Middle East Consumers Lead the Digital Way

11/04/2013 12:00 pm EST


Despite the fact that the percentage of tech-savvy consumers in countries like the US, UK, and Australia is high, it pales in comparison to the number of consumers in the Middle East, writes Gillian Duncan, of The National.

Consumers in the Middle East are better connected than those in more mature markets such as the United States, the United Kingdom, or Australia.

A survey of more than 2,500 people by the loyalty card management company Aimia, in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, revealed that 85% of respondents own a smartphone.

Almost the same number, 86%, own a laptop, and 48% have a tablet device.

Nearly 90% of those who took part in the survey use email regularly, and two in every three were active on Facebook at least once a day.

“We compared our Middle East consumer to Generation Y consumers [those born between the late 1970s and 1990s] in other markets that we operate in and have researched,” said Paul Lacey, the managing director for coalition development at Aimia in the Middle East.

“And what we found is that the [Generation Y] consumer here is significantly more connected, more social, and probably more willing to engage than in other markets as well,” he added.

And many use their connections to help to source a better deal.

Just under half, 46% use their mobiles to perform price comparisons in-store, while 44% search for reviews, and the same number seek opinions from social networks before making their purchases.

But men are more likely to use their mobiles to carry out price comparisons.

Almost half of males, 49%, said they carried out a search to see how other stores compared with 39% of women.

Aimia, which operates the Air Miles program in the Middle East, carried out the research in an effort to better understand consumers in the region.

“About five years ago, at the start of the global financial meltdown, we were in the process of developing a further presence in mainland Europe and in some more traditional markets,” said Rupert Duchesne, Aimia's group chief executive.

“But we felt at the time that it was far smarter when traditional markets were in meltdown to put our development resources into developing markets around the world.

“In the last four or five-year period, we have significantly increased our presence here in the Middle East. As a global company, we are very focused on working out where the future is, and the future is in markets like this.”

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