Digital world revolutionizes MENA consumption habits

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A wide array of offers are available at Middle Eastern e-commerce websites and
Middle Eastern e-commerce websites and
The latest report by Ipsos reveals e-commerce in the Middle East and North Africa is primarily limited to online banking, airline bookings and auction participation.


A new report reveals growing internet use and other technologies are dramatically changing the consumption habits of MENA consumers.

Compiled by Ipsos, a leading research firm with over 25 years of experience in MENA, the study is based on a wide array of data gathered through in-person interviews and the tracking of Internet websites. The interviews covered a sample of over 22,000 respondents in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Lebanon and Kuwait. At the same time, the Ipsos-Gemius audience measurement study scraped and reviewed user data from scripted and non-scripted websites in 11 countries.

Major Highlights

  • Total number of Internet users in the Middle East and North Africa — over 40 million
  • GCC has the highest number of Internet users in the region (61%)
  • UAE (75%) leads region in internet use, followed by Kuwait (64%) and Qatar (61%)
  • Jordan (88%) leads social media use, followed by Egypt (79%) and the UAE (73%)
  • MENA e-commerce is primarily limited to online banking, travel bookings and auctions
  • Top product shopped online by MENA e-commerce users — clothing

According to the findings, the total number of MENA internet users stands at over 40 million. With an overall internet use of 39 percent, the region has benefited from the broadband revolution and from greater competition within the communications technology industry. At 61 percent, the GCC has the highest number of internet users in the region. Within the GCC, the UAE (75 percent), Kuwait (64 percent) and Qatar (61 percent) were the largest internet users per-capita.

The penetration of social media in the region is led by Jordan (88 percent), Egypt (79 percent) and the UAE (73 percent). It played an instrumental role during the Arab Spring and shook the political structure in some countries on account of social media’s ability to mobilize protesters.

The survey points to conventional media transforming itself to match the online revolution underway in the region. In Jordan, daily news (35 percent), TV (13 percent) and radio (7 percent) are available through the online platform.

The penetration of e-commerce among MENA Internet users has also grown at a steady pace. However, the usage of e-commerce is mostly limited to online banking, online travel bookings and online auctions. Clothing remains the top online product purchase by e-commerce users. Users in Kuwait (63 percent), Lebanon (38 percent) and the UAE (24 percent) most-frequently purchased clothing online. Online shoppers also purchased accessories and computer gadgets.

With the recent popularity of smartphones, online shopping and content sharing is set to rise in coming years. MENA users downloaded applications primarily related to news and feeds, fun and gaming, mail and instant messaging. The report made mention of the fact that in the UAE (54 percent), Kuwait (49 percent) and KSA (43 percent) online streaming was very popular. The streamed content included movies, entertainment, music videos and other educational topics. YouTube was the most popular video site among users.

Meanwhile, MENA users love to download content, including music, videos, software and games. Online gaming has also gained tremendous popularity in Jordan (40 percent), KSA (38 percent) and Kuwait (38 percent). Other online content of interest included jokes, news, ringtones, religious topics, weather and horoscope.

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