Consumers are hybrid hunting bargains and more ESG minded

17 May 2022 5 min. read

The shopping behaviour of consumers in the Middle East is undergoing major change, with many of these changes likely to stick around for good, according to a new report by PwC.

PwC’s latest Global Consumer Insights report has re-confirmed a development which has been unfolding for months: the effects of the global pandemic, compounded by changing attitudes towards ESG and the current inflationary crisis, is changing how, what and where consumers are buying.

Now, PwC’s Middle East edition of the report has found that key consumer developments in the region are not much different – with a few notable highlights across buyer preferences. A round-up of four key findings.

1) Bargain hunting

Middle East consumers are feeling the brunt of the impact of rising inflation (and post-Covid-19 pressures), and as a result, a larger number of consumers is more price consciousness. Overall, 60% of Middle East consumers say they have become more focused on saving in the past six months, while 52% are now more price oriented.

Across both the offline and online shopping channels, consumers in the region are more active in deal hunting compared to their (average) global counterparts.

Considering your general shopping behaviour in physical stores, please indicate how often you are shopping in the following ways.

2) A hybrid shopping experience

Years ago, shopping was an experience enjoyed in physical stores. Today, the customer journey increasingly flows across channels, including stores and online channels such as mobiles, smartphones, tablets – and even across emerging channels such as augmented reality (for example: a digital environment in stores) and the metaverse (for example: buying an NFT bag in Gucci’s metaverse store).

Further reading: PwC buys virtual land NFT in the Sandbox's metaverse.

Across the region, in-store shopping (50%) remains the most popular channel for frequent purchases but mobile continues to grow in importance – 45% of regional consumers shop daily or weekly using this channel. This is in sync with the global movement, with smartphone shopping now at a historic high worldwide.

In the last 12 months, how often have you bought products (e.g. clothes, books, electronics) using the following shopping channels? Not including grocery

When it comes to online shopping, it’s not only about price. Two thirds of Middle East consumers prefer to buy from retailers that provide an efficient delivery service. Meanwhile, over half have a preference to buy from retailers that are local – a trend that has rapidly accelerated since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Considering your general shopping behaviour online, please indicate how often you are shopping in the following ways.

3) Sustainability at the fore

More than ever before, ESG conscious consumers are scrutinising retailers for how they address topics such as sustainability and purpose. In the Middle East, 60% of respondents believe they are more eco-friendly than six months ago and 53% are always or frequently buying eco-friendly products.

Nearly 7 out of 10 consumers consider company values in their purchasing decision-making, while over 6 out of 10 are inclined to buy products from consumer goods companies that provide transparency around the origins and supply chains of their products.

Before considering/making a purchase with a retailer, how often do you consciously consider the following factors?

4) Trust in data

Amid rising worries about exposure to online threats and scams, regional consumers have become more protective of their personal data in recent months. 68% told PwC’s researchers that they are guarding their data more strictly than before, compared to 59% globally.

Furthermore, 55% of the regional respondents, versus 47% globally, said a brand’s ability to protect their personal data contributes to a positive purchasing decision.

Thinking about your consumer data, to what extent do you disagree or agree with the following statements in relation to sharing it with organisations?

Commenting on the findings, Norma Taki, Consumer Markets Leader at PwC in the Middle East, said: “A range of factors have changed and continue to change consumer shopping habits and attitudes, and it is clear now that those changes are here to stay. It is essential that retailers and consumer companies take note of these shifting trends and adapt their priorities and strategies accordingly.”

“Moving forward, it is essential that consumer companies adapt and respond to shifts in consumer behaviour by developing a true omni-channel customer experience, embedding ESG in their supply chains, building sustainable product portfolios and prioritising data privacy.”

For its report, the global accounting and consulting firm canvassed the views of 500+ consumers from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.