COVID-19 accelerates rapid-fire changes in Dubai’s e-commerce industry

15 July 2020

Dubai, UAE


The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated changes to the UAE’s e-commerce industry, following an increase in online shopping and digital payments, as revealed by Amazon, Visa and talabat during Dubai Internet City’s latest Fireside Chat.


Senior leaders from Amazon, Visa and talabat participated in Dubai Internet City’s Fireside Chat, a digital forum that brings together key industry voices to share knowledge and insight on the evolving technology landscape.


In the session, which was moderated by CNN’s Alma Al Turkmani, participants confirmed that the pandemic is emerging as a catalyst for companies to change the way they operate their e-commerce businesses as consumers rethink the way they shop online amid health and safety concerns.


Anthony Haddad, Chief of Staff at Amazon MENA, said: “At Amazon, we’re constantly innovating to ensure that we are supporting our employees, our customers, sellers and our communities as effectively as possible.” He continued, “But nothing is more important than the health and wellbeing of our employees, which is why we are doing everything we can to keep them as safe as possible. Since the beginning of the pandemic Amazon has implemented more than 150 significant process changes to support our teams and customers. These measures include increased cleaning at all facilities, maintaining social distance in our fulfilment centres and deliveries that can be left unattended, deliveries placed on the doorstep with associates maintaining a safe distance and removing requirements for customer signatures at the time of delivery. The pick-up process of returned items also follows these same measures.”


Hadi Raad, Vice President & Regional Head of Digital Solutions at Visa, announced that the digital payment provider had launched its ‘Where You Shop Matters’ campaign to encourage consumers to support small businesses adversely affected by the pandemic.


Visa is building its new regional headquarters in Dubai Internet City and Raad remains upbeat about its prospects in the region. He said: “COVID-19 has accelerated the shift from cash to digital payment methods. Even in face-to-face interactions between customers and vendors, mobile and contactless payments are becoming the norm as people move away from cash-based transactions. Moreover, the share of ecommerce is growing faster. Our COVID-19 CEMEA Impact Tracker found that during the pandemic, many consumers in the UAE started shopping online for the first time, primarily for essentials. Two-thirds of UAE consumers (68%) surveyed say that COVID-19 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.”


However, he believes more can be done globally to facilitate the shift towards a cashless society and create a seamless user experience across all digital touchpoints.  Highlighting the key pain points and areas for improvement, he added: “Friction can be eliminated from the user experience when it comes to payments and logistics is always a work in progress. At Visa, we are keen to ensure an optimal customer experience and believe the end-to-end process from card information registration to transaction can be made more hassle-free and convenient, leading to enhanced customer satisfaction. We are doing that globally by enabling a new click to pay experience that eliminates passwords and the need to manually type in too many card details that usually tend to lead to cart abandonment.”


Talabat, the Middle East’s largest online food ordering platform, saw a 24% increase in online payments versus cash on delivery in the UAE during the lockdown. Wassim Makarem, Vice President of Regional Markets and Dark Stores at talabat, commended the move that he believes is evidence of the UAE’s growth as a digital powerhouse.


He said: “It’s no surprise to see that COVID-19 has impacted consumer buying habits, with the share of online transactions pushed up as a result. Such outcomes clearly suggest that consumers are flexible. All they need is a service provider to offer differentiated payment options and give them the assurance that online and contactless payments are safe, hassle-free and ensure a positive customer experience.”


If you have any comments or questions, please email our Media Contact.