Analysis: Cultural Reasons as the Biggest Hindrance
Although genuine barriers exist, such as credit card use and security of online payment systems, it’s clear that the perceived irrelevance of e-commerce to business in the region is the largest hindrance to its adoption. A lot of the respondents either never thought about it or didn’t think it was applicable to their business.
“This troubled us the most,” says Sami Hammoudeh, Customer Relationship Manager at Aramex. “Since its hard to convince people to invest in e-commerce when they don’t even believe in the potential of online shopping. But I think there will be a realization – either through anecdotal stories, press exposure, or detailed studies – of the success that some companies are already having with e-commerce.”
According to Sami Hammoudeh, cultural obstacles such as the preference for face-to-face communication, which accounts for almost a third of the reasons cited, is more a matter of perception than business reality. Modern consumer habits have already changed the way people shop. “We don’t shop in souqs, with its haggling and conversation,” he says. "Most purchases in the region take place in air-conditioned malls, in shops with fixed prices and hands-off customer service. E-commerce isn’t taking anything way, but actually adding convenience.”
Ultimately, e-commerce is a necessity for businesses seeking to expand its customer base, especially as governments in the region begin to address border and customs policies. Doing business online doesn’t mean creating an online business, but simply selling your existing products on an additional platform. The opportunities, of course, far outweigh initial administrative problems. The exposure, immediacy, feedback and customer knowledge of e-commerce are worth every dollar of outlay.