UAE consumers spend more per eCommerce transaction than anyone else in the world – and they usually buy international products. Here’s how to increase visibility and drive sales with eCommerce in the UAE.

When UAE consumers shop, they spend big. At an average of $332 per purchase, their online transaction levels are the highest in the world. But they shop online less frequently than the global average, so the market has plenty of room for growth.

Foreign-branded products account for 58% of all purchases in the UAE. This is good news if you’re an international brand, but to generate strong sales, you’ll need to deliver a consistent and effective online and offline customer experience.


Shopping malls are very popular in the UAE with over half the population visiting a mall at least once a week.

That’s because, for UAE consumers, malls are more than a shopping destination – they’re a part of everyday life. People visit malls to spend time with friends and family, enjoy dining out, and be entertained just as much as they go there to shop.

77% of UAE consumers discover new products in a store, compared to just 14% online. And 84% prefer to buy from brick-and-mortar stores. So for your brand’s eCommerce activity to gain traction, your online presence must complement your in-store experience – not replace it.

When luxury fashion brand KENZO launched in the UAE, they hit the streets of Dubai and Abu Dhabi in a KENZO bus. They branded the London-style double-decker with KENZO’s iconic navy-blue polka dots. This allowed them to show off the brand and its products more powerfully than through traditional advertising.

KENZO further “connected the dots” with an online campaign, encouraging people to follow the bus’s journey with the hashtag #FollowTheKenzoBus. Thanks to this integrated approach, their brand launch was a success – KENZO now has four stores in the UAE and continues to grow.


Even though UAE consumers love malls, there is still plenty of eCommerce opportunity. The region is still the eCommerce leader in the Gulf Cooperation Council – the Arabian alliance that includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

The country’s eCommerce market is also expected to quadruple to $20 billion by 2020. And the government recently launched Dubai CommerCity to accelerate growth in the sector.

But to maximize on the opportunity, you need to be mobile ready. In 2015, the UAE was named the second largest mCommerce market. 57% of online shoppers make purchases using their mobile phones, and 80% of online retailers report their customers use mobile phones to buy from them.

Purchasing via apps is also preferred over browsers – basket sizes are 20% higher on mobile apps than on desktops. This is especially true for the UAE’s established eCommerce sites, including Awok, Wadi, Namshi, and Souq. In fact, 55% of Souq’s purchases come via their mobile app.

So these sites are crucial for building online visibility and increasing sales. As the largest eCommerce site in the Middle East, Souq is the best place to start.


Initially, the auction site Souq has evolved into a retail platform like Amazon. In fact, Amazon bought the platform for an undisclosed sum in 2017.

In terms of initial setup, you’ll need a trade license, ID, bank account, and shipping location to sell on Souq. While there’s no fee to sell, Souq does charge a commission on anything customers buy from you – so be sure to factor that into your ROI reporting.

Depending on the maturity of your online user experience and market presence in the UAE, selling on Souq could be a wise choice because it offers many services to make selling online easily accessible. The platform handles payment and shipping, and also provides an authenticity guarantee for ease of purchase and sale.

Souq is particularly attractive to fashion brands right now, as fashion is a growing sector on the site. The downside is that people tend to search by brand name rather than by product. If you’ve just launched in the market, you’ll need to invest heavily in marketing to make your brand’s profile stick out.

You can do this directly on Souq. A wide range of options are available, including sponsored products, display marketing, email marketing, and big executions (site takeovers).

The platform’s wide reach and wealth of advertising options make it a good site to advertise on even if you’re not an eRetailer. Big global brands like McDonalds, Lufthansa, HSBC, and Jeep all advertise on Souq.


When it comes to eCommerce in the UAE, any online strategy should complement the in-store experience, rather than replace it. Because there’s a close cultural connection between socializing and shopping, you can make use of shopping platforms, such as Souq, alongside a solid social media strategy. This is an effective way to maximize your UAE eCommerce opportunity.