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Gulf ecommerce set for fast growth

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Ecommerce in the Gulf countries is expected to grow “exponentially” in coming years, a new report suggests. By 2015 the online retail market in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries will grow to $15bn (£9.6bn), from $3.3bn (£2.1bn) in 2010, according to the first of a series of new quarterly reports from IMRG and Visa.

In 2010 online consumers in the United Arab Emirates accounted for an estimated 60%, or $1.9bn of that total. In Saudi Arabia, shoppers spend $520m, followed by Qatar ($375m), Kuwait ($280m), Bahrain ($175m) and Oman ($70m).

The projected growth in coming years will be driven, says the IMRG, by a young population with high disposable incomes, supported by ICT investment including government spending on e-government programmes, and growing multichannel offers from retailers.

Since 2000, internet use in the region has grown by 1,500% from 1.2m users in 200 to 18.7m in 2010.

“It’s clear that there is huge potential for ecommerce to grow further,” said Aad Weening, head of international and research at IMRG International, “and it is therefore vital that more becomes known about all aspects of online shopping in terms of data, impact of the internet economy, consumer behaviour and attitude in order to demonstrate the business opportunities for international investors but also initiatives to set up domestic sites.

"This will not only increase the available offer but will at the same time inspire trust and confidence among consumers.”

Stephen Leeds, ecommerce business leader for Visa Middle East, said: “Online shopping is still in its infancy in the region but all the signs are there that it will continue to grow, such as government commitment, retailer investment and, most importantly, a young population open to trying new technologies and innovations.”

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