According to the 2014 Online Shopping Behavior study, conducted by MasterCard, consumers in Lebanon are gradually exploring online shopping options, for more than 20 percent of respondents had made at least one purchase online in the three months prior to the study. The survey, which measures consumers’ propensity to shop online, was conducted at the end of last year and was based on interviews with 3,000 respondents from six markets across the Middle East region. Consumers say they spend the most money on airline tickets, clothing, hotel bookings, cinema bookings and products in online gaming.
“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,” says head of emerging payments at MasterCard Middle East and Africa, Aaron Oliver. “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 businesses. 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 among consumers about the convenience, speed and safety of their transactions, while shopping online.”
According to the study, more than one quarter of respondents made at least one online purchase in 2013, a colossal increase from approximately four percent in 2012. Approximately one fourth of the respondents identified Amazon as the most commonly visited website for online shopping. Preferred by approximately 20 percent of respondents, eBay and Gosawa emerged as the next 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, websites offering food delivery services and performing arts’ ticketing websites have witnessed a downward trajectory, when compared with previous years.
Lebanese consumers were clear about what factors sway their online purchasing decisions, citing the user-friendly layout of the website, low or no extra charges for using electronic payment tools, and low or no extra shipping charges as the three most important considerations when making an online purchase.
When asked how online shopping could be improved, 50 percent stated this could be done through elimination of additional service charges. Ease of transactions and free or minimal delivery charges were also popular suggestions.
While the smartphone penetration rate in Lebanon is rapidly on the rise, only six percent of individuals surveyed made purchases using their mobile phones in recent months and an additional 12 percent intended to use their phones to make a purchase in the six months following the study. The top four items purchased through mobile phones are music, clothing and fashion accessories, and beauty products. More than half of the respondents confirmed that they preferred to shop online using their tablets. Another 40 percent preferred to shop online via their PCs or laptops.
“With increasing Internet penetration levels and the 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 more aware of the safety and security features, and become more familiar with the numerous benefits of being able to shop on the go,” says Oliver. In fact, the availability of an increasing number of mobile apps and being able to shop while on the move have been voted as the top two reasons why shoppers make purchases using their phones.
Other notable results of the study include:
· Approximately 25 percent of online shoppers believed in ‘ethical spending’. These consumers were more likely to buy from merchants that are environmentally responsible, partner with or donate to charities, and are socially conscious
· Shoppers are gradually exploring local websites to make online purchases, but approximately 68 percent of online shoppers in Lebanon still purchases products from foreign websites
· Convenience and the availability of a wide variety of locally available products have been cited as some of the top reasons for shopping through local websites