Two-thirds of consumers in the Middle East use the internet to research products and services, according to new research published by Econsultancy and Real Opinions.
The Middle East and North Africa Digital Consumer Report shows that 66% of consumers in MENA are using the internet to look for products or items to buy prior to purchase. Of these respondents, 48% use the internet occasionally and 18% use the web regularly to research products.
The report, which is based on a survey of more than 2,000 consumers across different regions in the Middle East, also shows that a third of consumers are currently purchasing products online, and this includes 27% who purchase occasionally and 6% who regularly buy online. Online consumers are paying for a wide variety of products. Flights are widely bought on the internet in the Middle East, but other things paid for online include hotel reservations, utility bills and books.
Some 39% of respondents currently do not buy online but report they intend to, indicating that consumer interest in e-commerce is set to grow in the region. Some of the barriers to buying online include a lack of trust in payment systems, unsuitable payment options and the lack of online retailers.
Econsultancy's Research Manager, Aliya Zaidi said: "The good news is that consumers want to purchase online and interest in e-commerce is rapidly growing, spelling out a clear opportunity for companies investing in digital channels. As more companies launch transactional online sites, consumers will become increasingly familiar with internet shopping." Zaidi continued: "Consumers also cited poor website design, unreliable delivery and inability to process customer orders, so a focus on best practice can help to remove some of the barriers to buying online."
The report also examines in detail how consumers use a wide range of online channels, including mobile, social media, search and email. Consumers are using the internet on their mobiles with 77% of respondents carrying out social networking, and 70% using email on their smartphone. Other activities carried out using smartphones include instant messaging, watching video clips and playing games.
Real Opinions' CEO, Dan Healy, said, "Investigating the results by country reveals how diversified Internet usage is across the Middle East. An interesting difference is where respondents access the internet, with 34% accessing via internet cafés in Yemen while only 8% use them in Bahrain as 18% use free public Wi-Fi networks. There clearly is a challenge for some countries to catch-up with others in the region."
Key survey findings:
The lack of trust in payment is cited as a barrier to buying online by 43% of respondents. The second most cited issue is unsuitable payment options, mentioned by over a third (36%) of respondents.
Social networking is the most popular online activity across the Middle East with 88% of consumers reporting they use the internet for this daily.
Facebook is overwhelmingly the most popular social media site in the Middle East, with some 98% of respondents stating they use the site.