More than half of online shoppers in the UAE use the internet to buy airline tickets, book hotels, shop for home appliances, and more.

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Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Consumers in the UAE are increasingly going online for their shopping needs, according to the 2014 Online Shopping Behaviour Study conducted by MasterCard. Over 50 per cent of those surveyed indicated they access the internet for online shopping of which more than 80 per cent said they were highly satisfied with their online shopping experience.           

The Online Shopping Behavior Survey, which measures consumers’ propensity to shop online, was conducted at the end of last year and was based on interviews with 3000 respondents from 6 markets[1] across the Middle East. Consumers said they spend the most amount of money on airlines, groceries, books, CDs and DVDs, followed by shopping for travel related products and clothing.

Aaron Oliver, head of emerging payments – Middle East and Africa, MasterCard said: “Well-developed internet infrastructure and the availability of secure online payment options means companies can expand their online presence to grow their business and diversify their customer base. For consumers, online shopping is convenient, fast and safe. When you consider the benefits, it is not surprising that more people are going online to make purchases.”

“The steady growth of online shopping trends in the UAE sheds light on the priorities of the technology-savvy new age consumer, who now enjoys the convenience, speed, value for money and safety of their transactions while shopping online,” added Oliver.

According to the study, nearly three quarters of respondents made at least one online purchase last year, a noteworthy increase from approximately 60 per cent in 2012. Nearly half of the respondents identified Souq, the largest e-commerce site in the Arab world as the most commonly visited website for online shopping. At nearly 20 per cent, Cobone and Groupon have emerged as the next two most popular websites for online shopping in the UAE.

That said, whereas websites offering coupons and deals, home appliances or electronic products and apps stores have seen a gradual but steady increase in visitors since 2011, entertainment-specific portals including movie theatres, sites for music downloads, digital content for entertainment, books, CDs and DVDs, as well as paid-for local and international news websites have witnessed a downward trajectory compared to previous years.

UAE consumers were clear about what factors sway their online purchasing decision, citing the price of items, reputation of website, security of payment facility and low or no extra charges of delivery as the most important considerations when making an online purchase.

When asked how online shopping could be improved in future, free or minimal delivery charges topped the list. Stated by nearly 60 per cent shoppers, this was the most preferred improvement by a significant margin. Elimination of additional service charges and complete assurance of security of online transactions emerged as the next most popular suggestions.

Mobile Shopping

With one of the world’s highest smartphone penetration rates, consumers in the UAE are fast exploring and adopting mobile shopping options available across various categories.

While the number of respondents that confirmed making a purchase through their mobile phones was similar to last year, a significant number of respondents intended to use their phones to make a purchase in the six months following the study. This points to the expanding role of the mobile phone as an e-commerce and payment tool.

“Mobile shopping in the UAE is progressing alongside the astounding growth in smartphone penetration.  This progression is likely to continue as consumers become more aware of the safety and security features and begin getting more familiar with the mobile shopping experience. It is also becoming increasingly important for companies to provide convenient online shopping solutions that enhance the user experience,” stated Oliver.

In fact, the availability of an increasing number of mobile apps and being able to do shopping on the go have been voted as the top two reasons why shoppers make purchases using their phone.

The top three items purchased through mobile phones are airline tickets, mobile apps and coupons or deals. Other categories bought were movie tickets, clothing and other fashion accessories. Magazines and newspaper subscriptions have emerged as the least mobile-purchased category.

Other notable results include:

  • Between 45 and 50 per cent online shoppers believe in ‘ethical spending’ and are more likely to buy from merchants who are environmentally responsible, who partner with or donate to charities, and who are socially responsible.  
  • Shoppers are increasingly turning to local websites to make online purchases, but almost 40 per cent of online shoppers purchase products from foreign websites.
  • Convenience and safety have been cited as some of the top reasons for shopping from local websites.

NOTE TO EDITORS: More information and previously released MasterCard survey results can be found at The survey and its accompanying reports do not represent MasterCard financial performance.

MasterCard and its Suite of Research Properties

The MasterCard Worldwide Index suite in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa includes the long-running MasterCard Worldwide Index of Consumer Confidence, as well as the MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s AdvancementOnline Shopping, Index of Financial Literacy, and the Index of Global Destination Cities. In addition to the Indices, MasterCard’s research properties also include a range of consumer surveys including Ethical Spending and a series on Consumer Purchasing Priorities (covering Travel, Dining & Entertainment, Education, Money Management, Luxury and General Shopping).

MasterCard also regularly releases Insights reports providing analysis of business dynamics, financial policies and regulatory activities in the Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa region. Over 80 Insights reports have been produced since 2004.

About MasterCard

MasterCard (NYSE: MA),, is a technology company in the global payments industry. We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. MasterCard’s products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone. Follow us on Twitter @MasterCardNews, join the discussion on the Cashless Conversations Blog and subscribe for the latest news.


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[1] UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Lebanon