Digitalisation and sustainability are top priorities for consumers in the Middle East, PwC report says

June 28, 2021

  • The PwC Middle East report charts the shift in consumer attitudes after a period of upheaval 
  • To seize the opportunities ahead, retailers in the Middle East need to repair, rethink and reconfigure their strategies to align with consumer needs

28 June 2021: Today, PwC Middle East launched the Middle East findings of the 2021 Global Consumer Insights Survey titled “More digital and sustainable: post pandemic priorities for Middle East consumers”  which takes a look at how consumer behaviour has changed as a result of COVID-19. 

Undoubtedly, confidence is rising across the region, with 58% of Middle East consumers confirming that they have become more optimistic about the economy. Despite this confidence, our results indicate that the economic and social consequences of COVID-19 have impacted consumer behaviour and that those changes are here to stay. 

Key consumer trends accelerated by the pandemic:

An accelerated shift to online and mobile shopping

  • 67% of regional consumers believe they have become more digital during the pandemic, compared to 51% of global consumers, particularly in Egypt where 72% of consumers confirmed that.
  • Mobile is now the main online channel for shopping, with 47% of regional respondents saying they use their smartphones most frequently for purchases, compared with 39% of global respondents.
  • A major consideration for Middle East consumers shopping online continues to be fast and reliable delivery with 38% of respondents ranking this as important. 

In-store shopping is still important as part of multi-channel retail strategies

  • Despite the pandemic, 56% of the Middle East consumers, compared with 45% globally, prefer visiting physical stores.
  • 40% of consumers who shop in-store consider increased health and safety as one of the most important attributes for a physical store. Key safety measures that regional consumers highlighted include mandatory face masks (44%), social distancing (43%) and hand sanitisation stations (32%).

Price-sensitivity is increasing in the Middle East

  • 57% of Middle East consumers indicated that they have been more price oriented during the pandemic and 66% said they have been focused on saving.

Middle East consumers are more health conscious

  • 71% of Middle East consumers indicated that they have become more healthy during the pandemic. When shopping for groceries, 41% of respondents also said that they are willing to pay more for healthier options.

Socially aware consumers are on the rise

  • COVID-19 has reinforced the growing awareness of social and environmental sustainability with 65% of regional consumers reporting that they have become more eco-friendly during the pandemic.
  • 75% of Middle consumers say they buy from companies that are environmentally conscious, compared with 54% globally; and 72%, versus 55% globally, say they choose products with a traceable and transparent origin.

Older consumers are more likely to be focused on sustainability

Norma Taki, Consumer Markets Leader and Transaction Services Partner, PwC Middle East commented: “Digitalisation and sustainability are firmly at the top of consumers’ agendas. To prepare for the future, retailers across the region will need to be fast and agile to capture business from a rising generation of youthful, socially aware consumers who are digitally savvy.”

She added: “The speed of the shift in consumer sentiment reflected by our findings is a reminder that retailers cannot afford to adopt a wait-and-see strategy as the region’s shoppers emerge from the pandemic and the related economic uncertainty and emotional stress. A new, digitised market is taking shape, which already looks increasingly different from the region’s pre-pandemic consumer landscape.”

PwC adopted a ‘pulse’ approach for its 2021 Global Consumer Insights Survey in order to remain attuned to changes in the worldwide landscape and connected to the behaviours of the global consumer. The pulse surveys were put into the field in November 2020 and March 2021 and included respondents from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

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Jade Hopkins

Middle East Marketing & Communications Leader, PwC Middle East

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