VISA has launched its regional “Where You Shop Matters’ initiative to support small businesses in the UAE

The initiative launched as new study finds UAE consumers increasingly embracing digital payments over cash and check. 91% of merchants in UAE had an eCommerce presence before the pandemic. Shopping habits transformed during COVID-19 with 83% of consumers visiting physical shops only when necessary, and 83% of businesses experiencing impact on revenues

Visa has launched its regional “Where You Shop Matters’ initiative that aims to champion and enable entrepreneurs while encouraging consumers to support small businesses in the UAE. As part of this initiative, Visa has published the COVID-19 CEMEA Impact Tracker highlighting the recent effect the novel coronavirus pandemic has had on commerce for consumers and small merchants in the UAE.

Launching this week, ‘Where You Shop Matters’ will help support small businesses through the Visa Small Business Hub, a merchant platform providing tools and information on how to start, run and grow small businesses. The Hub will also feature leading merchants who embody the passion and entrepreneurial spirit of small businesses across the UAE.

The findings of the report highlight increased anxiety amongst UAE merchants with 89% of small businesses noticing a decrease in average consumer spending during COVID-19. As consumers stay away from all but essential retail, the impact of the pandemic on merchant revenues has been high with 83% of those surveyed stating revenues have been negatively impacted.

During the pandemic, many consumers in the UAE have started shopping online for the first time, primarily for essentials. Two-thirds of UAE consumers (68%) surveyed say that COVID-19 has led to their first online grocery purchase, while 70% have made their first online purchase from pharmacies. Overall, the report points to a shift to online commerce, with cash transactions being replaced by digital payments.

The study also found current conditions have served as a catalyst for online commerce with 10% of merchants reporting they have introduced online offerings as a direct result of the pandemic, while the vast majority (91%) had an eCommerce presence before the pandemic. As consumers and merchants focus on safety and hygiene, the use of contactless payments has also increased during the crisis with merchants expecting a further 32% growth post-COVID-19.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Shahebaz Khan, Visa’s General Manager for UAE, said: “The pandemic is impacting businesses everywhere. The findings of the COVID-19 CEMEA Impact Tracker suggest shoppers have changed how they shop, and this is already having a major impact on how merchants do business. As consumers adapt to the current restrictions, many have turned to online outlets for their shopping. These changes present challenges but also enormous opportunities for all merchants, including small businesses.” 

According to the report, 59% of consumers admit to now spending less while also changing their shopping habits. Asked about spending habits, consumers are increasingly optimizing their trips – (56%) reported to now buying in bulk, (50%) making lists to avoid impulsive purchases, and (37%) buying non-perishable items to ensure fewer trips. When shopping in-store, 79% of the consumers are cautious about hygiene while 70% avoid rush hours.

“This report shows how cash-only retailers were most negatively impacted while merchants who moved online and adopted contactless payment systems have been able to better weather the adversity. It is vital that merchants across the globe understand the shift in consumer behavior and adapt accordingly. eCommerce and digital solutions are here to stay and the way forward for small businesses,” Khan added.

Madhur Mehra, Head of Merchant Sales & Acquiring MENA

Speaking on the launch of Where You Shop Matters, Madhur Mehra, MENA Head of Merchant Sales & Acquiring, Visa, added: “At Visa, we are proud to support merchants and recognize that many small businesses have been most adversely affected by the pandemic. From eCommerce to security, our ‘Where You Shop Matters’ initiative aims to help support and empower the local small businesses that serve as the backbone of our communities.

As part of the campaign, Visa will host webinars for small business owners in the UAE, sharing useful insights and tips that are critical to helping them optimize and adapt their business models for now and beyond COVID-19. Visa will also be working to support small businesses across the country as part of the initiative. These include the likes of Little Majlis, which designs an artisanal collection of homeware, accessories and stationery, and el Grocer, a home-grown e-marketplace that brings local, fresh delivery to their customers’ doors.