The MENA region’s ecommerce market will continue to grow in 2016. The market for physical products sold online is predicted to grow $6.4 billion by 2020, which will result in a $13.4 billion ecommerce market in the MENA region. This is a significant increase compared to the market valuation in 2014, which was $7 billion. Entrepreneur Magazine has predicted that a change in consumer trends when it comes to online payments will be a major contributor to growth.
The larger ecommerce market with physical products and services combine for an estimated $40 billion industry in the MENA region.
MENA Ecommerce Leaders
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Egypt are leading the pack when it comes to online purchases in the region, the two largest population centers in the Arab world. In the KSA, more than two-thirds of online shoppers were buying products on their smartphones in 2014. Egypt continues to advance in internet usage and social media to find and purchase products online.
Close behind these two countries is the UAE. This country has the highest internet and mobile phone penetration rate and is home to large online retailers such as Souq.com and Sukar.com.
Payfort, an online payment platform for the Middle East, expects these three major markets will continue to drive changes in MENA ecommerce. Egypt has the largest number of online buyers, but the UAE and Kuwait have higher proportions of ecommerce customers per capita.
Reasons for Growth
The reasons behind this type of growth are higher online penetration levels, an increase in smartphone ownership by residents and changing trends in online payments. Additionally, high quality Wi-Fi is now available in more areas and the large expatriate community are buying their favorite international items online.
Changing payment trends are due to the MENA region’s preference for cash on delivery, rather than credit or debit cards. Payfort estimates that 72% of consumers in Egypt use cash for their ecommerce activity. This represents a challenge for ecommerce businesses entering into the MENA region, but it also represents an opportunity as other forms of payments grow in popularity in these markets.
While there are still MENA residents who prefer to purchase in-store, brands cannot overlook the online opportunities that have arisen in this ecommerce market. As an international brand with an ecommerce presence, it is imperative a localization strategy is implemented, especially in a region where there is a large expatriate community and various languages spoken. For brands based in the MENA region, a website translated into at least English and Arabic is essential as a part of a global marketing strategy.