e-Commerce or electronic commerce is one of the most popular forms of trading services or products and indulging in commercial transactions over the internet. Businesses are all about the internet these days. Internet is like the heart of the organizations, using e-commerce to supply a network of connections, marketing, funds transfer, data collection and other services for the convenience of customers.
e-Commerce and its applications have been picking up world over, with the Middle East being no exception. The rate at which the number of businesses have gone online or linked up with the internet, it was predicted that e-commerce would reach and maybe cross the $15 billion mark in the Middle East in 2015, which is a long way from the $9 billion mark in 2012. The booming rise in the number of internet users has led to a holistic online experience like product comparison over the internet, online shopping and awareness, especially over the recent years. This has helped to open the doors to e-commerce and its benefits.
The other trend seen in e-commerce in the Middle East is the use of mobile for purchases (every one in three users) and transactions. Besides this, social media that is the trend of the hour has been leveraged to brand products and increase online indulgence in their services. Thus, e-commerce has spread its applications over a plethora of services like B2B interactions, virtual shopping, data exchange, marketing, branding, retail and more. The Middle East countries, known for having the highest smartphone penetration in the world, are also known for leaving no resources untapped. Thus, they have been actively engaging in e-commerce to aid in growth and development and take their progress to a different level.
Africa has seen a change in the e-commerce scene as well. It may not be picking up at a very rapid rate, but the target audience for online usage and e-commerce engagements sure has shifted from affluent customers to regular internet users.
Mobile money and airtime have been famous services used extensively for a while now. Airtime, for instance involves mobile money to pay bills. This entails a lot of convenience to the users. Thus, in Africa, mobile phones and gadgets come second, only next to that. For example, credit cards have a very small percentage of penetration in Kenya, just ten percent or so. People still prefer the cash on delivery options or walking into the store to explore and analyse a product. If factors that cause a hindrance to the acceptance of e-commerce, like payment barrier, trust factor and security issues are taken care of, the switch over will be swift and quick and the scope for opening up to e-commerce will be higher, enabling seamless penetration. So far, mobile money for making payments of bills has been a very popular feature. Incorporating e-commerce in providing utility services such as electricity and the likes is gradually evolving. While online purchases are expanding, so is the social media and concept of online branding strengthening.