By Zaki Abbas Shah
The internet has tremendously transformed the way the retail business is done all over the globe and now it’s doing the same in countries like Pakistan. In recent years, the trend of online shopping has caught up quite speedily in Pakistan. According to industry sources say the country’s e-commerce market has more than doubled in 2014 to $60 million.
There are many online shopping portals that are offering discounted services in beauty, health, entertainment and food sectors specifically. Besides there are plenty of online and Facebook pages which are selling goods, products and even are dealing in real estate on market competitive rates. Daraz.pk, kaymu.pk, lootlo.pk, dealtoday.pk, and zameen.com are among the top market leaders in Pakistan’s online shopping arena.
The most common types of products Pakistani people buy online include clothing, electronics, mobile phones and footwear, according to 2014 survey on online shopping behavior in Pakistan conducted by Kaymu. The report indicated that most Pakistanis prefer to buy online as they consider it a time-saving, hassle-free experience and also feel online offer access to huge variety of products that are available to comparatively cheaper prices.
More and more people in Pakistan are now buying things online as they find it convenient, safe and time-and-money saving practice. Being a business graduate, I have studied the online consumer behaviour in Pakistan and have identified some of the major reasons of growth in online shopping in Pakistan.
1. Time-saving and Convenience:
Shopping in Pakistan has been a hectic experience as customers had to spend a great deal of time, rushing from mall to mall in order to find the preferred products available on cheap prices or on discounts. But online shopping has made lives easier. The traditional time-taking activity of shopping has now been replaced with digital one where all you have to do is few clicks, find out prices in different websites, and shopping done. Although many people prefer to go to shops as they like to touch and feel the products before buying but the number of savvy shoppers who make the best of online shopping is now on the rise.
2. Fuel and Money saving experience:
Some distinctive Pakistani issues such as long queues at fuel pumps and rising inflation including mounting prices of fuel is one of the reasons that people choose to buy from home rather than taking out the car, standing in long queue to get their fuel tanks re-filled, and wasting extra amount of money.
3. Online Stores know their customers better than Traditional retailers:
They key to attracting customers is to understand their psyche well and Pakistani online stores seem to have paid due attention to the shoppers. All kinds of imported stuff usually impress Pakistanis instantly and this obsession motivated the online businesses to offer high quality products online that are not available in local stores and sell export leftovers (overruns of export orders for European and American brands). Moreover, online marketers have largely proved to be smarter than their traditional counterparts. That’s why they are using web analytics tools that provide actionable data, such as customer’s interests, location, social graph, that help businesses assess which products are popular among customers and which are not getting much response. Whereas typical physical stores do not devote time to utilize technology and are many years behind in the technology used by online stores.
4. Manual search vs. Digital search:
Every shopping website has a search bar from which offers customers access to easily find out what exactly they are looking for. While in conventional stores walk-in customers have to devote great deal of time in finding exact products and often have to ask the respective shop staffs who are also not well-informed about the product placement in shelves.
5. Social sharing affects shopping decisions:
Pakistanis are fairly fond of shopping. And it doesn’t stop there, we love to share the tales our shopping experiences and preferences with our friends, family and coworkers. Our very habit of sharing and discussing our relevant experiences is what give online marketers a pervasive way to measure sought-after metrics in digital shopping. Internet and social media networks also offer marketers an inexpensive way to create a brand that people not only like but also want to share with their friends which is also the first principle of creating a brand.
Engaging friends in their personal shopping experiences – both online and in real-time – is a way to appraise the worth of products we bought. On social media, the likes, shares and comments of people around us and, now online product reviews, hugely impact our shopping decisions. This social sharing concept also equally helps marketers in assessing customers’ choices.
6. Good Customers Services and Privileges by online stores:
With so many shopping options, customer service matters more than ever today. Even small brands that provide customers with excellent services, and proactively engage with customers, are making it big in Pakistan. People here generally feel honoured by great services such as personal accounts, custom-made information packs and products, quick feedback/response, ease of ordering, cancelling, or reviewing of products, which is another reason of success of web stores in the country.
7. You do not have to pay Sales tax:
One reason thing that definitely matters and benefits the customers big time is that people don’t have to bear sales tax while shopping through online stores.
8. Safe shopping in times of Terror:
As Pakistan has been engaged in the fatal war against terrorism for 11 long years now which has claimed hundreds of lives, the shopping trends of people have also changed drastically. People now tend to avoid huge public gatherings and/or roaming in shopping malls and markets. In online stores, Pakistanis have found a safe and convenient alternative shopping experience.
The writer is a business graduate, researcher and freelance writer.