Slow, but steady: Online shopping gathers steam

Slow, but steady: Online shopping gathers steam
Updated 08 October 2012

Slow, but steady: Online shopping gathers steam

Slow, but steady: Online shopping gathers steam

Shopping through the Internet is still not as popular in Saudi Arabia as it is in the West, but the trend is slowly catching up. Net users are shedding their apprehensions and have started to buy and sell products on the Web.
Many of them believe the popularity of online shopping has not yet emerged due to the lack of sufficient infrastructure to support it as well as the small number of credit card users in the Kingdom. Besides, several people fear the risk of sharing sensitive information online, despite the advancement in technology that has made online shopping affordable and accessible to a mass audience.
“Although experts are trying their best to increase security levels, there is no guarantee for shoppers to be satisfied,” said Haifa Rehab, who rarely shops online.
Mona Rayan, a young Saudi entrepreneur, said: “Most people have access to the Internet, but they are less confident with computers. Likewise, people’s main concern with online shopping is giving their credit card details to a website they are not even sure is genuine, and indeed the security question discourages them from spending money online.”
A recent MasterCard survey on online shopping behavior disclosed that 46 percent of Saudi shoppers — mainly in the age group of 18-24 — access the Internet for shopping. A number of youngsters in the country prefer to buy clothing, footwear, gadgets, mobiles, accessories, branded perfumes, or books online, as they consider it cost-effective, highly convenient and time saving.
Mohammed Yahiya, a 20-year-old student, said: “Traditionally, many Saudis are conservative in their approach to shopping. They want to touch and feel the products and test its features before buying anything.”
He thinks adults are not convinced by the benefits of online shopping, even though it enables them to make substantial savings. Usually, people think they cannot get a good look at a product before buying it, as the pictures offered don’t give enough details.
According to the study, in Saudi Arabia it is mostly the expatriate consumer who orders items from abroad and has them shipped to Saudi Arabia.
“It is easier to buy branded clothes with good discount options online. However, it is not very famous in the Kingdom. People here depend on the sales in malls even though they are seasonal,” said Joseph Nahir, who prefers to shop online.
A Saudi businessman, Sohail Rub, said: “We can find all products in the malls under a single roof and at competitive prices, in addition to having the satisfaction of looking at the goods before purchasing them. It’s hard to evaluate product quality when purchasing online."
“Moreover,” he added, “visiting malls is the best pastime with family in the weekend.”
Although there are problems, many people believe online shopping has the potential to grow exponentially in the times to come.
Online shopping will certainly become more prevalent in Saudi Arabia as a way to find products for more competitive prices and save time. On the other hand, for many Saudis, going out to a mall is also a social activity besides being a shopping expedition for needed items.