Mobile usage is rapidly growing in the Middle East. It is one of the main reasons for the growth of mobile-based e-commerce sales in the region as well.
With the contrast of a luxurious shopping mall culture and multiple e-commerce platforms, how popular is shopping via mobile in this region? What are the trending patterns of mobile shopping? What is the impact of mobile device usage on shopping?
Here are some interesting statistics about m-commerce and consumers’ mobile shopping behaviour in the MENA region.
Mobile Usage in MENA
Before studying mobile shopping and consumer behaviour in the MENA region, it’s important to understand the scope of mobile usage among the population.
Mobile penetration rates across the region are improving. The UAE’s mobile phone penetration, for instance, is estimated at 80.6% and is expected to grow to 82.8% by 2019, according to a 2015 report by eMarketer in association with Starcom Mediavest Group.
The region is also witnessing an acceleration in smartphone usage with high speed mobile broadband and 4G connection networks. A 2016 survey from Ipsos Marketing refers to the smartphone as the region’s ‘device of choice’ with 84% of MENA mobile subscribers using it. The survey further revealed that consumers from Gulf Cooperation Council countries are twice more likely to own a smartphone than those from North Africa. These numbers reveal the extensive mobile usage across the region.
Click here to read about the most expensive smartphones of 2016.
Mobile Shopping Platforms
Despite the prevalent use of tablets, laptops and PCs, the smartphone is still making its mark. It is seen as a much preferable platform to research and purchase products in the region. With such developments, more e-commerce businesses seem to invest in mobile-shopping sites and apps to gain revenue from m-commerce.
Think with Google’s study, ‘Shopping, Finance & Travel: The Role of Mobile Sites and Apps on the Path to Purchase’, which canvassed respondents across Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in 2016, features an interesting statistic. It reveals that 49% of respondents prefer mobile sites than apps when they’re browsing products without a specific aim, as sites are more likely to have more information. Mobile apps, on the other hand, are preferred to complete a defined task, such as a purchase. Around 60% of the respondents thought that apps were much faster and 62% found them much simpler to navigate. Another 41% have admitted to using shopping apps exclusively for in-app discounts and offers.
Mobile Shopping Patterns
The introduction of e-commerce platforms and invention of smartphones have greatly influenced retail patterns around the globe. According to ABI Research, the global m-commerce market is estimated to be responsible for 24.4% of overall e-commerce revenue by the end of 2017.
The MENA region is slowly yet steadily catching up with this mobile shopping trend. PwC’s 2016 ‘Total Retail Survey’, for instance, revealed that while mobile shopping in the Middle East is moving slowly compared to other regions, it has shown a notable increase from 61% in 2014 to 70% in 2016. Tablet (66% to 64%) and PC (92% to 89%) based shopping, on the other hand, declined during the same period.
Even though security concerns are holding them back, 46% of PwC’s survey respondents expect mobile devices to be their main purchasing channel in the future. According to 2014 survey results in a report by yStats, more than two-thirds of Saudi Arabia’s online shoppers purchase through smartphones. The Dhofar University research, ‘Opportunities and Challenges for E-commerce in the MENA Region’ also revealed that in KSA, there has been a 36% to 55% increase in mobile commerce penetration among all types of online shoppers, and about four in every ten consumers have shown the potential to purchase through their mobile devices. Furthermore, higher earning professionals have demonstrated the greatest potential to spend more, especially Arab expats in their mid-20s to early 30s who live in Riyadh.
With a wide range of products available for purchase on the go — from home appliances and apparels to tech gadgets — ever wondered which products have the highest demand among regional shoppers?
A 2015 study by GSMA on ‘The Mobile Economy’ in the Arab states revealed that airline fares, app store products and consumer electronics top the list among GCC consumers. It also revealed that more than half of the GCC population purchases via mobile phones.
In this age, mobile devices can play an important role in influencing purchase decisions. Aside from shopping, consumers in the Middle East are also increasingly using their devices to perform other related actions. According to the 2014 On Device research, 90% of its UAE and KSA respondents, and 60% of Egyptian respondents had used their smartphones for shopping-related activities such as checking prices and product reviews. The study further revealed that the most popular (35%) shopping-related activity was seeking advice from friends and family about a product by sending its picture to them.
Similar statistics were featured in the PwC survey where consumers revealed purchase-related activities they use their mobiles phones for while shopping in a store.
The above statistics reveal that mobile devices can encourage users to look into additional information that can be helpful in making their purchase decisions. But do they actually influence purchase decisions?
According to Ipsos’ Moments that Matter Research in 2015, 75% consumers in the UAE who researched products on their smartphones have considered buying from a brand that they usually wouldn’t buy from because relevant information was available via their device at the time. Moreover, 69% actually made a purchase. According to a consumer barometer by Google, a high number (84%) of young people under the age of 25 years in Saudi Arabia have also made a purchase after researching on their smartphones. The numbers speak for themselves.
Compared to other regions, the MENA consumer is seemingly reluctant to purchase online due to several reasons. The GSMA report highlights three areas:
According to the report, there’s a lack of confidence among consumers in the region when it comes to online payments and data security. The PwC survey also notes that 65% of the Middle East respondents are worried about the safety of their personal financial information when shopping through a mobile device. This may have contributed to 30% of them having never shopped via mobile.
Here are the findings of the PwC survey on consumer concerns when purchasing through a mobile phone:
The GSMA report reveals that by 2014, offline retail sales in the UAE reached $33 billion, while online retail ($0.5 billion) and mobile commerce ($122 million) accounted for less. As offline retail shopping offers the wholesome retail experience with dining, leisure and entertainment, consumers may prefer it over mobile shopping.
Cash on Delivery (COD)
Consumers in the MENA region are seemingly more interested in COD transactions. The GSMA report says that this is driven by the low use of credit cards and a lack of trust in online transactions. In contrast, the Ipsos study has revealed that mobile consumers in the GCC are much more likely to opt for debit/credit cards as payment methods online due to the high number of banking consumers and credit card penetration. Even though mobile-shopping is still progressing in the MENA region, it has shown a more rapid growth internationally.
Vouchercloud has compiled an interesting infographic featuring global stats on mobile commerce growth and mobile consumer behaviour:
- It has been predicted that 8.2 billion handheld mobile devices will be active by 2018.
- These mobile devices are expected to generate an average of 2.7 GB of traffic per month
- By 2018, mobile commerce sales are estimated to reach $626 billion.
- 30% of current e-commerce transactions in Japan are via mobile.
- 90% of customers use their smartphones to obtain information on locations and opening hours of a business before shopping.
Check out the infographic by Vouchercloud in detail:
Do you have these mobile shopping habits too? Let us know in the comment section below!