RIYADH: Changes to Saudi buying habits have been highlighted among the many lifestyle adjustments being brought about by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The adoption of contactless technology as a safer way of paying for goods and services has soared since the outbreak of the killer virus as have purchases of electronic gifts, according to a study by financial services giant Mastercard.
Survey findings showed that 65 percent of Saudi consumers preferred to use touch-free technology to pay for everyday purchases for reasons of safety, speed, and cleanliness.
With the COVID-19 health crisis forcing many of the Kingdom’s citizens to shop online, 81 percent of Saudis said they would continue using contactless payments methods post pandemic.
J. K. Khalil, general manager of Mastercard for Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, said: “The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority’s decision to increase card payment limits, and its instruction that all local bank transfers be free of charge, show strong commitment to the local economy which Mastercard fully supports.
“Saudi Arabia is adequately adopting contactless technology as part of its response to the pandemic.”
While social distancing, lockdowns, working from home and online shopping is becoming the new norm, consumers were also found to be turning to e-gift cards — easy and safe to buy — to celebrate occasions and give presents to friends and family during Ramadan and the upcoming Islamic festival of Eid Al-Fitr.
The shift in mindset from a physical gift product to a digital voucher had already been taking place through various loyalty and reward programs, but the COVID-19 crisis has speeded up the process.
Husain Makiya, CEO and co-founder of YouGotaGift, a digital gift card company, said: “We have seen almost an 80 percent rise in online searches compared to last year and the number keeps growing month on month with March and April 2020 showing over a 35 percent increase on February 2020.
“We have been tracking the shift in customer behavior and accordingly made strategic changes to ensure the right e-gift card products are made available to them.
“With lockdowns in place, we added further value to the customer experience by identifying the essential brands in our catalogue which are e-comm enabled and bringing them to our customers via our digital platform,” he added.
During the pandemic, a growing number of businesses and organizations have been choosing digital gift cards as a way to motivate and show appreciation to employees, customers, and business partners, Makiya said.
And there had also been a rise in e-gift cards being used for humanitarian purposes.
The chief executive noted that many local communities and groups had been supporting thousands of families in need of daily essentials with the click of a button and from the safety and comfort of their homes.
YouGotaGift recently launched a Care Card with some big brand names, covering essentials such as groceries, medicines, food delivery and mobile recharge.
To commemorate the season of giving and uniting as a community, the company has also issued a Ramadan Card allowing holders to conveniently donate to individuals and families in need.