Press Room


Online purchase intentions in UAE have doubled since 2011 for many durable and entertainment-related categories including e-books and event tickets, according to a new study conducted online by Nielsen. About half of UAE respondents intend to make an online purchase in the next six months in high-prominence categories including airline tickets (57%), hotel reservations (48%) and event tickets (43%).

“In the Middle East, online browsing is more used for the pre-shopping exploration and shopping for daily needs is the norm,” said Arslan Ashraf, Managing Director, Nielsen Arabian Peninsula. “Shopping centres and malls have promoted the shopper-trainment culture and also serve as community centres – a physical place to meet, connect and engage. This is an experience which online shopping can’t provide.”

The online market for buying groceries and other consumable products—while not as strong as non-consumable categories—is starting to show promise. Since 2011, UAE online purchase intentions for the cosmetic category increased 5 percentage points to 19 percent, groceries rose 7 percentage points to 18 percent and baby supplies jumped 9 percentage points to 17 percent.

The Nielsen Global Survey of e-commerce polled more than 30,000 Internet respondents[i] in 60 countries to examine the online shopping and purchasing intentions of consumers worldwide. The study provides clarity about global consumers’ buying intentions for both consumable and non-consumable categories in the growing e-commerce landscape.

Online Buying or Browsing?

When it comes to shopping for event tickets and e-books, or making reservations for tours and hotels, there is a closer correlation between online searching and shopping—those who browse online are also more willing to buy online.

Consumable products, on the other hand, have lower online browse/buy intention rates than non-consumable products, but their browse-to-buy correlation rates are just as strong. For example, with Music, 31 percent of UAE respondents say they browse, and 26 percent say they buy: a close one-to-one correlation. Similarly, about one-fourth of UAE respondents say they browse and buy Video / DVD / Games (29%/24%). And roughly one-fifth browse/buy flowers (22%/21%) and toys / dolls (22%/21%).

Products more conducive to online browsing than buying include: mobile phones, electronic equipment and cars/motorcycles. These products can carry a high price tag and often require a try-before-you-buy test run. The browse-to-buy difference for these products averages about 6 percentage points.

Device Differential

While computers are the favoured device for online browsing and buying among respondents in all regions, mobile phones are a close second choice for respondents in the Middle East/Africa region, with 53% of UAE respondents using the device for online shopping — 9 percentage points higher than the global average of 44%.

About the Nielsen Global Survey

The Nielsen Global Survey of E-commerce was conducted between Feb. 17 and March 7, 2014, and polled more than 30,000 consumers in 60 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America. The sample has quotas based on age and sex for each country based on its Internet users and is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers. It has a margin of error of ±0.6 percent. This Nielsen survey is based only on the behavior of respondents with online access. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60 percent Internet penetration or an online population of 10 million for survey inclusion. The Nielsen Global Survey, which includes the Global Consumer Confidence Index, was established in 2005.

About Nielsen

Nielsen N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA, and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit

[i] While an online survey methodology allows for tremendous scale and global reach, it provides a perspective on the habits of existing Internet users, not total populations. In developing markets where online penetration is still growing, audiences may be younger and more affluent than the general population. In addition, survey responses are based on claimed behavior, rather than actual metered data.