Cross-border, MENA

The Boom of E-commerce in the Middle-East

The MENA region has been known to be of slower growth in regard to its online market activity in comparison with Western countries, such as the UK and the US. What’s behind this? Has technology not yet stretched out to the Arab world? Or maybe the majority of the Arab population view online shopping to be too difficult of a process, therefore slowing down the chance for online marketplaces to penetrate the market successfully and make an impact on the world of e-commerce? As the second possibility stares at the truth more than the first, Arabs have, in fact, been slow to embrace this new digital world where you can now purchase anything and everything from clothes to food to electronic devices with a few clicks.

Foreign e-commerce intelligence has proven to be more prominent than that of the Middle-East. It all started in 1979, in the USA, with a man named Michael Aldrich who came up with the idea of teleshopping. Later in 1991, the birth of internet sparked the growth of online shopping with Amazon and Ebay in 1995. Quickly following suit were Google and Yahoo providing easier access to these online marketplaces. The growing attraction to online shopping paved the way for Paypal, creating an online portal allowing shoppers to pay for desired items from the comfort of their own home.

Although Westerners continued to launch e-commerce initiatives, the MENA region faced major setbacks in doing the same. Online payment methods have only lately become available for most MENA regions. In regards to MENA shoppers themselves, they have been struggling with this phenomenon due to reasons such as the fear of credit card scams, their prevalence for face-to-face interaction, fear of quality disappointment, and, last but not least, delivery challenges.

Yet, despite these obstacles, online shopping traffic has recently bloomed in the Middle East through increased internet usage and purchases of smartphones that have responsively induced the act. With greater possession and demand on smartphones in the Middle-East comes a subsequently thriving digital economy. More online purchases via mobile are prominent, thus motivating more vendor participation in e-commerce, thus generating more sales despite the fragmented nature of Arab countries and the hesitant nature of its people. According to a study, in Saudi Arabia alone, two-thirds of its online consumers made their most recent purchases over smartphone. In Kuwait, consumers of the online market strike a high of 95%.

One example looking to expand the Middle Eastern experience in online shopping is Mostawda, a platform focusing on the needs and demands of the MENA region and proving that Middle Eastern products have the potential to boost MENA’s presence in the global marketplace.

The Middle Eastern world of e-commerce is emerging and now plays a more exceptional role in the global e-commerce market.

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