Despite there still being significant growth potential for eCommerce in Qatar, the sector took a quantum leap forward from 2018 to 2019.
According to the recent MCIT 2019 Impact Survey, four main drivers convinced Qatar’s online shoppers to add-to-basket, the largest factor being convenience and time efficiency, according to 34% of respondents.
This was followed closely by the price advantage of online shopping (33%), and the ease of being able to compare products and prices (20%) simply by clicking between websites, rather than having to travel from store to store. Another key factor in their decision to shop online is simply access to a wider variety of products (13%).
Local residents are indeed taking to eCommerce in line with global trends, primarily purchasing electronics, airline and travel products, taxi services and food delivery. And they want more of it.
Survey respondents indicated that Qatar’s online shoppers would like to see more local eCommerce sites selling:
As with online shoppers in other countries, they want to shop quickly, easily and conveniently, with more than 50% of survey respondents preferring shopping apps that can easily be accessed on their mobile phones.
One company benefitting from the growth of online shopping and the appeal of convenience in the food delivery space, is talabat.com, an eCommerce site that connects customers to local restaurants.
Founded in 2004 and headquartered in Kuwait, Talabat now operates across 7 countries, including Qatar, Jordan and Oman, and fulfills up to
At the core of Talabat’s offering is convenience. Customers can search for and filter local restaurants by cuisine and area, browse menus, place orders, and pay either online or via cash-on-delivery. Orders can be customised to personal preferences and delivered immediately or scheduled for a specific time. Talabat’s 24/7 live chat feature offers direct, personal assistance, and customers can also access restaurant promotions and discounts via the site.
Crucially, customers are able to rate and review their experience, which influences the purchase decisions of other potential customers, increases sales and website traffic, improves Talabat’s search engine rankings, and provides valuable customer feedback for both Talabat and Qatar’s restaurants.
Unsurprisingly, in six months, the site saw a total of approximately 70,000 visits in Qatar alone – substantial, yet a mere 4% of the total 1.75 million visits to talabat.com across all the countries in which it operates. Additionally, the site enjoys an overall low bounce rate of 31%, with visitors spending an average of 7 minutes on the site, visiting as many as 5.6 pages at a time.
The source of most of Talabat’s traffic is direct (67%), followed by search (27%), and, to a far lesser extent, social media, referrals and display advertising, indicating that the company’s reputation, word-of-mouth and search engine optimisation tactics have built it into a high-ranking and top-of-mind service provider in the food delivery space.
This success has led to numerous awards, including the World Summit Award Mobile content (WSA-Mobile content), a United Nations-funded award recognising the site’s mobile content and creativity, as well as Arabian Business’ 2014 Best Internet Company Award.
Most significantly, in 2015, Talabat was acquired by Rocket Internet for a reported figure of $170 million, a move made possible by the eCommerce site’s performance, industry value and prevailing market dynamics.
The acquisition no doubt allows Talabat to target further growth and expansion, possibly beyond the food delivery industry and into other service lines. Yet this will require substantial research on the part of the company, as each country has its own unique preferences, logistics demands, regulations and restrictions.
For local entrepreneurs who seek to build financially feasible, scalable eCommerce companies that will take advantage of Qatar’s wealth of opportunities, talabat.com is an inspiration. Yet it is also a remarkable case study of what can be achieved by a small start-up that understands its market and its unique selling proposition.