E-commerce in the Middle East: Facts and statistics

E-commerce in the Middle East is a huge gateway that has produced prospects for development and prosperity to the region as an integrated whole. And despite its slow emergence, it remains a path paved with many future opportunities, with high expectations to achieve billions in revenues by the end of this fiscal year 2021.

The beginning of e-commerce in the Middle East

At first, e-commerce showed no promise in the middle-eastern market due to the limited spread of the internet, as well as the absence of internet-oriented shopping culture in middle-eastern societies. A study published in 2012 showed that online shopping companies in the region only account for 15% of the global share. 

Since then, the region has been actively working to increase this percentage one year at a time. The following information highlights statistical data on the beginning of e-commerce growth in the Middle East until 2012. 

  • Spending on e-commerce reached a total of 1.1$ billion from 72.5 million users on the internet.
  • The actual purchase was limited to a percentage of only 33% all coming from prominent e-commerce websites. 
  • In 2016, the total value of the electronic retail sector was only 3 billion, while the value jumped to promising figures in the following year with 425 billion revenue.  

The growth of e-commerce in the Middle East between 2015-2020: 

Great progress was achieved between 2015-2020, demonstrated by the following examples: 

  • The GCC region (gulf cooperation council) generated 5$ billion in profit in 2015. 
  • By the year 2015, the annual spending on online purchases in the Middle East was approximately 15$ billion.
  • In 2016, electronic retail sales in the Middle East were estimated to be 28.12$ billion, with a more than 6$ billion increase compared to the previous year. 
  • Consumers who made online purchases of services and products from outside their region exceeded 66% of total shoppers. 
  • The annual spending of an e-shopper in the Middle East during 2016 was estimated to be 820.45$. 
  • Saudi Arabic, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt were at the top of the list of countries with the most online shoppers, occupying a combined 80% of the total market. 
  • The global spread of the new coronavirus made the year 2020-2021 witnessed a tremendous boost in online shopping, benefiting from the unprecedented global shutdowns. 
  • Social networking sites have become a fertile ground for attracting more new consumers, as Facebook provides about 70%, and Instagram with 59%.
  • An elite group of merchants and website owners in the Middle East have managed to take control of 90% of the total market, with China being the first. 
  • Between 2014-2017, the e-commerce market achieved tremendous annual growth of 25% in the MENA region, raising profits to 8.3$ billion. 
  • According to one of the studies published by eMARKETER, e-commerce market sales in 2019 amounted to 34.69$ billion. And with continuous growth, the numbers are expected to rise 49$ billion by 2021. 
  • The growth of e-commerce in the Middle East in 2020 took a new direction as it became more prosperous under the influence of many factors, on top of which the outbreak of the Corona epidemic forced consumers to stay at home and buy their needs electronically.

The prospects of e-commerce in the Middle East in the upcoming years 

The growth of e-commerce in the Middle East has become the focus of experts and stakeholders as signs of recovery and prosperity have begun to appear again. From among the expectations about e-commerce over the coming years in the region, we sum the most important: 

  • There’s a possibility of an increase in the volume of e-commerce in 2022 to 28.5$ billions, similar to the growth witnessed in the previous two years, a prediction that was made prior to the emergence of the new Coronavirus.
  • Almost certain expectations of an e-commerce recovery with the persistence of the Coronavirus for a longer period of time around the world; all of which popularized relying on websites, offers, and electronic discounts more than ever.
  •  In 2020, a report issued by Checkout.com confirmed a prosperous future and growth phase for e-commerce throughout 2021, and the region has managed to fully regulate the issue of connected payments.
  • Economists have high hopes that the e-commerce market will reach 148.5$ billion by 2022. 

While it may be difficult to completely replace traditional shopping, e-commerce, nevertheless, continues to grow and develop, especially with the introduction of many innovations that facilitate the shopping process and online search of products.