Restrictions imposed to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the UAE have led to significant changes in consumer behaviour in the country, according to new analysis published by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The study, based on Google Trends data, noted that online grocery shopping became the norm for many consumers in the UAE between March and May 2020. Searches in this category reached a peak during the lockdown period in April, before subsiding in May as consumers continued to purchase from their preferred e-grocery providers through websites and apps.
Growing interest in e-groceries
Recent data from MasterCard mirrors this pattern, as it shows that online card payments for groceries in UAE saw a 99% y-o-y growth in February, a 252% y-o-y growth in March, and 316% y-o-y growth in April. Popular search queries that registered the highest increase in search frequency include “online grocery”, and “grocery delivery”.
Figure 1: Search frequency for the term “groceries” in UAESource: Dubai Chamber, Google Trends (as of May 26)
Distance learning dominates
The findings uncovered a trend of UAE residents searching for online courses as they looked to improve their skills and knowledge. Searches for “online courses” peaked in April 2020, before falling in May. This reduction is natural, and may not interpreted as a drop in interest, but rather a result of consumers finding suitable courses in April and pursuing them in May, thus leaving less room for more searches.
Figure 2: Search frequency for the “online courses” topic in UAESource: Dubai Chamber, Google Trends (as of May 26)
Transition to telecommuting
A sudden interest in telecommuting occurred in March as a significant portion of businesses adopted work from home protocols. The number of searches for “work from home in Dubai” surged before gradually declining once users became more familiar with remote working processes and tools.
The shift to flexible working is one of the main factors driving a higher frequency of online searches for furniture as a need for home office workspaces emerged among residents.
Figure 3: Search frequency for the “telecommuting” topic in UAE
Source: Dubai Chamber, Google Trends (as of May 26)
Embracing the staycation
“Staycation”, referring to a holiday and leisure activities close to home, was another popular term plugged into search engines over the last few months. The suspension of international due to measures implemented to contain the ongoing pandemic and the Eid holidays coinciding with summer months were among the key factors fuelling this trend.
Adjusting to a ‘new normal’
The above-mentioned trends may become the “new normal” for consumers in the UAE as the population adjusts its spending behaviour in a post-corona era, the analysis pointed out.
“With more businesses joining the race to capture these emerging trends, the need for digitalization has become more crucial than ever to gain efficiency and flexibility; with those successfully integrating technological solutions into their existing operations’ processes and supply chain management systems potentially gaining a major competitive advantage in the new COVID-19-shaped competitive landscape,” the study concludes.