E-Commerce to fast transform the $308b GCC retail sector, driven by user experience

Market expected to grow by 12.58% on annual basis to reach $116.8 billion in 2023.


Somshankar Bandyopadhyay

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Published: Sun 19 Mar 2023, 9:38 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Mar 2023, 1:39 PM

Digital disruption is fast changing the $308 billion retail sector in the GCC and according to research reports, the Business-to-Consumer (B2C) e-commerce market in Middle East and Africa is expected to grow by 12.58 per cent on annual basis to reach $116.8 billion in 2023.

“The medium to long-term growth story of B2C e-commerce industry in Middle East and Africa promises to be attractive,” says a research report by Business Wire, a Berkshire Hathaway company. “The B2C e-commerce is expected to grow steadily over the forecast period, recording a CAGR of 9.64 per cent during 2023-2027. The B2C e-commerce Gross Merchandise Value in the region will increase from $103.8 billion in 2022 to reach $168.8 billion by 2027.”

The new-age consumer behaviour is fast-evolving. The Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region will see 147 per cent growth in mobile wallet usage by 2025, according to Kearney. Further, it hints that 1 of 2 consumers in the Mena region is keen to experience Metaverse, and retailers are exploring Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to improve customer experience.

“We are pilot testing a project at Papa John’s Pizza that will capture multiple images of each of the pizzas prepared and served at our outlets and will the software will scan the images to show if they were perfect by measuring the size of the pizza, ingredients, toppings and even the positioning of the pepperonis and other ingredients to show if each of the slices get equal amount of the toppings,” Tapan Vaidya, CEO of PJP Investments, franchisee of Papa John’s Pizza, said at the first Internet Commerce Summit (ICS) 2023 that was recently held in Dubai.

By the end of 2023, the Mena region’s e-commerce market size is expected to be worth $100 billion.

There is a lot of opportunity waiting to be explored within the domain of the digital commerce ecosystem. Every industry needs to utilise this untapped horizon to reach great heights. Customers will only get more demanding for a connected experience and it is now on all of us to make it agile and ready for them. That’s the power of the internet and it will only grow manifolds,” Bhavesh Pitroda, Founder and Convenor of ICS, said.

Organised by IMAGES RetailME, the first ICS 2023 was built as a powerful platform that examined technology transformation, innovation and disruption across the e-commerce domain, for several business categories. This platform also brought to the front the future opportunities for industry stakeholders to benefit from.

Sudhakar Adapa, Founder & CEO, Commerzify, says, “e-commerce is a growing space in Mena. It is pivoting great success stories that are worth noticing. What is good to see is that these companies are spread all across industries and they are powering category growth like never before. ICS helped connect these powerhouses with the enabler ecosystem and that makes the narrative even more strong. Moreover, it is so heartening to see that the enabler ecosystem piggybacking on technology advancement is always ready to offer customised solutions to the brands and companies engaged in the internet business.”

More than 150 experts shared their knowledge and insights with over 500 delegates belonging to 300 companies on digital transformation and the growth of the e-commerce sector in the debut edition of ICS 2023. Delegates at the two-day Summit heard some exciting stories on digital transformation and innovative approaches, that is changing consumer behaviour and the way people shop.

A recent report by Amazon Payment Services indicates that consumers born between the late 1990s and early 2010s are the driving force for digital payments, thriving on innovation, convenience and seamless experiences. However, it is the Millenials, those born between 1981 and 1996, who have the highest spending power.

Piyush Chowhan, Chief Information Officer of Savola Group, said, “Customers are a step ahead and many retailers are still trying to catch up with their needs.”

Research shows that 51 per cent of Generation Z in the UAE use digital or mobile wallets for daily payments, compared to 48 per cent in Saudi Arabia, and 43 per cent in Egypt. Moreover, 20 per cent of UAE respondents reported a decline in cash usage, with 50 per cent of Generation Z respondents confirming that they exclusively use cards for transactions.

Tamana Padhi, Principal, Consumer Industry – Retail, said, “The global Metaverse market is set to grow at 33 per cent reaching $1 trillion in 5 years. The Mena region is set to build a $360 billion economy around Metaverse in 10 years. Overall consumers in Mena are maturing.”

Attendees at ICS covered the entire value chain of digital commerce businesses across Mena, India, Europe, and the United States.

Justina Eitzinger, Chief Operating Officer of IMAGES RetailME, said: “The debut edition of the Internet Commerce Summit 2023 has been an out-and-out success with experts sharing their insights on the future of this evolving industry. As the consumers, industry and the government stakeholders in the Middle East are evolving, it is important to give them the best knowledge, information and insights so that they can help re-shape the industry as per the consumer demand.”

To catalogue the growth of this market, IMAGES Group Mena unveiled its first-ever e-commerce Yearbook on March 17, 2023. This year, to mark the launch of this unique compilation, IMAGES RetailME has dedicated the book to the homegrown digital commerce ecosystem. Through this volume, the Yearbook traces the growth of the regional e-commerce landscape through the journeys and success of indigenous brands across multiple categories. The Yearbook features 100 homegrown names in the e-commerce domain, highlighting how they have disrupted, set trends and created individualistic business models in their respective categories.

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