DUBAI: Around half of consumers in leading Gulf countries have shopped online during the past twelve months and the region is set for "exponential" growth in the next few years, a new report has said.

The Online Shopping Behaviour study from credit card company MasterCard was based on a survey of 3,000 respondents from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Lebanon.

It found that 51% of consumers in the UAE went online to shop during 2013, with Saudi Arabia and Qatar close behind on 48%.

"The steady growth of online shopping trends in the UAE sheds light on the priorities of the technology-savvy new age consumer, who now enjoys the convenience, speed, value for money and safety of their transactions while shopping online," Aaron Oliver, head of emerging payments for Middle East and Africa at MasterCard, told Gulf News.

The study said it expected that, over the coming three to five years, online shopping would take off across the Middle East, boosted by growing internet penetration and the widespread uptake of smartphones.

The UAE is in the forefront of this development, with internet penetration already at 71% and smartphone ownership at 73%.

Oliver also noted that there had been major investments in networks, so increasing data speed and access coverage.

In those countries surveyed, around 90% of consumers said they were accessing the internet via mobile phone. Further, 17% had bought something using a mobile device in the preceding three months and a similar proportion expected to so in the course of the next six months.

Those who were purchasing online were typically buying airline tickets, apps, clothing, music, toys and gifts.

The main reasons put forward for shopping using a mobile phone were convenience, cited by 37%, and the ability to do it on the go (31%). A similar proportion (32%) welcomed the variety of apps on offer that made online shopping easier.

Data sourced from Gulf News; additional content by Warc staff