Close to 60% of the shoppers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), use their smartphones at some point during in-store shopping journeys, according to the results of a survey for the PYMNTS 2022 Global Digital Shopping Index.
When extrapolated to the whole population of the UAE, the research suggests that approximately 882,000 Emirati consumers use their smartphones to assist with in-store shopping, a greater share than in any of the other five countries surveyed — Australia, Brazil, Mexico, the United Kingdom (U.K.) and the United States (U.S.), the survey said.
The greatest number of those shoppers (24.8%) reported using their smartphones to research product information, while others used it to compare prices (24.7%), build loyalty credit (20.7%) and search for offers and discounts (19.9%).
One of the key takeaways from the report is that embracing cross-channel shopping features and hybrid order-fulfilment models is an increasingly important retail strategy in all countries surveyed.
Pick-up at In-store Kiosks
For example, across the six markets surveyed, 57% of merchants said they allow their shoppers to pick their e-commerce purchases up at in-store kiosks, a 14% increase between 2020 and 2021.
For the UAE, which boasts some of the world’s largest shopping malls and a retail market valued at $55 billion in 2019, technology has been a way for retailers to boost bricks-and-mortar sales and extract maximum value from customers, with the country being an early adopter of shopping apps that help consumers find exactly what they’re looking for and pay the best price for it.
These include the official Visit Dubai app developed by the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, which functions as an interactive guide and source of information for tourists looking to navigate Dubai’s extensive and varied retail offerings.
Other hybrid retail solutions include a range of custom apps developed by local malls such as the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Hills Mall and the Dubai Mall to enhance the shopping experience and offer purpose-built retail apps with features ranging from exclusive offers and rewards to mobile shopping, pay-on-phone parking options, maps and event guides.
Overall, data from the 2022 Global Digital Shopping Index is an indication that the digital-first approach to retail is more than just a pandemic hangover, given the increasing trend across countries when it comes to digital-first shopping, whether e-commerce or smartphone-assisted in-store experiences.
If other countries are to learn from the UAE’s thriving retail sector, they need to recognize that while e-commerce represents an increasingly important aspect of retail strategy in today’s digital-first landscape, it’s not the full picture and physical shops still play an essential role in driving retail growth.