Qatar E-Commerce Opportunities
The e-commerce sector in Qatar is expected to grow from QAR 4.7 billion (US $1.3 billion) to QAR 12 billion (US $3.2 billion) by 2022. Buyers in Qatar spend on average US $260 per transaction. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, popular categories for online purchases included travel, electronics, carry-out food orders, and taxis/transportation. In Qatar, 87% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) accept credit cards, which are widely used in Qatar.
As a result of the restrictions imposed on consumers and retailers with the Covid-19 pandemic, e-commerce activity has significantly increased in Qatar in 2020. As consumer preferences shift and demand increases for more household purchases online, retailers in Qatar are analyzing their sales and marketing strategies and identifying ways to leverage this new and growing trend by expanding and modernizing their online sales applications and platforms.
Qatar’s National Vision 2030 includes a specific objective for the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MOTC) to develop a world-class technology infrastructure and services to enhance the quality of life in Qatar. To this end, since 2015, Qatar has undertaken an ambitious information and communications technology (ICT) expansion initiative, including several programs to kickstart public and private sector modernization in ICT infrastructure, e-government, and cybersecurity.
The ICT modernization efforts over the last five years have created an increasingly modern digital environment that is capable of supporting e-commerce. Lucrative incomes, high credit card penetration, and high-speed mobile and landline internet all contribute to an environment conducive to e-commerce adoption. Up until Covid-19, consumers generally still preferred to shop in stores, due to cultural affinity and easy access to modern shopping centers. However, despite the preference for in-person shopping, e-commerce grew notably from 2018 to 2019. According to a MOTC e-commerce survey in March 2019, the e-commerce penetration rate in Qatar in 2019 more than doubled over 2018 (37% in 2019 versus 15% in 2018). In addition, the same survey showed major shifts from 2018 to 2019 in terms of consumer preference for mobile app/site shopping over desktop shopping.
With lengthy closures of brick-and-mortar stores and malls due to Covid-19, e-commerce has suddenly gone from a convenient shopping alternative to a necessity, creating unprecedented and immediate opportunities for growth in a market where e-commerce was already taking off. While e-commerce was primarily an alternative for electronics, airline travel, taxi/transportation services, and prepared food delivery purchases before Covid-19, consumers in Qatar are leveraging their devices and tech savviness to seek a far wider variety of products through e-commerce. In response, retailers in Qatar are urgently exploring new operational areas to offer better consumer experiences online, both to adapt to these new demands and to survive the sharp downturn in retail sales during Covid-19. For instance, several brick-and-mortar retailers are currently seeking ways to offer online grocery shopping with same-day or overnight delivery. In addition, Covid-19 has accelerated the shift to digital banking, prompting financial institutions in Qatar to focus urgently on updating their digital platforms to better serve clients.
There are significant opportunities for U.S. companies to compete in the Qatari market by providing world-class e-commerce services and solutions, from online portal development to payment gateways and much more. The market offers a moderate potential for e-commerce technologies and online sellers of home goods and furniture, electronics, health, and beauty products. There is high market potential for marketplaces, department stores, and grocery retailers to expand revenue using e-commerce platforms.
Next steps for the U.S. client
U.S. companies with products and services offering e-commerce solutions should work with Anissa Lahreche at the U.S. Commercial Service in Qatar to explore matchmaking, market research, and other assistance that may prove beneficial.
Additionally, U.S. firms with e-commerce solutions that could support expanding online sales in Qatar should consider attending Qatar IT Conference and Exhibition (QITCOM), Qatar’s largest information and communication technology event that attracts technology providers, policymakers, and industry experts.