Internet- it has been a life changing factor in many aspects of life. Ecommerce is just one of them. Ecommerce industry has been established with its own benchmarks. As more and more people show their trust in online shopping, the number of online shoppers is showing a tremendous increase. There could be many contributing factors for that; comfortable payment option, easy check out and trustworthy shipping.
Online Shopping; what motivates it?
Online shopping has been penetrating in recent years. With the internet services getting faster, people have come to choose this mode of shopping for expensive and luxurious things (cars, phones, houses) to daily groceries. Urban life has become busier and tougher these last two decades. An average UAE citizen avoids driving to the nearby mall and risk heavy traffic and not finding parking conveniently.
A research shows that UAE citizens believe that online products are priced cheaper. They believe online stores offer greater variety and higher availability for a single article. Physical stores run out of popular articles quicker. They have come to love the convenience of shopping-from-the-couch. Online stores show product comparisons and reviews from users that proofs to be a great help. Lastly, it allows for discreet purchasing
E-commerce Facts and Figures for UAE and Middle East:
Currently valued at $7 billion around the globe, Ecommerce market in UAE alone is projected to reach the astounding $2 billions by 2018. An annual Master Card behaviour study in 2014 revealed that nearly 35% of Middle East citizens have accessed internet to shop online. 44% of these people have made at least one online purchase in last three months. A whopping 83% are satisfied with their shopping experience.
The internet has penetrated the UAE market thoroughly. More than 90% people in UAE carry a smartphone and use internet on hand held devices. 71% of the people have listed convenient payment options as primary motivating factor for online shopping. More than half of UAE citizens will purchase online only from local stores. This is why local platforms like Souq.com have become popular. Popular brands also have online UAE specific stores in Arabic language.
Smartphones and Online Shopping:
An average shopper has moved away from desktops. Mobile devices, particularly hand held devices like smartphones have become an integral part of life in Middle East. Smartphone penetration is greater than 75% in Qatar, 73% in UAE, 60% in Saudi Arabia and 50% in Jordan. The statistics have led to greater number of online retailers having mobile responsive website designs. The mobile versions have been improved without unnecessary hassles and scrolling.
Today Middle East hosts a population with more than 70% people who shop online at one or another time in their lives. More than 50% will shop from a local retailer only while 74% will thoroughly research the product online. 49% will buy only when they are shown price comparisons to physical stores. 44% list product reviews as necessary before they make a purchase. Nearly 48% of people make an online purchase to redeem a coupon or voucher.
The shopper demographics reveal that highest proportion of online shopper in Middle East comes from 26 to 35 years age. Egypt shows more than 50% shoppers from this age group. Saudi Arabia hosts 46% of shoppers from this age where as Kuwait and UAE have 42% of online shoppers from this young age. Surprisingly, 31% of total Middle East online shoppers are less than 16 years of age.
It is also noteworthy to mention that 68% of all online shoppers are male whereas 32% are female. While Middle East will buy nearly anything online from cars to frozen nuggets, the most online purchased products are airline tickets, electronic appliances, fashion apparel and accessory, furniture and kids toys. Online shopping has been a high rise trend for discreet clothing and medical care products.
Influence of Social Media:
You can never ignore the impact social media is having on our daily lives. Social Media, especially Facebook, is largest trend setting platform. People like, discuss and share what is trending lately. Social Media is best advertising place for many online stores. In fact you can easily order directly from facebook instead of going on a website. Social Media is one of the fastest and cheapest ways to increase product visibility and exposure.
Globally 62% of online shoppers believe social media as prime influencing factor in online shopping. For Middle East this figure is 72%.Facebook is the leading social media platform. A survey based in Lebenon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Jordon and Egypt lists Facebook as 94% people answer for what influence their online purchases. Twitter falls at 52% followed by Google 46%, Instagram 14% and Linkdin 6%.
Cross Border Shopping; yes or no:
With gateway security and trustworthy shipping methods, Middle East is opening to cross border online shopping. Free shipping offers have encouraged cross border shopping in as many as 49% of shoppers. 39% shop from cross border only because their desired product is locally unavailable. But the trend has been set in and there is no reason to believe it will go away any time in near future. It is here to stay for long.
However, certain factors still dissuade people from cross border shopping. 59% of online shoppers say they will not buy from cross border due to high shipping costs. More than 40% are still apprehensive about identity thefts and frauds. Probably this accounts for why only 15% will pay in advance and 85% will shop only on pay on delivery modes. Cross border shopping via local platforms like Souq and wadi is more popular than from direct purchase from foreign retailers .
It is evident that the Arab world has great avenues available for Ecommerce. Coming decade, Middle East will set new records in the ecommerce market. Middle East hosts a growing digital market with online shopping as the latest popular trend. Already millions have been invested in the region’s ecommerce market. It is globally one of the most lucrative markets from an investor's point of view. Without doubt, ecommerce is a profitable prospect in Middle East.