The e-commerce industry in the MENA region has witnessed a major transformation in consumer behavior due to the coronavirus pandemic, and e-commerce landscape will continue to change.
Social distancing, quarantines and lockdowns imposed by governments to curb the spread of Covid‑19 have compelled a large segment of the MENA population to shop online instead of physical stores and use digital payments instead of cash to minimize the risks of getting infected.
The restrictions on movement and closing of public spaces also drastically reduced footfall for many brick-and-mortar retailers and this has pushed traditional retail outlets to expand their online presence. Majid Al-Futtaim Retail accelerated the launch of their marketplace online platform and Emaar set-up a simulated Dubai Mall on the e-commerce platform noon.com for customers to shop virtually.
According to a survey conducted by research by Ernst & Young, the first week of May found that 92% of consumers in the UAE and KSA had changed their shopping habits, with 52% terming the change “significant.”
There has also been a shift in categories from items such as apparel, accessories and electronics, lodging and airlines to everyday spends like food and groceries, medicines, household chemicals and personal hygiene. According to Amazon Middle East, sales of multi-purpose home cleaning products increased by 490%, liquid soap by 1,000%, packaged foods by 380%, electronics by over 220%, and Gym equipment by 600%.
With the current set of restrictions from the pandemic expected to be with us for a long while, it is important that markets further strengthen their digital infrastructure, systems and applications to cope with whatever challenges the future may bring.