The value of the e-commerce sector in Qatar exceeded $2.2bn in 2020, showing a 47% increase over $1.5bn in 2019, Qatar Chamber revealed in a recent study.
The study titled, ‘E-Commerce in the State of Qatar: Reality, Challenges and Solutions’, also stated that the volume of e-commerce in the country is expected to hit $2.3bn this year.
It also reported on the emergence of e-commerce and its related concepts and advantage, as well as the infrastructure of e-commerce in Qatar and how it contributes to achieving Qatar National Vision 2030.
The report discussed the current expenditure and growth of Qatar’s e-commerce sector, in addition to the legislation, laws, and government-provided facilities to accelerate and support e-commerce. It also highlighted the initiatives adopted by Qatar to develop the sector amid the challenges facing the e-commerce industry.
According to the study, the volume of global online shopping sales is estimated at $25tn in 2018, with the number of e-shoppers reaching 1.66bn worldwide, including nearly 9% of the international retail market.
“E-commerce has become more necessary to carry out business than it was before due to the increase of consumer awareness in light of the increasing penetration rate of the use of Internet services with broadband and high-frequency, as well as the availability of advanced infrastructure for the Internet and smartphone, which contributes to having a significant impact on how to carry out business between the business-to-consumer sector and the business-to-business sector,” the study said.
“The State of Qatar was not far from this development, as the e-commerce document, which is the first of its kind in the country, drew the broad lines of the current situation of e-commerce in the State,” it also said.
The study confirmed that Qatar has a suitable environment for the adoption of e-commerce and has a developed infrastructure for the Internet. It ranks first among the highest countries in the world in terms of the deployment of fixed fibre networks and occupies a leading position in the implementation of mobile networks and the fifth generation.
Qatar also ranks second globally out of 175 countries in the Internet speed test via mobile networks, and its citizens and residents enjoy high levels of income. Being at the top resulted in a high rate of per capita spending on luxury products, especially in electronic purchases.
The report said, “The availability of online accounts for citizens over the age of 15, the spread of bank accounts, postal reliability, the increasing use of e-applications at the level of ministries and government institutions in the framework of e-government development, and the advanced legislation in this field, which enhances confidence and reliability in electronic services, have all helped in the great spread in the use of means of communication and information technology, where the average single purchase transaction carried out by a Qatari citizen amounted $260.”
Qatar ranked first in the Gulf and fifth globally in the mobile Internet flow speed index, with a rate of 59.90MB. It also ranked first in the Gulf and 39 globally in the level of fixed broadband Internet, according to the ‘Speed Test’ website. Currently, Qatar ranks seventh in e-commerce among the business-to-consumer sector in terms of the volume of transactions in the Middle East and North Africa.
The study also said the e-commerce sector in Qatar saw significant growth climbing to rank 47 in 2019 compared to 59 in 2018, joining the top 50 list, which includes 152 countries.
“This means that Qatar is better than 105 countries, according to the 2019 ‘E-Commerce Index’ issued by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), an indicator that monitors the progress of countries according to four sub-indicators, including the prevalence of Internet use, availability of electronic accounts for citizens over the age of 15, the spread of bank accounts, and postal reliability.
“It referred to the expectations of the Planning and Statistics Authority that indicated to a growth in the transactions of the e-commerce sector at a compound annual growth rate of 17% until 2025,” the report said.
The study stated that Covid-19 had a negative impact on large sectors of the international and local economy in many countries, but in return, some sectors were able to achieve “great rise and growth,” such as e-commerce, which flourished in various countries.
The study said most large, medium, and even small companies have made a qualitative leap in terms of spread, marketing, and pumping into the markets within the framework of the economic closure that occurred to confront the outbreak of the virus.
It stated that e-commerce witnessed “a strong renaissance” in Qatar in 2020, during which Qatar went through “a partial and comprehensive economic closure like other countries of the world.”
The report also referred to a study prepared by the Arab Monetary Fund, which said the pandemic has been accompanied by an increase in the use of mobile phones by 50%, and an increase in the use of online data by 40%, allowing many companies operating in Qatar to thrive and increase their presence and shares in the local market. The prevalence of e-commerce in Qatar is estimated at 14%, the report said.
The chamber’s study showed that the size of Qatar’s e-commerce market in 2020 amounted to $2.2bn, distributed almost equally between businesses’ dealings with each other and between businesses and consumers.
Local companies accounted for about 38% of the total value of these transactions, while the share of foreign companies accounted for 62%. Qatar is the seventh-largest online market in the Mena region, and the Ministry of Transport and Communications expects the market size to reach QR12bn by 2022, and the value of e-commerce transactions is expected to jump over the next three years to about 150%.
It said the transactions of this sector account for more than $2tn of total commercial transactions globally, and that Qatar leads Middle East countries in terms of the average value of a single transaction, which amounts to $264 per transaction.
E-commerce companies witnessed an increase in numbers in 2020, reaching 350 companies by the end of June, and reached 416 in December 2020, which translates to 66 new e-commerce companies in six months.
The most important activities in this sector are food products and food delivery, groceries, clothes, gifts, electronics, and products related to beauty and fashion equipment, and health, in addition to technical games and sports, travel, digital books, hotel reservations, household items, and car spare parts.
The study also elaborated on the challenges facing e-commerce in Qatar, which include weak co-ordination between relevant authorities to set a clear system and policy for e-commerce to facilitate the registration and establishment of small and medium-sized companies for local and international investors.
Other challenges also include consumers’ low awareness of the options available in e-commerce and the weak spread of e-commerce among large numbers of temporary low-wage workers, which hinders efforts to promote e-commerce among these categories.
They also include the complexity of e-payment rules and systems and the high-cost collection process, which is an obstacle for SMEs, as most payments in Qatar are cash on delivery, which is the most common and acceptable among shoppers representing 75% of the total e-commerce payments, according to official statistics, in addition to a limited number of e-payment methods, such as credit cards, representing 19%, and PayPal (6%), among others.
The study recommends the development of policies, regulations, systems, and laws that support the practice of e-commerce in Qatar. It also recommended the activation and encouragement of e-payment by helping merchants collect and utilise prepaid bank cards and digital wallet technology, evaluate opportunities to provide simplified procedures for accrediting payment institutions and electronic financial institutions, facilitate the issuance of e-payment tools, such as prepaid cards and digital wallets, and study the development of the ‘E-Payment Law’, which could contribute to regulating the e-commerce market, and simultaneously would allow payment service providers to obtain the licenses required to conduct their business.
It also recommends motivating consumers to practice and use e-commerce and developing a simple single-window portal for workers to help them maximise the use of e-services. The study calls for the empowerment of merchants by facilitating and supporting the registration process of start-ups and related activities to help SMEs increase their presence on the Internet.