Five Trends Fueling The MENA's E-Commerce Boom
Almost half of consumers are likely to increase their online shopping over the next year, and the cash-dominated Middle East offers a significant growth opportunity.
The COVID-19 pandemic may still have the world in its devastating grip, but for the e-commerce and digital payment industries, the events of the past year have driven a massive boom in online spending– one that is expected to grow even further in 2021. Almost half of consumers are likely to increase their online shopping over the next year, and the cash-dominated Middle East offers a significant growth opportunity, as buyers’ preferences swing towards digital payments, rather than cash on delivery.
Research conducted by Checkout.com reveals that the payment process is a key consideration for online shoppers in the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan (MENAP) region. Not surprisingly, 48% of consumers in this region consider a safe, secure, and convenient payment process to be the most important factor in buying online after price, placing it above fast shipping and easy returns processes.
Checkout.com headquarters. Source: Checkout.com
The more frequently consumers shop online, the more significantly the preference for digital payments increases; six in 10 (62%) of those who shop online at least once a month pay via card or digital wallet. This emphasizes just how central a strong payment platform is to an e-commerce business’ success, as well as to the growth of the digital economy. Today, we see five high-impact trends that will drive the evolution of the region’s e-commerce and payments ecosystem:
1. Acceleration of the digital lifestyle E-commerce in the MENAP region is amongst the fastest-growing in the world. Checkout.com’s own platform saw an 86% increase in digital payment transactions since the start of the pandemic in the region. Traditionally, this region has been slower to adopt e-commerce than elsewhere in the world, but society is increasingly aware of the convenience and added value of digital commerce, which is driving large-scale transformation. The MENAP has approximately 300 million young customers who are mobile-centric and live in the global digital ecosystem. They are no doubt a force behind the shift to e-commerce, but chances are that the need to shop online during pandemic lockdowns has changed habits for even the most reluctant of online spenders.
2. Subscription retail As businesses continue to innovate, consolidate, and remove friction for customers, this has established this trend: the subscription and “platformization” of retail. By introducing all-encompassing platforms that offer easy and frictionless payments, businesses are tapping into a convenience-hungry audience who want to be able to do everything at the touch of a button– or the tap of a screen, as the case may be. This is a growing trend amongst a plethora of industries, from food delivery to groceries to car fueling.
3. Rise of domestic merchants This trend sees local brands serving the long tail of e-commerce, in several cases becoming competitive against some of the world’s biggest online platforms. There has been considerable innovation in this area recently, driven by the growing technology talent ecosystem throughout the region, particularly the availability of freelancers who can establish and develop platforms.
4. Fintech diversification Throughout the region, regulators and governments are supportive of innovation within the fintech and payments segments. There is a keenness to increase digital payment adoption, with the recognition that it represents a powerful vehicle for economic progress and diversification.
5. Igniting a digital economy Growing the digital economy is a core focus of many countries today, especially throughout the GCC. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, for example, are preparing to launch real-time payment infrastructures in the near future to support this. Regulators are also encouraging collaboration and fair competition to foster a stronger ecosystem, in which more businesses have the opportunity to flourish.
With such powerful shifts happening within the e-commerce and digital payments landscape, there is no better time for businesses in the region to take the plunge into the world of online retail. Yet to take full advantage of the opportunities within the highly-competitive space, businesses must remember to offer in-demand products and services with the best online shopping experience, which includes payment processes that are safe, secure, and convenient.