Lebanon shows promise for online shopping growth: MasterCard Survey

Beirut, Lebanon, 26 March 2014: Consumers in Lebanon are now gradually exploring online shopping options, according to the 2014 Online Shopping Behaviour Study conducted by MasterCard.  In a significant sign of optimism for companies with an online presence, the survey revealed that over 20 per cent shoppers had made at least one online purchase during three months prior to this study.

The Online Shopping Behavior Survey, which measures consumers’ propensity to shop online, was conducted at the end of last year and was based on interviews with 3000 respondents from 6 markets[1] across the Middle East. Consumers said they spend the most amount of money on airline tickets, clothing, hotel bookings, followed by cinema bookings and products in online gaming.

Aaron Oliver, head of emerging payments – Middle East and Africa, MasterCard said: “Online shopping in Lebanon is certainly following an upward trajectory and one of the key drivers of this gradual but steady growth is the introduction of secure and innovative electronic payment solutions that have opened the online shopping avenue for consumers in Lebanon.”

“The e-commerce industry can play a vital role in the growth of Lebanon’s economy and we are seeing more companies exploring the online shopping platform to grow their business. Financial institutions in Lebanon are also focusing on supporting the growth of the e-commerce industry by developing customized payment solutions that will eventually raise awareness amongst consumers about the convenience, speed and safety of their transactions while shopping online,” added Oliver.

According to the study, more than a quarter of the respondents made at least one online purchase in 2013, a colossal increase from approximately 4 per cent in 2012. Nearly one fourth of the respondents identified Amazon as the most commonly visited website for online shopping. Preferred by nearly 20 per cent respondents, eBay and Gosawa emerged as the next two most popular websites for online shopping in Lebanon.

The survey also highlighted that while websites offering clothing, hotel and travel bookings, movie tickets, books, CDs and DVDs have seen a measured increase in visitors since 2011, home appliances portals and websites offering food delivery services, as well as performing arts’ ticketing websites have witnessed a downward trajectory compared to previous years.

Lebanese consumers were clear about what factors sway their online purchasing decision, citing the user friendly layout of the website, low or no extra charges for using electronic payment tools and low or no extra charges of shipping as the most important considerations when making an online purchase.

When asked how online shopping could be improved in future, 50 per cent of shoppers stated this could be done through elimination of additional service charges. Ease of transactions and free or minimal delivery charges also emerged as popular suggestions.

Mobile Shopping

While smartphone penetration rate in Lebanon is rapidly on the rise, only 6 per cent of individuals surveyed made purchases using their mobile phones in recent months and an additional 12 per cent intended to use their phones to make a purchase in the six months following the study. More than half of the respondents confirmed that they preferred to shop online using their computer tablets. Another 40 per cent stated their preference to shop online via their PCs or laptops.

“With increasing internet penetration levels and introduction of highly engaging mobile shopping apps, m-commerce is certainly an emerging business avenue for companies in Lebanon. While currently in its nascent stage, mobile shopping in Lebanon is expected to become popular as consumers become aware of the safety and security features and begin getting more familiar with the numerous benefits of being able to shop on the go,” stated Oliver.

In fact, the availability of an increasing number of mobile apps and being able to do shopping while on the move have been voted as the top two reasons why shoppers make purchases using their phone.

The top three items purchased through mobile phones are music, clothing and fashion accessories, and beauty care products.

Other notable results include:

 Almost 25 per cent online shoppers believe in ‘ethical spending’ and are more likely to buy from merchants who are environmentally responsible, who partner with or donate to charities, and who are socially responsible.

  • Shoppers are gradually exploring local websites to make online purchases, but almost 68 per cent of online shoppers in Lebanon still purchase products from foreign websites.
  • Convenience and availability of wide variety of products locally available have been cited as some of the top reasons for shopping from local websites.

[1] Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Lebanon

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