DUBAI: Consumers in the Middle East attach more importance to brands than their counterparts in other regions, new figures show.

Ernst & Young, the advisory group, polled 34,000 adults worldwide, and broke out the results for the 4,000 contributors from nine markets across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

In all, 30% of the MENA panel stated that brands played an important role in shaping their purchases, rising to 35% in Oman and 34% in Jordan. The global average stood at 29% on this measure.

When rating their loyalty levels by category on a ten-point scale, shoppers in the Middle East recorded 6.8 points for food and beverage brands, and 6.7 points for commodities, clothing and pharmaceuticals.

Electronics posted 6.5 points on this metric, beating the 6.3 points for mobile phone contracts, and 6.1 points for auto marques. Household insurance secured 5.9 points, and consumer loans registered 4.3 points.

Just 35% of shoppers now insisted on buying in stores. Within this, 43% of people in in Jordan mainly bought items in this way, while 21% of interviewees in the UAE and Bahrain made acquisitions online when possible.

More broadly, 65% of respondents utilised the internet at some stage in the purchase process, and 56% actively researched goods and services on the web.

In terms of making payments, however, 60% of the sample preferred to complete transactions with cash, versus 19% for credit cards and only 18% for debit cards and other electronic systems.

Upon being asked which communications channels shaped their purchase habits, personal contact logged 6.8 points out of ten, ahead of the web on 6.2 points, electronic media on six points, and print on 5.2 points.

Turning to social media, participants awarded sites like Facebook and Twitter 6.3 points out of ten for providing accurate information, beating the global norm of 5.4 points, and possibly reflecting the medium's role in the Arab Spring uprisings of early 2011.

"Through social media, blogs, brand communities and other online forums, consumers are sharing their views, preferences, likes and dislikes with anyone who cares to listen," said Ross Maclean, customer advisory leader at Ernst & Young, MENA.

Elsewhere, 81% of people earning less than $28,000 a year agreed price was a vital determinant of their buying habits, a figure reaching 77% for those with annual salaries above $56,000.

Data sourced from Ernst & Young; additional content by Warc staff