While e-commerce has been with us for a considerable amount of time, the Covid-19 pandemic and the effects of lockdown protocols across the region have pushed its use to new heights.
According to Dubai CommerCity, the Middle East’s e-commerce retail market is projected to reach $26 billion by 2022.
E-commerce is growing to become the retail option of choice in the current environment for a number of reasons. First, it helps business and customers to follow all health and safety regulations, while serving their customers.
Second, less contact means more peace of mind for the consumers. Instead of having to walkthrough dozens, if not hundreds of other mall shoppers and staff, customers can deal with one person, delivering their purchase to their home, work, or the location of their choice. Social distancing is easier for the consumer with e-commerce – and contactless deliveries are now standard for many delivery providers.
E-commerce also generates data, which can be used to improve the customer experience through recommendations, cross-selling and CRM (customer relationship management).
The pandemic has encouraged people to commit to e-commerce. Nielsen found that an increasing number of consumers, especially in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, have been shopping online more since the pandemic. Post-outbreak, 31% of consumers in the UAE, 26% in Kuwait and 47% in Bahrain and Oman intend to continue shopping online for packaged food.
Service providers must not miss this opportunity. Consumers have come to not just trust, but rely on e-commerce since the lockdown, so retailers must keep providing quality products at appropriate prices without compromising the customer experience.
Since GCC countries have some of the highest levels of smartphone and internet penetration in the world and are moving from 4G to 5G mobile networks, e-commerce may spread even further.
As these markets grow, service quality will improve, delivery networks will expand, and vendors will find more partners. The challenge for vendors and service providers is to keep quality high, so the platforms remain credible. Customers need to know that their purchases will be delivered safely that the purchase will be secure, and that their personal information will be protected.
Supply chains are adjusting to the needs of the consumers, and geographical boundaries are less of a problem as lockdown in most countries in the GCC have ended. Returns processes are now more efficient and convenient. Retailers are launching new solutions, like click-and-collect, hold-at-location, direct delivery, e-collect and alternative delivery addresses.
By the time all international and logistics limitations return to their pre-Covid status, the true potential and adoption of e-commerce will be clear. Today, we can buy almost anything we want, from almost anywhere in the world, and have it delivered within a matter of days.
E-commerce is the future of retail, and that future is closer today than it has ever been before.
By Nathalie Amiel-Ferrault
The views/opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Al Bawaba Business or its affiliates.