Pakistan Shows Potential for Online Retail Sales Expansion
Pakistan is the sixth largest country worldwide and has one of the highest growth rates among the economies in South Asia. Though Internet penetration of just above 10% lags behind many of its neighbors, mobile Internet and especially 3G/4G connections are spreading fast. E-Commerce is at the early stages of development in Pakistan, and connectivity share there falls significantly behind other countries of its income group in Asia-Pacific. However, as the number of Internet users grows, with young consumers accounting for over 60% of web connected individuals, they are beginning to grasp the benefits of online shopping.
Surveys have shown that Internet users in Pakistan shop online because it gives them more variety in products and saves time. The majority of online shoppers make their purchases on local sites, while close to a third buy from both local and international sites. Despite global E-Commerce merchants Amazon and eBay not offering direct delivery to Pakistan, these websites are among the most popular in the country as consumers turn to third-party operators to organize import of their orders from these merchants. China-based Alibaba, on the contrary, takes direct advantage of the growing market in Pakistan offering swift and often free delivery to this country from its websites Alibaba.com and Aliexpress.com. Prominent local E-Commerce players include online retailers and marketplace operators such as HSN (Homeshopping.pk), Symbios.pk, Daraz.pk, Shophive.com and Kaymu.pk.
One of the biggest challenges that these merchants have to work with in Pakistan is the underdeveloped online payment infrastructure. Cash remains the most used and the most offered payment method in both online and offline retail, as card penetration is low and electronic payment processing has sparse local offering. Moreover, online retailers have to win over the trust of consumers, as a third of them did not shop online because they found information about products displayed to be insufficient. With these obstacles overcome, Pakistan could become one of the future hotspots of emerging B2C E-Commerce.
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