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PayPal Finds Digital Payments Are Key Growth Enablers for UAE Freelancers and SMBs

PayPal, a global leader in digital payments has launched the findings of its “UAE SMB and Freelancer Digital Readiness Survey” in partnership with British market research and data analytics firm, YouGov. The research aims to analyse how businesses in the UAE have adapted during the pandemic by adopting a digital-first approach and leveraging the cross-border opportunity. The research also highlights barriers to digital adoption and key priorities for freelancers and SMB’s.

Conducted between January to February 2022, PayPal’s UAE and Freelancer Digital Readiness Survey analyses the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses, the key verticals of growth and growing acceptance of digital payments. The results are based on interviews with 300 UAE based SMBs and freelancers.

Digital adoption and international expansion continue to be a focus in 2022

Despite the uncertainty of business longevity going into the pandemic, the survey highlighted that half of the respondents saw a positive impact of the pandemic on their business. The key factors included an increase in productivity as employees worked from home (33%), reduction in overhead costs (travel, real estate costs) (32%) and the ability to access a global customer base outside of the UAE (31%). These findings demonstrate that businesses have not only been able to sustain growth without the need for a physical space but have also performed better with 28% of respondents reporting an increase in customer base and 31% reporting an increase in customers from outside of the UAE.

Building an owned online presence is a key priority going forward

With a rise in sales, nearly half of respondents are looking to build their own e-commerce website and app in the future or to have a presence through a third-party e-commerce marketplace. While online has always been a lucrative option, the pandemic has only increased its role in helping businesses grow. 28% of the UAE entrepreneurs have an online business, while close to half the respondents have a presence both online and offline. 50% said that they are likely to increase their online presence in the future.

Among those who have an online presence, 36% have their own e-commerce website or an app and a similar proportion have a presence through a third-party platform. About 43% have a presence on social media using clickable ads on Instagram, Snapchat, etc. With adoption of digitalisation, 41% of the respondents have seen increased purchases through social media channels with more consumers using online payments (39%). With these findings, it’s no surprise that a staggering 83% are likely to increase their online presence in the future and nearly half of the respondents are looking to have their own e-commerce website or app giving them better control.

The rise of online payment gateways has increased cross border trade 

A digital-first approach will help both the businesses and consumers as the study shows that the advantages of going digital are:

  • Speed of transactions (41%),
  • Convenience for customers (39%)
  • Cost savings (38%).

Among those who have an online presence and use digital payments, 66% claim that it has helped increase their local sales compared to last year. For 56% of the businesses, sales have increased as they were able to reach a global consumer base.

36% of the surveyed entrepreneurs use PayPal, behind 49% of users opting for ‘cash on delivery and 43% using online bank transfers. As more UAE freelancers and SMBs embrace digital, investment into their digital journey has become a key priority.


  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

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