The joy of eCommerce

ECommerce, no doubt, is quite lucrative. With an estimated 19 per cent growth this year, global eCommerce sales may touch a good 16 per cent of all sales. The figure, which stood at $3.5 trillion last year, may exceed $4.2 trillion this year, and is all set to cross $6.5 trillion over the next three years. And the number of online shoppers can reach 2.1 billion by next year. Very encouraging, indeed.
The industry achieved a significant 25.6 per cent growth during 2014-2017. And, it’s not just B2C; B2B eCommerce sales too are expected to grow significantly and reach $6.6 trillion this year.
But what about the good old physical stores, lovingly called ‘brick-and-mortar-shops’? Are they on their way out? Is there an inherent conflict between them?
Even as online shopping is all set to overtake physical store sales in the near future, industry experts feel physical stores will continue to exist as great assets for eCommerce players. The key to their survival is, of course, innovation. The focus is on offering unique shopping experiences. Of course, they have great value as the physical, trusted face of online stores.
Nike’s highly experiential shopping stores are a pointer to the future of physical stores. Nike allows shoppers to personally customise products allow them to undergo fitness tests and get a feel of the new products through various engagement options. Clearly, the stress is on enhancing the joy of physical shopping, which its e-version can simply never offer, at least as far as the state of technology today is concerned.
Even eCommerce titans, such as Shopify, are looking at opening physical stores as a means to boost sales.
B2B eCommerce has grown beyond wholesalers selling to retailers. Firms don’t mind boosting their budget in favour of more B2B purchases. Here SaaS and other high-end technology providers are ruling the turf churning out products and services that automate or enhance manual tasks.
What all these mean for Oman, where the eCommerce market is nascent and holds a minuscule share of less than 2 per cent of total sales? That eCommerce firms can look to Oman as a major growth market in the long term.
Already a few innovative startups have emerged in Oman’s eCommerce sector. Jeeblee Online is one such, which has positioned itself as Oman’s first multi-category e-mall that allows people to shop online at their familiar and trusted retail shops. The opportunity to shop at the digital avatars of physical stores addresses the issue of trust deficit, which holds back customers in the region from online shopping, to an extent. Also, Jeeblee Online offers cash on delivery payment option, which again, takes care of fears about online fraud, another potential risk feared by online shoppers.
With the Sultanate’s government all geared up to nurture the eCommerce sector with positive rules and regulations and a commitment to providing an enabling environment for the sector’s growth, and eCommerce firms looking at innovation and shoppers’ trust as the key aspects of their business model, customers can look forward to a great e-shopping experience in the Sultanate.