According to the findings of this report, B2C E-Commerce presently accounts for less than 1% of total retail sales in the region, as there are obstacles to overcome to prepare the way for the boom. These obstacles include the low adoption of the online retail channel by local businesses, the predominance of cash on delivery payments, and low consumer acceptance of online shopping, compared to international benchmarks.
Local merchants serve the region
Several fast growing local merchants have emerged in response to the developing interest in B2C E-Commerce in the Middle East. Among them are mass merchants JadoPado and Alshop, and online electronics store EmiratesAvenue. Three other regional merchants, online mass merchant Souq.com, online fashion store Namshi and flash sales site MarkaVIP together garnered over USD 70 million of investment in 2012.
Nevertheless, International sites Amazon and eBay are among the most popular shopping destinations of online consumers in the Middle East, though behind regional player Souq.com in terms of annual spending per shopper. Due to relatively low adoption of the online channel by local merchants, cross-border Internet shopping is common. There are even special services that assist consumers in buying from International websites and getting their orders delivered.
UAE leads in online sales
E-Commerce is growing in the UAE at a rate of over 20% annually off increasing Internet and mobile coverage, while store-based retail is affected by high real estate prices. Over 80% of the population are Internet users, and of this number over 15% shop online; below 10% do so on mobile devices.
The most important factors for online shoppers in the UAE were pricing, customer service and ease of use, though security concerns and inability to touch and test products before purchase keep some consumers away from online purchases.
The most popular E-Commerce websites were online mass merchant Souq.com, coupon dealer Cobone, Amazon.com and online flash sales website MarkaVIP. Consumer electronics and appliances was the largest product category by B2C E-Commerce sales in UAE in 2012, excluding travel and tickets. The most used payment methods in the UAE last year were credit card and cash on delivery.
B2C E-Commerce is burgeoning also in Saudi Arabia, though largely restricted to sales of clothing, electronics, appliances and travel booking. Annual growth reaching almost +40% between 2012 and 2015 is expected. Over half of the population are Internet users and of them about 10% shopped online. Mass merchants Souq.com and Sukar.com, followed by online fashion sites Namshi and MarkaVIP were the leading E-Commerce websites by Internet audience reach. Cash on delivery is the payment method used by most Saudi online shoppers.
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