By Ayad Nahas, Communications Strategist
The Coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed the retail landscape in the Middle East. With people confined to their homes because of government-imposed restrictions to contain the spread of Covid 19, many have turned to online shopping to buy items ranging from groceries to clothing. Accordingly, online shopping has become the new normal.
According to Rudy Bekerjian, Chief Executive Officer and founder at Ecomz, one of the Middle East’s leading e-commerce platforms: “The Middle East has experienced a 5-fold increase in e-commerce since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. We are accordingly witnessing a drastic shift from high street to online shopping and this trend is expected to grow from strength to strength.”
The closure of shopping malls and high street stores since March 2020 in many countries throughout the Middle East has compelled a large segment of the GCC population to shop online. Led by the region’s largest economies Saudi Arabia and the UAE, it is estimated that e-commerce in the Gulf will amount to $29 billion in 2021 according to Kearney Middle East, a global consultancy firm.
The company also projects that online shopping will amount to over $34 bn in 2022, $39 bn by 2023, $44 bn by 2024, and $50 bn by the end of 2025.
According to other multiple sources within the retail industry, e-commerce will experience about 20% growth across the Middle East and Africa in the next five years, outpacing the expected global growth of 13%.
“The major drivers of e-commerce growth in the Middle East, especially in the Gulf region, is the high spending potential, the significant rise in internet penetration levels which stands at about 70% and a growing tech-savvy youth population,” said Amer Tabbara, Chief Sales Officer and co-founder at Ecomz.
One of the key factors that paved the way for this major rise in online shopping in the Middle East throughout the past few years is the use of mobile wallets as a result of global giants such as Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Apple Pay entering the fray, along with payment gateways and many local banks, especially in KSA and the UAE.
“With significant e-government drives and tech-savvy residents throughout GCC countries and other nations in the Middle East, anyone can make a payment at supermarkets, hotels, retail stores, F&B outlets, and many more with a simple tap of their smartphone or smartwatch. This is definitely a key driver for this evolution,” added Tabbara.
The future will witness the expansion of voice-activated payments, biometric payments, cryptocurrencies, and transactions by facial recognition that are no longer science fiction. They are science fact – and some countries in the GCC are ready and waiting to adopt and roll out these digital payment technologies sometime in the near future.
As the world goes through this drastic shift in shopping trends, it remains to be seen how traditional retail will adapt to this new normal, and retail companies will most certainly be forced to reconsider the way they do business going forward.