UAE small businesses eye global expansion as key to growth, Visa study finds

UAE small businesses eye global expansion as key to growth, Visa study finds 

Visa today revealed findings from the seventh edition of its Global Back to Business Study, which found that a majority of surveyed small and micro businesses (SMBs) plan to prioritize cross-border sales as they look to scale to new geographies. 

Additionally, the survey found that a growing number of consumers are embracing cashless transactions, with nearly 75% of surveyed shoppers predicting they will use digital payments more frequently this year.

“It used to be that only big businesses could scale to access customers across the country or around the world, but today’s small business owner can be virtually borderless,” said Dr. Saeeda Jaffar, Visa’s SVP and Group Country Manager for GCC. “At Visa, we’re seeing the small business mindset shift from survival mode to growth mode, as SMBs harness the power of digital payments to improve efficiencies, reach new audiences and simply thrive in today’s increasingly digital world.”

Looking beyond pandemic-era challenges to the full arc of opportunities ahead, Visa’s Global Back to Business Study surveyed small business owners and consumers in ten markets, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and United States (US). Key insights include:

  • The world is their marketplace. Ninety-three percent of surveyed business owners in the UAE cited expanding into new geographies as a focus for growth (compared to 79% globally). A high number (83% vs. 72% globally) of consumers said they already feel comfortable buying across borders.
  • Leaving paper behind. While 100% (vs. 95% globally) of small business owners surveyed planned to be cashless “someday,” 42% (vs. 51% globally) planned to make that shift in the next two years. Consumers lead this shift, with 51% (vs. 55% globally) of those surveyed predicting they will use digital payments more in the coming year.
  • Shopping small. Seventy percent of consumers (vs. 49% globally) intended to shop more at local businesses this year as they look to support the local economy (54%).
  • Shopping sustainable. An overwhelming 92% of UAE shoppers say a business’s sustainability practices have at least somewhat of an impact on their decision to purchase from them (compared to 68% globally). Nearly all (96%) are willing to pay more for products or services to ensure they are sustainable (vs. 77% globally).
  • The To Do list. Business owners cited offering new products or services (44%), investing more in marketing (42%), and increasing social media presence (41%) as the top opportunities to reach new customers, with 37% eyeing accepting new forms of payment as a crucial area that can help them improve their business.

Powering SMB Growth Globally, Year-Round

Small businesses are anything but small to Visa. Through a variety of localized programs and solutions, Visa enables small business owners to meet the rapidly changing demands of global commerce and consumer needs. Visa offers numerous payment services designed to help SMBs pay and get paid, including Visa Business credit and debit cards through associated financial institutions, business and payment management tools, fraud and security services, among many other solutions. Visa also provides financial education and business skills training, including Practical Business Skills globally, in addition to initiatives like She’s Next.

In 2020, Visa Foundation announced a five-year, $200 million strategic commitment to support the establishment and growth of thriving small and micro businesses with a focus on women entrepreneurs. Through its investments and grant-making activity, Visa Foundation partners with organizations that provide catalytic capital, capacity building and support services. Additionally, Visa Foundation uses capital as a tool to enable the flow of investment capital to gender diverse SMBs.

Additional resources for small and micro businesses can be found on the Visa Small Business Hub.

Methodology: Visa Global Back to Business Study
Visa’s Global Back to Business Study was conducted by Wakefield Research in March/April 2023 and surveyed 2,250 small business owners with 100 employees or fewer in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, UAE, and the US. The consumer section surveyed 1,000 adults ages 18+ in the US, and 500 adults ages 18+ in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, and UAE

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