact that the weather is quite hot a great deal of the year. When we restrict the role of malls to shopping, it makes it difficult to understand why people would shop in Dubai when they live in Abu Dhabi, and vice versa. However, when we understand that malls have a bigger role in the community, we can understand why this is the case,” said Nadine Touma Gammage, researcher and consultant.

7. They’re influenced by social media

Social media platforms play a central role in influencing consumer behavior in the UAE. The study of Jalal Rajeh Hanaysha, indicated that informativeness, perceived relevance, and interactivity positively influence purchase decisions. Consumers also rely on influencers, celebrities, and online recommendations to discover new products and make purchase decisions. Businesses that leverage social media marketing and collaborations with influencers can effectively reach their target audience.

8. They prefer Halal and Islamic finance

For certain consumer segments in the UAE, adherence to Islamic principles and halal considerations is crucial. In some cases, products that are not aligned with Islamic principles are deemed non-Halal, making them impermissible for Muslims to purchase or utilize. Halal certification for food products, Islamic banking and financial services, and ethical business practices resonate with these consumers. Companies that incorporate these principles into their operations can tap into a dedicated and loyal customer base.

9. They love travel and tourism

With a thriving tourism industry, consumer behavior in the UAE is significantly influenced by hospitality and travel services. Tourists and locals alike seek experiences and products related to leisure, dining, and entertainment. Businesses in these sectors need to prioritize customer service and cater to the diverse preferences of tourists from around the world.

10. They like sustainable products and services

Like many other places globally, sustainability and environmental consciousness are becoming increasingly important to consumers in the UAE. Some consumers are actively seeking eco-friendly and sustainable products and services, and businesses that adopt sustainable practices and communicate their commitment to environmental responsibility can appeal to this growing segment of conscious consumers.

“Because demand for sustainable goods and services have increased, companies in UAE would experience potential growth opportunities if they adapted their go-to-market strategies to more effectively cater to customers’ changing demands, specifically better options, more accessible price points, and better promotion of the benefits of sustainability,” according to Boston Consulting Group. MFD/Expat Media

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