E-commerce: Evolution or revolution in the fast-moving consumer goods world for the MENA region?

Across the globe, shoppers are increasingly turning to the web to buy the things they need. Online shopping offers certain conveniences—from delivering your order right to your door to broad selection and low prices—that brick-and-mortar stores can’t. But for certain categories, traditional retail stores still hold the cards.

The most popular e-commerce categories, not surprisingly, are non-consumable—durables and entertainment-related products. Almost half of global respondents in an online survey intend to purchase clothing or make airline or hotel reservations using an online device in the next six months. On the other hand the online market for buying groceries and other consumable products is comparatively smaller. The hands-on buying nature and perishability of these goods limits the usefulness and practicality of buying online.

Nevertheless, the global audience is willing and eager to shop the web. Online purchase intention rates have doubled in three years for 12 of 22 measured categories. While consumable categories will continue to trail non-consumable ones, the frequency of purchasing these products is increasing e-commerce’s appeal. And beyond buying, digital is an increasingly important research and engagement platform.

A lack of available information and market data has prevented businesses and government from effectively evaluating the potential for e-commerce growth and development in the MENA region.

Recognising the need to understand the significant trends in the region and to help businesses and the government plan their e-commerce strategies, Visa has launched an in-depth study of the rapidly growing e-commerce market across the Middle East and North Africa.

According to Gulf Business- E-commerce sales in the Middle East are expected to touch $15 billion by 2015, up from $9 billion in 2012, according to a report by payment solutions provider Payfort.

There are around 4.43 million online buyers in the region spread across countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait, the report released during the ArabNet said.

The UAE has around 3.6 million e-commerce customers with the lion’s share of them in Dubai, and 27 per cent are in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.

Almost 60 per cent of e-commerce customers said that competitive pricing and better deals were the motivator to shop online while 56 per cent cited convenience.

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