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With The COVID-19 Crisis Negatively Impacting Many Of The UAE's Small Businesses, Visa's "Where You Shop Matters" Initiative Aims To Empower The Sector "From e-commerce to security, our 'Where You Shop Matters' initiative aims to help support and empower the local small businesses that serve as the backbone of our communities."

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A new initiative by digital payments leader Visa aims to encourage consumers to support small businesses in the UAE, while also championing and enabling entrepreneurs in the country.

The campaign entitled "Where You Shop Matters" will see Visa support small businesses through the Visa Small Business Hub, a merchant platform providing tools and information on how to start, run, and grow small businesses.

"At Visa, we are proud to support merchants, and recognize that many small businesses have been most adversely affected by the pandemic," said Madhur Mehra, MENA Head of Merchant Sales, and Acquiring, Visa, in a statement. "From e-commerce to security, our "Where You Shop Matters' initiative aims to help support and empower the local small businesses that serve as the backbone of our communities."

Madhur Mehra, MENA Head of Merchant Sales, and Acquiring, Visa

As part of the initiative's launch, Visa also published the COVID-19 CEMEA Impact Tracker, a study it did on the effect the novel coronavirus pandemic has had on commerce for consumers and small merchants in the UAE.

The report noted that 89% of small businesses in the UAE have noticed a decrease in average consumer spending during COVID-19, with 83% of those surveyed stating revenues have been negatively impacted.

"The pandemic is impacting businesses everywhere,"said Shahebaz Khan, Visa's General Manager for the UAE, in a statement. "The findings of the COVID-19 CEMEA Impact Tracker suggest shoppers have changed how they shop, and this is already having a major impact on how merchants do business. As consumers adapt to the current restrictions, many have turned to online outlets for their shopping. These changes present challenges but also enormous opportunities for all merchants, including small businesses."

Shahebaz Khan, Visa's General Manager for UAE

According to the report, many consumers in the UAE have started shopping online for the first time during the pandemic, primarily for essentials. Two-thirds of UAE consumers (68%) surveyed say that COVID-19 has led to their first online grocery purchase, while 70% have made their first online purchase from pharmacies. Overall, the report points to a shift to online commerce, with cash transactions being replaced by digital payments.

The study also found current conditions have served as a catalyst for online commerce with 10% of merchants reporting they have introduced online offerings as a direct result of the pandemic, while the vast majority (91%) had an e-commerce presence before the pandemic. As consumers and merchants focus on safety and hygiene, the use of contactless payments has also increased during the crisis, with merchants expecting a further 32% growth post-COVID-19.

"This report shows how cash-only retailers were most negatively impacted, while merchants who moved online and adopted contactless payment systems have been able to better weather the adversity," Khan noted. "It is vital that merchants across the globe understand the shift in consumer behavior and adapt accordingly. E-commerce and digital solutions are here to stay, and the way forward for small businesses."

Related: The MENA Region Is Bustling With Fintechs (And Here's How Visa Is Empowering Them)

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