COVID-19 unlocked the door for ‘first-time’ online shoppers
The pandemic created a great opportunity for e-commerce, accelerating the digital transformation across CEMEA markets and adding a significant number of ‘first-timer’ shoppers as more consumers joined the online world and more merchants built a digital presence to cope with restrictions on physical commerce. More than 20 months since the onset of the COVID-19 shock, online shopping for various categories remains quite strong and most CEMEA consumers claim that they will continue to shop online even once the crisis is fully over, especially for grocery, food delivery, pharmacy and fashion.
Even categories of spend that are not typical of online shopping, such as high-value luxury stores—where consumers often prefer to physically inspect the product before splurging—are gaining notable traction in CEMEA. By August of this year, one in two consumers in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), Saudi and South Africa (S. Africa) said they started shopping online for luxury stores, while in Russia, it was slightly over one in four consumers.
However, a minority of CEMEA consumers surveyed claimed they would go back to brick and mortar shops rather than continue to shop online, highlighting some of the continuing challenges in certain CEMEA markets. Consumers had concerns about the reliability and security of the e-commerce websites/apps, high shipping costs, lengthy delivery times, product quality when not inspecting in-person, and the refund process.