How Much Did Arabs Shop Online in 2020?

Published May 27th, 2021 - 02:00 GMT
In 2020, there has been a major rise in use in most Arab countries. (Shutterstock: PopTika)

Considering the many changes that have occurred in our lives during 2020, given the pandemic and the extended lockdowns most countries around the world lived through because of it, it is still very relevant to examine how these unusual events have influenced the economy.

It was because of the abnormal living conditions that were imposed on most of us in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak that our consumption behaviors changed drastically, pushing more and more people to use new means to purchase their needs.

Thanks to movement restrictions, online shopping became much more popular, as of very few ways to obtain individuals' needs.

In this article, we will explore how e-commerce practices have changed throughout 2020 in four different Arab countries, from which data is available. All data highlighted in this article was reported in the 2021 Digital report conducted by


About 71.7% of Saudis have financial services online accounts, enabling them to make online purchases. Meanwhile, only about 16.3% of the country's residents own credit cards. Moreover, 38.5% of purchases by Saudis during 2020 were made online.

Saudi Arabia has been the biggest online spender amongst all Arab countries included in the study;

$4.74 billion were spent on travel and accommodation services despite a 45.5% drop compared to 2019.

Fashion-related purchases came in second place with $2.06 billion, with a 26.4% increase. Saudis also purchased $1.99 billion worth of electronics online, while their online sales of food and personal care products reached $1.34 billion, with a 37.5% spike.


The Emirates had the lead in its residents' access to online financial services as 88.2% of its residents reported having their own accounts, while 45.4% of them reported having credit cards.

Fashion and beauty purchases came in the first place in the UAE with $1.68 billion, with a 42.2% spike compared to 2019. Toys, DIY, and Hobbies related products were the second most popular purchase online with $1.52 billion, scoring a 37.7% increase, which does not seem strange given the fact that people had to get creative filling their free time throughout the year.

Despite a 48.5% drop in travel and accommodation online purchases, this sector generated $1.27 billion during 2020.

Electronics came in 5th place with $1.15 billion with a near 20% increase, while food-related purchases generated $715 million, with the highest spike (54.8%) in the country compared to the year before.


Having the highest population, Egypt's consumption of e-commerce is one of the most significant in the region. Despite relatively high poverty rates especially when compared to the GCC, Egypt's numbers came as quite a surprise.

According to the study, 32% of Egyptians have financial online accounts, while only 3.3% of them have credit cards. About 56.6% of the people surveyed had made an online purchase during 2020.

Despite a 42.5% decline in purchases related to travel and accommodation, this sector has generated $2.61 billion in Egypt throughout 2020. Electronics came in second place with $885.1 million, with a 47.2% rise. Fashion and beauty purchases followed with $762 million, with a 62.8% increase.

Yet, the highest spike was witnessed in food-related online purchases which grew by 94.8% making up to $616.3 million.


Online purchases in Morocco did not change drastically during 2020, unlike other countries in the region. This could be due to the fact that it was one of the countries with fewer movement restrictions compared to the ones around, making online shopping less of a priority.

The biggest change during 2020 hit the travel and accommodation industry as in the case everywhere else, where purchases declined by 48.8% making about $1.05 billion.

Meanwhile, Moroccans spent about $358 million on online video game purchases with a 29.9% increase. Electronics followed with a 20.3% rise making about $324 million. Fashion purchases came in fourth place with $290 million, rising by more than 31% compared to 2019.

How much did your online purchases increase during 2020? Which products did you obtain online on a regular basis?

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