The pandemic has been one of the most disruptive events worldwide and the Middle East is no stranger to its ripple effect. It has caused a multitude of changes in people’s lives; transforming how they learn, work, exercise, travel, as well as how ‒ and what ‒ they purchase.
To learn how this purchasing behaviour has changed, PwC surveyed consumers across the region, including Egypt, for its annual Global Consumer Insights Survey.
At the beginning of the pandemic when curfews were introduced and social gatherings were prohibited, there was a predictable increase in home internet usage, reaching a penetration rate of 57% in January 2021, with about 59 million Egyptians now having access to the internet.
In parallel, the government has been making big strides towards digitalisation. In 2021 and 2022, it raised public investment allocations for the information and communication technology (ICT) sector by an unprecedented 300%, according to budget plan data, to push digital transformation forward. A national e-commerce strategy has also been recently outlined to cover necessary policies and collaboration opportunities with the private sector to boost e-commerce and drive economic growth.
Consequently, 72% of Egyptians surveyed said they had become more digital in the last 6 months, compared to 57% of their global peers, perhaps a reflection of them catching up with their international counterparts who have already migrated to a more digital lifestyle in recent years. Mobile shopping is also growing in popularity with 49% of consumers indicating that they shopped using their phones weekly or daily ‒ a trend consistent with other Middle East markets.
While online shopping channels continue to rise in popularity, the physical store will continue to play an important role for Egyptian consumers. 57% of consumers confirmed they’ve shopped ‒ weekly or more frequently ‒ in person during the last 12 months indicating that Egyptians still like to experience products before buying them.
In terms of product categories, fashion and consumer electronics remain at the top of the list of items purchased online, as indicated by 83% and 79% of consumers respectively, while groceries have seen the biggest uptick from 62% in late 2020 to 77% in 2021. As Egyptian consumers become more comfortable buying big ticket items online, another product category that has seen growth in online shopping is home appliances ‒ 78% said they have purchased them through online channels.
What shoppers are spending on has also shifted. With cinemas and restaurants closed, consumers spent more time at home cooking and watching streaming platforms. Therefore, it is not surprising that they are planning to spend more on groceries (56%) and takeaway food (54%) as well as home entertainment (43%).
The COVID-19 pandemic has also motivated people to take better care of themselves and the environment. 68% of Egyptian consumers said they have become more health conscious and 78% said they now choose companies that are concerned with and supportive of the environment.
Consumer behavior is changing fast and these new patterns are becoming the new normal. Specifically, digital adoption in Egypt has been accelerated by COVID-19 in a way that was unexpected, and online shopping and entertainment are strongly impacted as a result. The pandemic also drove Egyptians to learn how to take better care of themselves, deepening the importance of health and wellness among a larger part of the society and accelerating the related trends, such as health coaching, fitness programs and wellness tourism. As a result, companies will need to pay close attention to these evolving purchasing patterns in order to make effective long-term decisions about their business models and to ensure that they reach their customers.
Country Senior Partner – Deals Leader, PwC Egypt
Tel: +20 122 3421 386
Partner, PwC Middle East
Tel: +20 100 666 6240
Get in touch with the PR team, PwC Middle East