DUBAI: Only a third of consumers in the United Arab Emirates, the Middle East's biggest single advertising market, argue the financial downturn has not changed their purchase behaviour, while an equal number say they are now buying fewer products from the web, research from Google reveals.

Google reported that the number of internet users in the Middle East increased by more than 1000% between 2000 and 2008, and also rose by 44% last year on an annual basis.

Based on a survey of over 1,400 consumers in the UAE, the company found that 69% had previously bought something from the web, while 28% of purchases across a variety of categories were researched online and then acquired in store.

This figure compared with 56% of occasions when the internet was not part of the purchase process, and 11% where shoppers investigated and bought goods online.

In a further 5% of cases, consumers chose a product offline, and then used the internet to buy it.

Some 81% of participants had used search engines to find out information, a figure falling to 49% for company websites, 26% for retailers' online portals, and 25% for web-based auction services.

In all, 67% of participants had employed search engines to find out information about technology products like mobile phones and digital cameras, with 48% for travel items like tickets and hotels.

Some 7% also said they "always" noticed paid-for search listings, compared with 6% that "regularly" looked at these links, 45% who "sometimes" did so them, and 22% who rarely acknowledged them.

More than three-quarters of people taking part in the poll most frequently used English when conducting searches, compared with 23% opting for Arabic.

As such, 58% typically opted to access Google's main US portal when searching, with 38% utilising its Arabic service,

Data sourced from Zawya; additional content by WARC staff