Consumers in Saudi Arabia and UAE Hitting Back with Wallets

A new survey reveals a powerful trend in consumer behavior across the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia. According to YouGov, a significant portion of residents in both countries are wielding their purchasing power to voice dissatisfaction with brands. The study found that a staggering two-thirds (66%) of UAE and Saudi Arabian consumers have boycotted a brand at least once, either temporarily or permanently, in response to a scandal.

The survey delves deeper, exploring the reasons behind this boycott behavior. Among the top motivators, nearly half (49%) of respondents indicated that a brand's stance on a social or political issue that clashed with their own values was a major reason to boycott. This highlights a growing trend of consumers expecting brands to take a stand on issues they care about, and holding them accountable for those positions.

Interestingly, the survey also lays bare some differences between the two countries. Saudi Arabian residents appear slightly more likely to resort to boycotts compared to their UAE counterparts. 72% of Saudi respondents reported having boycotted a brand, while the figure dipped slightly to 60% for UAE residents.

Another key takeaway centers on the types of brands most vulnerable to boycotts. The survey indicates that the quick-service restaurant (QSR) sector faces the highest risk. A whopping 62% of respondents in both countries admitted to boycotting a restaurant chain following a scandal. This is likely due to the abundance of options available to consumers in this industry, making it easier for them to switch allegiances. Following closely behind are Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) brands, particularly those in the food and beverage category (59%). Beauty, hygiene, and personal care products (40%) and household supplies (35%) round out the list of sectors susceptible to boycotts.

The findings also shed light on the potential effectiveness of boycotts as a tool for change. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of respondents believe that boycotting a brand can be a successful strategy to pressure companies into modifying their policies or actions. This sentiment is particularly strong in Saudi Arabia, where 77% of residents expressed this belief, compared to 69% in the UAE.

This trend of consumer activism reflects a growing sense of empowerment among citizens in the region. Social media has played a key role in facilitating communication and raising awareness about boycotts. Consumers are increasingly using these platforms to share their experiences and organize collective action against brands they perceive as having misstepped.

For brands operating in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the survey serves as a stark reminder of the power wielded by consumers. Building and maintaining trust is paramount. Companies must be prepared to address public concerns and demonstrate a commitment to values that resonate with their customer base. The ability to navigate this evolving landscape will be critical for determining success in these influential markets.

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