E-Commerce Industry: The business area for IT companies in the Middle East


The Middle East’s e-commerce space has been booming over the last few years, with a recent report by payment solutions provider Payfort, suggesting regional e-commerce sales could touch $15 billion by end of 2015, up from $9 billion in 2012. Competitive pricing and better deals (60 per cent) were found to be key motivations for users shopping online, while convenience (56 per cent) was also a key factor. The report found that there are around 4.43 million online buyers in the region mainly spread across the UAE, KSA, Egypt, Qatar and Kuwait, with the UAE accounting for the biggest chunk at 3.6 million. Online shopping in the Middle East is rapidly evolving and has grown by 1500% over the last decade. With a dynamic young population and with one of the highest global per capita internet penetration levels the online spending potential is quickly emerging as one of the highest in the world.

PayPal has relatively recently joined the party and they recently released some statistics based on their research in the region:

  • There are 110 million internet users in the Middle East and North Africa, of which 30 million are shopping online already. PayPal estimates a total population of 350 million.
  • Spending online in the Middle East and North Africa was $9 billion in 2012 and is forecast to grow to $15 billion by 2015, of which $3 billion will be spent on mobile, up from the $500 million spent today.
  • Travel tickets are currently the biggest spend for online shoppers in the Middle East, with an average of $1,521 spent each year, followed by $250 on consumer electronics.
  • About 10% of purchases in the Middle East are made on a tablet or mobile, and 90% at a PC or laptop.
  • Trade between online shoppers in the Middle East and businesses based in the region makes up only 10% of total spend. The rest is consumers buying from outside the Middle East and delivering to the region.
  • About 80% of online purchases in the Middle East are made with cash on delivery. Credit and debit cards make up 15% and PayPal the remainder.
  • Souq.com, Cobone.com and Sukar.com are the three biggest, locally-based e-commerce sites in the Middle East based on consumers’ average annual spend.

A large chunk of regional entrepreneurs are now targeting e-commerce or online platform based industries. “Creativity is the name of the game moving to the future. Hence, the internet offers regional entrepreneurs new ways to market their goods and services and differentiate themselves at the same time. thanks to social media and heavy internet usage, people are turning to online portals for time and efficiency. Businesses that are centered around facilitating time and those that help consumers find solutions to existing problems will be extremely successful. But while the industry is flourishing, experts highlight the lack of established players, with only a few successful ventures standing tall in the region. The online business industry is growing fast, learn how to start an online business here.

Setting Up Troubles

One major challenge to set up an online venture is that although it is extremely easy for an entrepreneur to start a business in cities such as Dubai, permissions for e-commerce gateways are still a grey area in the region.  In order to set up full-fledged e-commerce portals, companies invest a hefty sum or generally piggy back off existing portals. Presently learning from more advanced digital markets like India, where the technical talent and resources have really made it easy to launch a digital venture.

Developing your E-Commerce Business

A successful e-commerce store development could be difficult if you are not well aware of the basic principles and techniques on how it should work for your online business. With some know-how and basic idea you can come up with an online store that can really help your business to make good money online. A professional ecommerce store can bring you number of benefits such as cost reduction by reducing labor, shorter payment time, flexibility and efficiency and improved customer services. You will also get access to the new markets with high potential anywhere in the world.

E-commerce store development requires professionals who have technical skills and expertise in creating an online shop for your business according to your specific needs. They have huge knowledge and experience of developing small and large e-commerce stores. With custom e-commerce you will be rest assured that your business would get remarkable online presence and high return on your investment. You can fully automate your business to managing from the stock, selling, payments, delivering and to the customer support. 

At iLink Systems, having worked with companies in the US we have extensive experience at building E-Commerce solutions for key players and would like to collaborate with companies looking to expand their business the internet way.


The future of eCommerce in the Middle East is bright. We all know this, but it’s exciting to see the first real success stories of local and international brands that are paving the way for others to follow. More importantly, they are encouraging and building trust in online shopping in the Middle East and converting internet users to online shoppers. Another quick way to go eCommerce is to use an eCommerce engine with which you running a Shopify store or uCommerce and here too we see increased interest within the region. Integrations with various online payment gateways are also becoming a more common feature across projects. The most popular payment gateways are: Network International (CyberSource – for more info), PayPal as well as solutions from Mashreq Bank (MiGS) and National Bank of Abu Dhabi.

In the next article we will tell you about benefits of FIfth Third 529 college savings plan. Stay tuned!