Online shopping is here to stay

In the UAE, e-commerce site Souq.com has emerged as one of the most visited websites for shopping online. One in two consumers in the UAE tends to shop on Souq.com. The site records over 30 million visits per month. The journey has been very exciting, admits its co-founder & CEO Ronaldo Mouchawar, who was among the eminent participants at our recently concluded retail knowledge roundtable, RetailME Connect, which focused on “Decoding the Omni-channel Formula.”

We spoke to Mouchawar about his reactions on the first of our many-to-come Connect Series and his views on the state of regional e-commerce market

Your thoughts on RetailME Connect

A platform like RetailME Connect, bringing together the bright minds in retail, is extremely useful and informative for us. It’s interesting to see different retailers’ perspectives towards omni-channel. At Souq.com we’ve always been an open marketplace so for us it is very crucial to connect with different retailers selling on the internet to see how we can collaborate, effectively utilising the traffic and in turn increasing the choice for our customers.

What is the size of the regional e-commerce market?

E-commerce has grown rapidly over the last couple of years. We’re witnessing a 60% growth rate year-on-year. In 2014 the online shopping segment grew a further 34%, bringing the value of the market to $10-12 billion that’s expected to touch the $15 billion-mark this year.

It’s an exciting time for regional e-commerce players like us. We’re seeing more and more shoppers willing to buy online. Several brands are also coming on to the internet, exploring possibilities by leveraging other channels like social media and mobile.

How much of your sales happen through mobile devices?

Around 40-to-50% of our sales are made through mobile devices. In fact, we also launched our mobile app for Apple, Android and Windows, which has seen over two million downloads, demonstrating a huge growth potential in this category.

Mobile penetration in the GCC is very high. Consumers here like to stay connected even on the go to access product information, reviews as well as recommendations on company websites as well as social media. It acts as a great way to start the shopping journey.

Why is the cash on delivery option preferred over credit card in this region?

There are two angles to this habit. Culturally this region is a predominantly cash society. Many people don’t like accessing credit cards that aren’t Sharia-compliant, having to pay interest if timely payment isn’t done. Additionally, certain countries in the region have less credit card penetration. Take the example of Egypt where consumers don’t really use credit cards, thereby increasing the usage of cash on delivery (COD) option. On the other hand, credit card usage is higher in the UAE compared to Egypt. However, this habit isn’t restricted to the Middle East alone. Consumers in big e-commerce markets such as Russia, China and India also tend to prefer the COD option over credit cards.

 

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