Brand or price: what online shoppers look for in UAE?

Internet is the new avenue of shopping for time and brand conscious buyers (FILE)

Are shoppers in the UAE more brand-centric than price conscious when they shop online, and is the product brand a greater sales pitch luring buyers toward the virtual marketplace than the product pricing in the UAE?

For a host of shoppers, online purchase is just about going for some great cost-saving and time-saving bargains, and buying things with the luxury of sitting at home.

However, for scores of brand-conscious shoppers the name behind the product still seems to be primary driver prompting them to log on and place orders online, while price and ease of shopping come as added benefits to them.

“I believe in the Middle East brands are important and they are considered as icons. This has prompted buyers to be more brand-centric than price centric and they come online to buy good brands at a good value. For instance, if they are looking to buy a phone, they wouldn’t come online to buy any brand of phone. They would rather go for the top-notch branded phone but at the same time hope to get a good saving as well,” Ronaldo Mouchawar, CEO, Souq.com, told Emirates 247.com.

So brand makes for a good pitch online in the UAE and a lot many shoppers believe it.

“Our customers are brand conscious and enjoy luxury products from the brands they know and love. We originally wondered if shoppers would be more cautious about buying higher priced items (such as gowns) online, however, this is not the case and the main feedback we get is that our customer is just happy to have access to great brands with the convenience of shopping from home, the office or even out and about 24/7,” Tamila Robinson, E-commerce Manager, Boutique1.com, the UAE-based online store for luxury fashion and lifestyle, said.

That said, it doesn’t mean the price factor is thrown out of the window by shoppers, as there are a host of buyers who compare price of products in different brick-and-mortar stores with that offered online, before making online purchase, say retailers.

“Customers in general are very savvy these days and are looking for the best offer. They will look at the item in a number of stores to find the best price,” Henry Changeux, GCC Country Head of Carrefour, the retail giant that has its online store www.ic4uae.com launched in September last year.

“We are not looking to replace mall shopping with the webstore. We understand the significance of shopping malls in this society, as they have great facilities, are comfortable and are a place to socialise. We appreciate some people enjoy browsing the mall and will find the deal they are looking for there and then,” he added.

According to the results of a recent MasterCard survey, online shopping is gaining popularity in emerging markets across Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa region. The survey also shows 42 per cent of respondents in the UAE accessed the Internet for shopping last year, up from 29 per cent in 2009.

However, there is a sting in the tail especially related to on-time delivery of goods by online retailers to the buyers’ doorsteps.

“Online is relatively a new method of retailing in the region and therefore it entails many challenges. One of the main challenges online retailers face is associated with ensuring timely delivery of goods to the consumers’ doorstep,” Michael Leighton, Senior Retail Consultant, CB Richard Ellis Middle East, Abu Dhabi said.

He said people in the Middle East still prefer to go and shop in a traditional way by going in a shopping mall because shopping mall is a different concept in this part of the world.

“In the region, and in the UAE specifically, shopping malls are much more than just shopping destinations. They are effectively the city-centres combining retail, entertainment and dining experiences into one and people enjoy visiting malls and spending time there, than just shopping. In a way, the prevalent way of mall-shopping in the region would prove a bit challenging for online retailers in terms of attracting customers to their site,” Leighton said.

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