Online shopping sites and the concept of e-retail should complement in store shopping and not compete with them, the head of the UAE’s biggest online shopping mall has said.
“Consumers should be given an option to look between online and offline,” said Ayaz Maqbool, managing director at Tejuri.com, speaking exclusively to Gulf Business.
“Today I can count a dozen channels through which consumers would like to shop – the mobile being one. We need to build an entire ecosystem of shopping where online and offline complement each other.”
Maqbool said that online shopping sites cannot replace in store shopping and both models should try to co-exist, advocating that both models should be integrated to achieve maximum sales.
Tejuri, which began operations earlier this year, is the only ‘mall’ powered to sell in more than 190 countries. It is also supported by Dubai’s Department of Economic Development.
The role of e-commerce in MENA is gaining importance due to its discerning consumers. Retailers and distributors are increasingly finding that an online presence can indeed drive sales and reach a wider target of consumers.
“Consumers are spending more time online to interact with the brands even though they buy offline,” said Merve Diken, associate director, consumer business development, Arabian Peninsula at P&G.
“This percentage in the region is high and that is why the enhanced content online is extremely important as it will help consumers to really know about the benefits of the products even though they don’t buy online.”
Diken said that an online presence helps consumers to assess a product, read reviews and compare prices with other products online. Maqbool agrees, saying consumers use the internet for in-depth research before zeroing in on a product.
“We found from our (pre-launch) research that there was a humungous need among the consumers to review the product from friends and social media,” he said.
“Consumers were reading about the product before they make a buying decision.”
Maqbool said that concerns including online security and the lack of experience were plaguing e-commerce in the region. But that does not seem to be holding back consumers in opting for an e-shopping experience.
Growth of smartphone penetration has also helped the e-commerce sector.
According to Google, 74 per cent and 73 per cent of UAE and Saudi residents own a smartphone. The growth of fixed and mobile internet access has resulted in annual growth of between 35 to 45 per cent for the Gulf’s e-retail industry.
A recent study by Interactive Media revealed that the MENA region was the fastest growing for e-commerce worldwide and is expected to reach $15 billion by 2015.