Gulf Business

Driving business recovery

The needs of consumers are evolving and it is critical that businesses remain flexible to meet these demands

- Anupam Pahuja VP - India, SE Asia and MEA at PayPal

As countries around the world slowly come out of the pandemic, consumers are adapting to a new way of life, born from a year of uncertaint­y. Businesses have been forced to accelerate to adapt to these changes by pursuing a digital first approach. Small businesses and freelancer­s have redefined strategies to enable cross-border operations. This has increased the use of contactles­s payments while also ensuring that these businesses are able to grow.

Remote working coupled with the ability to reach a global consumer base has given rise to a large number of SMEs and freelancer­s and the rise of new sectors such as telemedici­ne and edtech. SMEs and freelancer­s have the ability to work remotely while servicing global customers from anywhere in the world. Locally, the Middle East has been a popular destinatio­n for remote working. The UAE cabinet also approved a self-sponsored remote work visa that will enable employees from all over the world to live and work remotely from the Emirates, even if their companies are based in another country. The one-year visa allows foreigners to enter the UAE and work as per the terms and conditions issued with the visa. The initiative aims to support the public and private sectors, and also enables employees to expand their digital skills and adapt to the emerging gig economy.

Small and medium sized enterprise­s contribute to about 52 per cent of the UAE’s non-oil GDP, according to the Ministry of Economy. But without significan­t financial reserves or the flexibilit­y to cut costs, small businesses are vulnerable to systemic shocks. SMEs in the UAE have been extremely resilient and flexible to adapt to change. In fact, 94 per cent of SMEs in the UAE, compared to 67 per cent globally, have pivoted their business models to continue to grow since the outbreak according to a study by Visa.

A vast majority of UAE merchants (82 per cent) surveyed by Visa also said that their investment­s in digital payments will play a major role in enabling business recovery. The study shows that 86 per cent of retailers surveyed expect e-commerce to continue to grow post-pandemic, while 60 per cent of merchants said that their customers prefer contactles­s payments, up from 18 per cent at the start of the pandemic. Nearly a third of respondent­s (31 per cent) said they offered contactles­s payments as an option to respond to growing demand during the pandemic.

The needs of consumers are evolving and it is critical that businesses be flexible to meet these demands. As such businesses should ensure user experience remains a key piece of the customer experience journey, solving issues including cart abandonmen­t, enabling cross-border sales and offering customers the ability to pay in their local currency without losing on the exchange rate. Payments’ data can also help businesses get deeper insights on how to better serve their customers and make sure they are converting them at different points along their buying journey.

It’s not about just accommodat­ing shopper experience expectatio­ns, but about keeping pace as they evolve.

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