E-commerce: Fad or Growing Industry?
October 15th, 2012, Safa Khairy

E-commerce: Fad or Growing Industry?

The E-commerce industry in this region is often said to be under achieving. Low uptake of E-commerce activity means companies are missing out on a multi-billion dollar industry. But what are the underlying attitudes towards shopping online? Using YouGov’s MENA Omnibus we set out to answer this question. The survey was asked to 1895 respondents, 1000 in the UAE and 895 in KSA.

  • Shopping online is more popular in the UAE (75%) than KSA (51%)
  • More males (66%) than females (60%) have made a purchase online
  • The majority (64%) claim to have made a purchase online
  • Almost three quarters (73%) of those who have made a purchase, do this on average once a month or less

Perhaps not surprisingly, the most popular online purchases in the region are travel tickets (61%) and electronics (41%). In the Western world and more developed countries shopping online has grown rapidly, yet in the UAE and KSA only about 1 in 10 (12%) claim to have brought home products online and even fewer (3%), have bought food items online. Online shopping for clothes (27%), shoes, bags or accessories (29%) is more popular amongst females but more males (46%) than females (28%) have brought electronic products online.

Respondents who have made a purchase online do so because it is more convenient (70%) and because prices are lower than in stores (56%). It is also the case, that there are items online they cannot find in the shops in this region (39%) and there is a better variety of products to choose from (32%).

On the other hand, many people are skeptical of shopping online, with many worried about internet fraud (60%). Interestingly, over a third (37%) they have not made online purchases because they do not have a debit/credit card that allows them to do this. The claim of not holding a debit/credit card is significantly higher in the KSA (44%) than UAE (27%).

Popularity of online deal websites has increased significantly in the past few years, with almost two-fifths (38%) claiming to have used such a website. In terms of members, Cobone (65%) is out in front, followed by Groupon (51%) and Souq.com’s ‘Deal of the day’ (51%). Cobone with (52%) also takes the lead when it comes to those who actually made a purchase on the website, whilst significantly fewer claim to have made a purchase on Groupon (38%) or ‘Deal of the day’ (31%).

Most respondents (64%) claim to pay some of their bills online but amongst those who do not, internet fraud is again the main barrier (38%). There also appears to be a lack of trust in online payments, with a quarter (27%) claiming they do not trust the bill has actually been paid and a fifth (19%) stating they prefer to interact with people when it comes to paying bills.

Whilst the region has been slow to embrace E-commerce, there can be little doubt the industry will continue to grow but without widespread adoption of credit and debit cards and fears about online security persisting, wholesale adoption remains some way off.