The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated moves towards a cashless society in the Middle East, according to the latest Global Consumer Insight Survey from PwC.

The survey revealed that 53 percent of people were using smartphones for online deliveries and over 90 percent said they would continue to do so even once the virus has gone.

Norma Taki, PwC Middle East’s consumer markets leader, told INC67  the shift towards cashless transactions had already been gathering pace in the last three years.

She said: “The first time we talked about a cashless economy and we talked about mobile payments, I would say was about three years ago and the Middle East consumer was nowhere close to that. At that point we were still talking about cash-on-delivery and credit cards online.

“But last year it jumped to about 45 percent. That increased now because of Covid because people were shopping online and I see this continuing going forward given that Covid will prove that we need this even more.”


The annual survey concentrates on 29 countries. In terms of the Middle East, it focuses on 1,000 people across the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. This year, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, a pulse survey was also conducted in May, involving 500 people in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Riyadh, Jeddah and Cairo.

According to the results, almost 70 percent of people in the Middle East have experienced a loss of income as a result of redundancy or salary reduction. However, at the same time, 49 percent of respondents revealed that they have seen an increase in household bills.

Bigger basket size

In terms of shopping, people were spending more on groceries and entertainment and media, and less on clothes and footwear and restaurants and deliveries.

Taki said: “What we noticed from our survey was that people were shopping less, but had bigger basket size, from a grocery perspective.”

She added that the current health crisis could force the region’s shopping malls into a rethink regarding their future offerings.

“I can’t predict what the future of shopping malls is but I do think the trends that we saw before will be accelerated, which are you now have a wider, more diverse consumer base shopping online, so how do you bridge the offline and online experience is even more critical,” she said.

“I think the store will be where you experience the product and online is maybe where you will transact. The mall could be more of a showroom and that would mean changing the store format.”

The survey also found that 75 percent of respondents were using social media more, 71 percent using WhatsApp and other messaging apps more; and 54 percent using video chat apps more.

Nine out of ten consumers said they were likely to continue to use social media to the same extent after Covid-19 is over.

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