Digitalization is the force behind the revolutionized world of today, where E-commerce is one of the most essential pillars of the modern corporate world. Online shopping is one of the fruits of the digitalization. Tim Burners Lee helped in propagation of the concept of online shopping with the incredible introduction of World Wide Web in 1990s. The global giants in online shopping are e-Bay, Amazon, Alibaba and others. The concept of online shopping is quite novel in Pakistan, a matter of almost two decades at max. The first online store in Pakistan was established in 2001 with the name of Beliscity and among the other stores that followed the suit were Shophive (2005), Symbios (2006) and HomeShopping (2008).
Recent stats and trends reveal that online shopping is increasing in Pakistan with lightening speed due to technological developments. The introduction of 3G and 4G technology had been instrumental in the mainstreaming of the online shopping among the masses. Online shopping trends are driving Pakistan’s economy in the forward direction at a fast pace. The statistics are formidable in this regard. According to Dawn, 2018 had been the year where the 18% of all retail sales happened via online shopping. The current trends are predicting that by 2040 around 95% of all the retail sales are going to happen and facilitated via online platforms.
Online shopping has been gaining traction in Pakistani youth lately, who are excited to embrace the new technology and differ from the older generation who are sceptical about the surety and originality of products bought and sold via online platforms. The same youth is super involved in using internet services, which paves the way for online shopping sprees. PTA (Pakistan telecommunication Authority) reported in 2015 that there were 32.22 million broadband users and increased to 78 million broadband subscribers in 2019. On the other hand, the cellular subscriptions amounted to 165 million people and there was an addition of 50 million more cellular subscribers at the end of 2019. These trends and statistics are looking promising for the growing online economy of Pakistan.
A couple of years ago, the trend of online shopping was only limited to the bigger cities of Pakistan such as Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Peshawar, Quetta. However, quite recently the online shopping has spread in many smaller cities due to an increase in the credibility of products and improved delivery services of these products. Therefore, the inhabitants of small towns and cities are also benefitting from the fruits of technology driven new medium of shopping.
Online shopping has an edge over the retail shopping in many respects. First, the customers do not have to go out of their houses in search of products, services and items of their interest, particularly in post-corona virus ridden world. Second, the customers come across a vast variety of products via click of their fingers, pick and choose from a diversified range of products 24/7. Third, the discount offers that are regularly being displayed by different retail brands and businesses make the people to shop online instead of making plans of going into the respective stores and putting up with the hassle in those stores during the time-period of discount offers in the middle of a pandemic. Fourth, the discount offers cater to the people with diverse affordability ranges and everyone gets the chance to buy the trendy products at affordable prices.
The obsession with online shopping is also contributing in the establishment of small businesses, start-ups, and medium range businesses. Small businesses are reaching out to their customers via the social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook in order to show case their craft. The PR campaigns by celebrities, bloggers, influencers and other individuals are promoting the products of small-scale businesses, which in turn support online shopping.
During the corona virus pandemic, the online shopping trend became insane, when virtually everything was closed off across the globe. Lockdowns forced the people to stay at their homes, with not much activity. At that time restaurants, retail stores, amusement spots and activities were closed across Pakistan just like the whole world. The brands of clothing, fashion accessories, food products, sports goods, mother care and all the other categories came out with and increased the online platforms for customers. Small businesses came up with their own range of retail products and even grocery stores started offering online services.
For instance, the CEO of GrocerApp Ahmad Saeed claimed that after the implementation of lockdown during the first wave of corona virus in 2019, their business grew by 50 to 70 percent month on month. On the other hand, the orders of the same GrocerApp were increasing at the rate of 20% every month before the outbreak of Corona virus pandemic. Jarrar Shah, the CEO of another online grocery store 24Seven claimed the same and said that the demands shoot up drastically during the lockdowns and they had to readapt according to the situation.
The major online service providers in Pakistan are Daraz, OLX, Alibaba, FoodPanda, Telemart, among many others. The online shopping is not only limited to the buying and selling of products and goods only, other categories are also being fast included in this field. The ride-hailing category has Careem and Uber as global start-ups, which are quite popular in Pakistan and operate in major cities. Bykea is their local competitor along with regional players like Cheetay. Moreover, Rozee.com and zameen.com are the prominent players in property category. Additionally the large transportation service providers such as PIA, Daewoo, Pakistan railways are also the beneficiaries of online shopping trends. Commuters can now buy tickets via E-ticketing services offered by the likes of Easytickets, Sastatickets, Bookme.pk, Checkin.pk and others.
The major potential of online shopping is still untapped when it comes to online shopping from foreign countries due to the unavailability global payment network like PayPal. However, Amazon recently announced to start its operations in Pakistan, which is a promising prospect for the bright future of online shopping in Pakistan.