Ecommerce lags online research in MENA

04 January 2012

RIYADH: A majority of internet users in the Middle East and North Africa now research products online, but ecommerce penetration remains more limited at present.

OneCard, the payment services firm, polled 1,000 people with web access in the Gulf states, North Africa and the Levant, and found 61% had previously sought out such information using this channel, while 43% bought goods in the same way.

More specifically, 53% of netizens who were at least 35 years of age had engaged in ecommerce, a total hitting 52% for 26–35 year olds, 41% for 16–25 year olds and 31% for under-16 year olds.

In all, a third of the connected population had participated in this activity, a proportion reaching 46% for men and 32% among women, according to the analysis.

The primary motivations for buying online included better offers, recording 64%, the ability to compare products, on 38%, and convenience, on 36%.

Accessing consumer reviews posted 34% on this metric, while 28% of contributors pointed to the range of payment options available when discussing the benefits offered by the web.

To date, 41% of respondents had bought games or virtual currency on the internet, standing at 31% for computer software, 28% for electronics, 17% for clothes and 15% for music and films.

When asked how much they would be willing to pay for a single ecommerce purchase, 58% of the panel pegged this figure at up to $100, a group led by 16–25 year olds.

Another 36% placed this amount at between $100 and $1,000, suggesting opportunities for brands in relatively big-ticket categories to make in-roads on the web.

The main reasons which discouraged shoppers from buying goods on the net were concerns related to the theft of their card details or fraud on 56%, and worries about returning unwanted items on 37%.

A further 20% of interviewees mentioned not being able to tell what a product is really like, 16% highlighted not having the "real buying experience" and 9% wanted advice from a salesperson.

Data sourced from Discover Digital Arabia/The Next Web; additional content by Warc staff