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UAE Ramadan shopping combines tech and tradition

Consumers have been navigating a complex shopping landscape during the holy month

UAE shopping Ramadan Unsplash/Heamosoo Kim
Shoppers are gravitating towards brands that align with their own ethical and cultural values

UAE shopping trends during the 2024 Ramadan and Eid celebrations reflect an interplay of tradition, technology and evolving socio-economic factors. 

One of the most notable shifts in UAE consumers’ behaviour is the increased emphasis on trust and integrity in brand relationships. 

The Euromonitor Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles Survey 2024 report reveals that 22 percent of consumers express a preference for brands they trust completely, up from 16 percent in the previous year. 

This trend is partly attributable to political unrest in the region, which has heightened consumer awareness and scrutiny of brand values and practices. 

As a result, shoppers are gravitating towards brands that align with their own ethical and cultural values. This is particularly true in the context of grocery shopping, where local and regional brands are gaining favour for their authenticity and community connections.

The trend for online shopping has gained momentum in recent years, and this is highlighted during Ramadan and Eid celebrations. Retail e-commerce in the UAE is predicted to grow 15 percent, with online platforms and mobile applications bringing convenience for busy consumers during this period. 

Almost all major e-commerce retailers regularly hold their Ramadan and Eid sales, but Amazon went a step further this year and offered a 10-day pre-Ramadan sale featuring substantial discounts on fashion, electronics, beauty products and daily essentials. 

The UAE in particular has a robust culture of digital and cashless payment, with a diverse range of payment methods including buy now, pay later (BNPL) gaining mainstream prominence. 

Major online players and e-commerce platforms have universally adopted BNPL options, featuring prominent providers such as Tamara and Tabby.

Social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram reels play a significant role in shaping consumer preferences and purchasing decisions, serving as sources of inspiration and recommendations for personal shopping and gift-buying. 

Traditional markets evoke a sense of nostalgia and provide unique experiences on top of the actual shopping transactions

Despite the growing prominence of e-commerce, the number of traditional Ramadan markets has increased this year.

The most popular ones include the Artisan Market in City Walk, Hai Ramadan in Expo City Dubai and the Ramadan District at Jumeirah Emirates Towers. These markets offer a sensory feast for guests and highlight traditional food, handicrafts, and home-grown products. 

Some establishments and communities also offered weekend Ramadan nights. For instance, Etihad Museum and Jameel Arts Centre hosted creativity nights with local small brand owners showcasing their products.

These markets evoke a sense of nostalgia and provide unique experiences on top of the actual shopping transactions.

Despite the vibrancy of consumer activity during Ramadan and Eid, problems persist, particularly concerning living costs and inflation. 

UAE consumers continue to face challenges with living costs, as wages have not kept pace with inflation-led price rises seen in recent years. 

Although inflation rates are slowing, prices remain elevated. This has led to the normalisation of budgeting among consumers. 

More consumers use reward-based loyalty programmes, such as Blue Rewards, which allow shoppers to earn exclusive benefits and instant cashback offers without any subscription cost. 

In a nutshell, consumers in the Emirates are navigating a complex landscape shaped by cultural traditions, technological advancements and economic challenges.

Monique Naval is senior research analyst at Euromonitor

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