The e-commerce industry in the UAE is currently estimated to be worth $2.5 billion, which makes it amongst the lowest in the world as a percentage of total sales. This is mainly due to Dubai being one of the major international retail shopping destinations with some of the largest shopping malls in the world. Another reason e-commerce is in its infancy is that users have only recently started to get comfortable with the concept of online payment and credit card use. The wave of daily deal sites as well as aggressive advertising campaigns launched by e-commerce companies have served to improve comfort levels and increase the overall share of e-commerce in the UAE.
With e-commerce expected to grow to $10 billion by 2018, it is amongst the fastest growing industries in the UAE. Considering consumers in the region are becoming more tech savvy and the UAE has some of the highest Smartphone penetration in the world, and users are beginning to use the internet more and more, it is clear that it is only a matter of time before a large majority of transactions will begin to be driven online.
Another reason for the recent emergence of the e-commerce industry is the government and private entrepreneurial support that Dubai has received recently. New ideas and innovative concepts are being supported and endorsed which is helping build a strong and robust online industry in the region. This is highly exciting for startups that have made a strong impact within the online services marketplace within a short time.
Traditionally in the past, we only saw very niche and limited online resources or markets which were predominantly informative in nature. That has changed dramatically now as a large majority of users are not only accessing information but are transacting online for everyday functions like paying bills, topping up parking meters, booking flights and even ordering food.
Consumers want to access useful information, make decisions and transact - through a very simple and user-friendly interface. Contributors in the online industry are aware of this heavy information and transaction traffic and the challenge is ongoing on how to keep innovating yet maintain simplicity.
Therefore this is a very exciting time for the online industry in the UAE.
The author is the co-founder of BusinessBid, a Dubai-based one-stop services portal with over 700 services across multiple trades. As told to Abhishek Sengupta, Staff Reporter