Online retail business grew 14 per cent in 2011 to $226.8 million (Dh832.4 million) compared to $198.2 million in 2010 as the economic recession drove shoppers to surf the internet for bargains, according to the latest statistics by Euromonitor International.
"People in the UAE mostly shop on group-buying websites in search of bargains. The trend to shop online for apparel and electronics is growing slowly although not yet developed for the reason that most people visit the mall on the weekend anyway and would rather touch the item/see it on display than shop online," Sana Toukan, Research Manager at Euromonitor International, told Gulf News.
In the Arab world, better offers lured 64 per cent of internet users to shop online rather than at bricks and mortar stores, a recent study by Onecard, an online payment solutions company, revealed.
One in every three internet users in the Arab world shops online at least once a month, according to the study titled Online Shopping in the Arab World.
Slightly more than half of the online shoppers were from the Gulf at 52 per cent, followed by 40 per cent from North Africa and 37 per cent from the Levant, the study said.
It showed that 43 per cent of internet users had experienced shopping online.
More men than women buy products and services online, the study said. Out of 100 men, 46 per cent are buying online and out of 100 women, 32 per cent are online shoppers.
Not surprisingly, most shoppers going online for their retail fix are between the ages of 26 to 35.
However, online shopping in the Arab world is still facing a number of client concerns: 56 per cent of respondents said they were concerned about credit card fraud, 37 per cent cited the non-return policy if they didn't like the product, 20 per cent said they couldn't tell what the product was like online, 16 per cent said it did not give them the real buying experience and 9 per cent said they needed help from a sales person.
But good bargains available attracted 64 per cent to online shopping, 38 per cent were motivated by easy comparison of products, 36 per cent liked surfing a range of products from the comfort of their home, 34 per cent bene-fited from checking other users' product reviews and 28 per cent liked having different payment methods to choose from.
The most popular items bought online are games and virtual currency (41 per cent), computer software (31 per cent), electronics (28 per cent), clothes (17 per cent), music and movies (15 per cent), accessories (14 per cent), books and magazines (13 per cent) and home appliances (11 per cent).
At the bottom of the shopping list were beauty and health products (8 per cent) and food and drinks (5 per cent).
Game purchases were mainly driven by 16 to 25 year olds.
In Saudi Arabia and Egypt, most online shoppers preferred to pay by prepaid cards, followed by credit cards, cash on delivery, bank transfers and Paypal, the study said.
For a single online purchase, 58 per cent would pay up to $100 per purchase and 36 per cent would pay between $100 and $1,000.
The results were based on a study of 1,000 internet users across countries in the GCC, North Africa and the Levant.