94% of small businesses and 90% of consumers in UAE have adopted new behaviors amid COVID-19
Posted on 2020 Aug,21

Visa, the world’s leader in digital payments, published its global Back to Business study assessing the dramatic shift to digital commerce in response to the pandemic, driven largely by changing consumer expectations for a safe and touchless payment moment.  As small and micro businesses (SMBs) continue to endure the financial impact of COVID-19, one thing is clear: rethinking the checkout or point-of-sale (POS) experience is essential for survival.
Consumers Now Expect Digital-First Commerce
    •    New normal means new habits: According to the study, 9 out of 10 consumers in the UAE (90%) have changed how they pay for purchases due to COVID-19, including shopping online when possible (59%), using contactless payments (52%) and not using cash as much (40%).
    •    Safety means touchless: Contactless payments have become a driving differentiator. Nearly all (90%, compared to 63% globally) UAE consumers would switch to buying from a store that installed contactless payment systems. In fact, almost three in four (72%, compared to 48% globally) UAE consumers wouldn’t shop at a store that only offers payment methods that require contact with a cashier or other shared devices.
    •    SMB optimism vs. consumer realities: Despite the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, nearly all (94%, compared to 67% globally) SMBs in the UAE are beginning to feel optimistic about the future of their business but estimate it will be about six months before their businesses are back to full operation.
Small Businesses Take Action, Amidst Real Challenges
    •    Pivoting to a digital-first mindset: SMBs in the UAE have shown an incredible willingness to evolve in the face of change. In fact, 94% of SMBs in the UAE, compared to 67% globally, have pivoted to keep their businesses on track since the outbreak.  Over two in five (44%, compared to 20% globally) have allowed contactless payments for the first time since the start of COVID-19. Additionally, nearly three in five (59%, compared to 33% of global SMBs) reported their business has accepted less or stopped accepting cash during the pandemic.
    •    Long-term outlook and top concerns: Despite their willingness to adapt to new trends, 92% of merchants in the UAE still have concerns about shifting their business online or increasing online presence (compared to 74% globally), highlighting the need for additional support to help SMBs transition to digital.
In terms of business operations, SMBs in the UAE are most concerned about data privacy and security (48%, compared to 32% globally), as well as keeping their employees safe and healthy (48%, compared to 27% globally). An overwhelming majority (89%) of UAE consumers, compared to two-thirds (67%) of consumers globally, are taking measures to keep their payment cards clean.[2]
“Consumers are putting COVID-19 safety measures at the top of their shopping agenda and favouring businesses that do the same,” said Shahebaz Khan, Visa’s General Manager for the UAE. “Historically, we have seen behaviour change at the point of sale as a gradual shift over time. But COVID-19 has created an immediate need for safer, more efficient shopping experiences both online and offline as consumers rapidly migrate to digital commerce. We want small businesses to know that Visa is here to help them navigate these new consumer needs and gain insights to make their businesses stronger both now and in the long run.”

Back to Business study is part of Visa's regional 'Where You Shop Matters’ initiative that supports entrepreneurs in the UAE with access to Visa's Small Business Hub.