Visa UAE SME survey
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Three out of four small businesses in the UAE say they feel optimistic about business recovery in 2021, according to a new study by Visa (NYSE: V), the world leader in digital payments. The majority of UAE merchants (82 per cent) said their investments in digital payments had paid off and will play a major role in their business recovery.

The ‘2021 Small Business Recovery’ study surveyed small and medium businesses (SMBs) in the UAE, KSA, Egypt and Pakistan to understand how they have evolved in the way they do business to manage the impact of the coronavirus on their bottom line. The study also revealed the top spending trends merchants claim define the COVID-19 business environment – these include increased use of contactless payments (93 per cent of merchants), takeaways (87 per cent) and home delivery (78 per cent). Merchants in UAE expect all of these spending trends to continue to grow post-pandemic.

When asked about payment habits during the pandemic, more than half of UAE merchants polled (60 per cent) said contactless payments were the preferred payment option among their customers, up from only 18 per cent of merchants who at the start of the pandemic said contactless payment was customers’ preferred option. Nearly a third of respondents (31 per cent) said they offered contactless payments as an option to respond to the growing demand for the payment option during the pandemic.

More than half (58 per cent) of merchants surveyed said they began offering home delivery and pick-up services during the outbreak. The study found that 4 in 10 retail merchants surveyed also implemented in-store self-help signage to meet the needs of safety-conscious customers and 1 in 2 merchants ran offers and promotions to attract and retain more customers.

At Visa, our top priority is to help small businesses keep pace and adapt to operate in a world that is rapidly evolving.

- Madhur Mehra, MENA Head of Merchant Sales & Acquiring, Visa

More than a third of retailers (38 per cent) in the UAE that were surveyed said they have established an online presence in response to COVID-19. Nearly 9 in 10 (86 per cent) are confident that online shopping will remain a preference well after the crisis.

Commenting on the findings of the “2021 Small Business Recovery” study, Shahebaz Khan, Visa's General Manager for the UAE, said: “It is encouraging to see that merchants feel optimistic about business recovery in 2021 and the swift adoption of digital payments and recognition of what their customers want – whether it is offering a range of digital payment options, home delivery or promotions – has been pivotal in them shifting gears from survival mode to recovery. UAE retailers are leading the way in showing how to translate insights into action and considering half of business owners (54 per cent) are reliant on their small business as a primary or only source of income, this urgency is palpable. At Visa, we continue to work in lockstep with our bank and industry partners to support local merchants’ recovery needs.”

The experience of the pandemic has highlighted the need to future proof. In order to prepare for future uncertainties, 20 per cent of UAE merchants surveyed who currently do not have an online presence said they are planning to build an eCommerce platform and a third are planning to offer contactless payments and digital prepayment options to customers. Half (51 per cent) of the merchants surveyed said they believe accepting digital payments is likely to increase their sales and 8 out of 10 (82 per cent) said that accepting digital payments is an investment. In fact, merchants who only accept cash are planning to set up POS terminals within the next two years (28 per cent) and invest in new digital payment technologies (31 per cent).

While the majority of merchants recognise the importance of digital acceptance, more than half (51 per cent) of surveyed merchants showed interest in low cost acceptance solutions.

Madhur Mehra, MENA Head of Merchant Sales & Acquiring, Visa, said: “At Visa, our top priority is to help small businesses keep pace and adapt to operate in a world that is rapidly evolving. These findings give us insight into what the barriers are for merchants as they transition to digital and reinforce our strategy to provide practical help for SMBs to access a trusted pool of educational tools and technologies such as low-cost acceptance solutions. As a trusted engine of commerce, Visa intends to continue to roll out new programs and resources that address the pain points of SMBs and help them embrace digitization and thrive in the new normal."

For more information on the programs Visa makes available to small and micro businesses, visit the Visa Small Business Hub and the WYSM microsite.

About Visa’s ‘2021 Small Business Recovery’ study

To understand where small businesses are in their recovery, Visa commissioned 4SiGHT Research & Analytics to survey small businesses in the UAE, KSA, Egypt and Pakistan. The methodology consisted of 15 minute interviews with over 150 merchants in each market and within key segments ranging from food to fashion to travel. The surveys were conducted December 8-20, 2020.