In a country that is evolving rapidly, change is the only constant. The ‘plates’ of the UAE’s consumer landscape are continuously shifting, with new waves of expatriates arriving each day and technology continuing to transform our lives. As a result, the consumer’s psyche, attitude and behaviours are evolving, making business a challenging task. To document and explore this evolution, OMD UAE launched the ‘Future of the UAE’ in December 2015. 2000 face-to-face interviews were conducted to better understand how the UAE population live today and how they expect to live tomorrow. The survey delved into Emiratis and expatriates’ views on happiness, lifestyles, technology, the environment, values, national identity, financial priorities, health, work-life balance, entrepreneurship and purchasing decision influencers.
Balancing between tradition and modernity, the UAE is forging a path towards the future, one that includes the key notion of happiness, national identity, entrepreneurship and sustainability. These are some of the notions OMD UAE explored and found that, despite the occasional bumps in the road, residents are overwhelmingly optimistic – approximately 90% of UAE residents are optimistic about the future and believe their lives will significantly improve in the next two years. Fadi Maktabi, OMD UAE’s Head of Strategy, highlights that the economic downturn of the past few years has done little to dent the ambitions and aspirations of UAE residents. Whilst some do struggle financially, particularly in terms of debt, more than two-thirds of respondents still anticipate they will spend either as much as, or more, than today in the coming years.
One concern that was raised at ‘The Future of the UAE’ launch event was the risk of reverse brain-drain, where expatriates would leave the UAE to either go to another country or back home. While the debate about the dilution of faith, language and cultural values does exist, since the UAE has the largest proportion of foreign-born residents in the world (88%). Seven in ten Emiratis believe that the influx of foreigners has proved beneficial both to the country and themselves. Considering the recent downgrade, forecasted growth for 2016 still stands above 3% and unless things change dramatically they shouldn’t worry. Additionally, over two-thirds of respondents believe people will continue coming to, and finding work, in the UAE over the next five years.
Overall, this particular type of research provides a marker for the changes that have been witnessed and a guide for those to come, looking at both the societal and marketing implications they carry. ‘The Future of the UAE’ is an ongoing conversation and to find out more, visit the OMD UAE blog or follow @OMDMENA on Twitter for updates.