With such a diverse population, understanding consumer behaviour in the UAE can be daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are three key tips to help you succeed in the market.

London. Paris. New York. Dubai?

The Emirati penchant for spending has turned Dubai into one of the world’s hottest shopping destinations.

That’s because UAE consumers are big spenders. They’ll happily open their wallets for their favourite brands, with 34% saying they’d buy from them at any price point.

But UAE shoppers have high expectations and earning their loyalty isn’t easy. So what do UAE consumers want, and how can you give it to them?


There are no two ways about it: UAE customers are hard to impress.

Firstly, customer service is super important. 75% of customers in the Middle East prefer shopping from a single brand website (as opposed to a multi-branded one) because they believe it will provide the best possible customer experience.

But by customer service, they mean more than just a seamless order, delivery and returns process. 65% of customers expect brands to know them personally and treat them individually – 9% higher than the global average.

This can take the form of exclusive rewards and benefits, a draw for 69% of Emirati shoppers. But 43% also said having their own personal advisor for purchases would encourage higher, more frequent spending.

So if you want customers to connect with your brand in the UAE, make sure your CRM is effective and highly personalized, and that your website offers the best possible experience of your brand. If you’re a fashion brand, provide some kind of product advice functionality on your website too.


The UAE is a ready-made market for luxury brands – wealthy citizens and tourism are big drivers for the sector.

In fact, Dubai alone accounts for 30% of the Middle East’s luxury market. One study found that UAE citizens spend around 30% of their salary, or £1,450 a month, on luxury goods.

To appeal to this luxury mindset, emphasize the quality, craftsmanship and status of your brand. The UAE was recently eighth in a list of countries whose consumers are trading up from mid-market brands. So highlight the luxury aspects of your product and manufacturing processes to prove your superiority.

Having an established brand abroad will also stand you in good stead, as overseas products account for 58% of all purchases. If you’d like help exporting your luxury brand’s identity into new markets, check out our white paper here. And if you’re a British luxury brand, we’ve got a special version just for you.

So who’s getting it right in the UAE? Tesla are a great example.

When they launched their flagship Model S and X cars, they also opened a pop-up shop in Dubai Mall, a Tesla Ranger support service and a service centre. This tapped into UAE consumers’ love of malls and provided the excellent customer service they demand.

And Tesla took things even further. Elon Musk invested millions into the UAE’s infrastructure for electric cars, positioning the brand at the vanguard of the future and affording it a luxurious status.

The brand also added 50 cars to the limo fleet of taxis in Dubai to show off their luxury credentials. The result? They’ve been a huge hit with consumers, clocking 64,000 trips in just six months.


Only 27.8% of the UAE’s population are female.

So you’d be forgiven for thinking you should make your marketing distinctly masculine to succeed in the country.

You’d be wrong.

Women influence 80% of all purchases in Dubai, so no matter who you are, it would be foolish to discount them from your marketing strategy.

It’s also worth noting the demographic split in the UAE when it comes to shopping. Female Emirati citizens spend 43% of their income on fashion shopping – triple that of the expat population. And a third of these Emirati women spend over 60% of their monthly income on shopping.

So if you’re a female fashion brand, focus your marketing on Emirati women – it could reap lucrative rewards.

Jollibee knows all too well how crucial segmentation is to success in the UAE.

The Filipino fast food chain took the UAE by storm, largely by targeting the country’s expat community.

They were so successful that when their first store opened in 2015, crowd control was called in to manage the queues. Jollibee is now planning further expansion in the region. They want to open 30 stores in the country by 2020. And although a large number of Jollibee’s customers are from the Philippines, a growing number are from other nations too.

Incidentally, their approach of targeting expats has also been successful in the UK. When Jollibee opened their first British restaurant last month, people queued for 18 hours to order a Chickenjoy meal.


Understanding consumer behaviour in the UAE isn’t rocket science. They want to receive excellent service and feel valued by your brand.

To succeed, initially focus on a single consumer group. This should give you enough of a foothold in the market to widen your reach. But for long-term impact, you’ll need to offer excellent levels of personalized customer service. Show your customers you care and you’ll earn devoted brand followers.

If you’d like more insight into a specific customer group in the UAE, check out our market research service, then get in touch – we’re happy to help.

ABOUT Jonny Simpson

I make sure English content is excellent. And I'll write, edit, proofread and translate for that to happen. I believe the most impactful content combines useful, culturally relevant information with compelling copy, and I've seen great results with Ermenegildo Zegna and Maserati.

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