UAE consumers indicate increasing preference for electric cars, healthy eating habits; Dubai emerges as top destination for regional travelers


Crimson Hexagon, a leading provider of business insights from social data analysis to inform strategic enterprise decision-making, today announced the launch of its Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Trends Report. The report analysed millions of conversations in both Arabic and English languages, within nine countries in MENA, across popular social networks, blogs and forums.

Chris Bingham, CTO and Founder, Crimson Hexagon explained how social media has been drastically evolving since 2008. “Today, social media platforms are entrenched and dominant with users increasingly speaking their minds on different social networking sites.”

With hundreds and thousands of posts published daily, social analytics are helping businesses listen to their customers and understand what matters to them. “Companies are using social media insights to learn more about their customers’ interests and act accordingly.”

The report was produced in partnership with House of Social – a hybrid, focusing on bringing social media education to the region together with powerful insights and consultancy solutions. The partners have been working on this report for the last six months with an English team in London and an Arabic team in Dubai.

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Alexandra Maia, Founder, House of Social believes that marketers in the region are still not doing enough. “We need to start doing a much better job and that starts with looking at insights. We are still thinking about what’s best for me, what’s best for my brand? what do I want?  However, brands, companies and agencies need to rewind and understand what’s the insight, because insights create opportunities.”

Businesses from all types are starting to hear more and more about data analytics. “I think it’s everywhere from beauty to entertainment and F&B. It is either the last thing on their list or somewhere on the list but not on top. It just needs to be on top because once we get this data we know the direction we need to go and we will make smarter decisions with a business strategy,” she added.

Commenting on the report Alexandra said, “In order to understand a trend and a shift of a particular sector and compare what it meant then and what it means now, we had to go back to 2012 and look into users’ behavior and data on multiple social media platforms.”


Key consumer insights were revealed associated with major themes; the sharing economy, green revolution, travel and personal finance.


The sharing economy is steadily penetrating the market

According to the report, regional consumers have become increasingly interested in Airbnb, with social conversation growing 120 percent since the beginning of 2015, but it still accounts for only a fraction (12 percent in 2016) of the overall conversation about the local hotel industry. Additionally, the consumer sentiment towards local hotels is more favourable (17 percent more positive than negative posts) as compared to Airbnb (nine percent more positive than negative posts).


Consumers desire fashionable and healthy psyches

In MENA, conversation about fast food declined 62 percent since 2012 as did the overall favourable sentiment, dropping 16 percent since 2012. In UAE, consumers have an increased awareness about healthy eating habits as social conversation climbing by 23 percent in 2016 from 2012. Elsewhere, the desire to adopt a healthier lifestyle and remain ‘on-trend’ has emerged, with the UAE experiencing the highest growth of conversations centred around modern, more fashionable sports – between 2012 and 2016 vs the rest of MENA, 40 percent of the overall yoga conversation stemmed from the country.


“The MENA Trends Report is a unique looking glass through which we can assess and understand consumer preference and opinions. The report indicates that the regional consumers are caught between the competing pulls of modernisation and tradition,” said Justin Khaksar, Senior Vice President of EMEA and APAC at Crimson Hexagon. “Social media posts are a unique gateway to gaining key consumer insights, and businesses that aren’t paying heed to it will massively miss out. Beyond just measure reach and impact, social media data can be analysed to better understand and predict consumer behaviour.”


Key analysis and insights from the report include:

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Health and Green Revolution

  • Growing awareness about the environment has caused a spike between 2012 and 2016, around clean and energy-efficient car conversations across the region. Specifically, conversations around electric cars were seven times that of hybrid cars.
  • In the UAE, the conversation around electric cars peaked around specific brands, such as Tesla and Apple electric car. It’s clear that petrol-burning cars, whilst still dominant, is steadily going into reverse.
  • Overall, football remained the most discussed topic across region; however, its popularity dropped by nine percent in 2016 when compared to 2012.


The Sharing Economy

  • In a possible link to the ongoing halting of Uber services in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, consumers showed a clear favouritism towards the Dubai-based taxi booking app, Careem over its global competitor, Uber.
  • Conversations associated with Uber were more frequent, but were largely negative, while conversations around Careem tend to be 25 percent more positive than negative. Specifically, the UAE consumers’ sentiment favours Careem (35 percent more positive than negative) more strongly.



  • Dubai was the top destination for MENA travellers’ wish list in both 2012 and 2016. London was the top international destination of interest in 2012, perhaps demonstrating the affluence of regional societies, but India also garnered more interest from MENA consumers in 2016.
  • Reflecting a new trend of independence and a desire to travel from a younger age, a majority (85 percent) of Middle East consumers prefer to travel with their partners.
  • The number of consumers travelling with their partners climbed 20 percent from 2012 to 2016, while family travel plummeted from 18 percent in 2012 to just three percent in 2016.


Personal Finance

  • The resistance for online shopping is slowly eroding, with this topic accounting for 75 percent of the overall conversation on shopping amongst MENA consumers; however, consumers lack trust in eCommerce with delivery and sizes issues being the topic of most complaints.
  • MENA consumers aren’t embracing digital banking either, with online/mobile banking accounting for only 10 percent of the overall social conversation on banking.
  • Worryingly, the online banking conversations are primarily written in anger, with consumers complaining about technical issues, support and security.




Using its proprietary language-agnostic social analytics platform, the Crimson Hexagon MENA Trends report analysed English and Arabic language conversation across Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and forums in these regions between 2012 and 2016. The countries included in the study are: United Arab Emirates, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon.


Crimson Hexagon is represented in the Middle East by E-Nor, a global digital analytics and marketing intelligence consulting firm devoted to enabling organizations to become more data-driven.


The full report can be accessed here.

About Crimson Hexagon

Crimson Hexagon is the global leader in consumer insights from social media data. Powered by patented technology and an in-house data library of over 1 trillion posts, Crimson Hexagon’s platform helps hundreds of brands and agencies answer critical business questions through the insights derived from social data. Clients include leading global organizations such as General Mills, Starbucks, Paramount Pictures, Microsoft and Twitter, and leading agencies such as TBWA, VML, BBDO, Saatchi & Saatchi, Ogilvy, Edelman and Digitas. Find us on Twitter @crimsonhexagon and on Tumblr.