When was the last time you bought something online? When was the last time you bought something online from a Pakistani website? Now, if you are a Pakistani living in Pakistan, when was the last time you bought something online from a Pakistani website? Notice how the answer to each subsequent question was smaller number than its predecessor? Online shopping is a scant and sacred convenience in Pakistan.

Nielsen’s Global Media Study reports Pakistan as being the second least online-shopping penetrated region in the world. More than 70% of its internet users have never shopped online. Local marketers believe this percentage to be even higher – and this is just talking about the major cities in Pakistan where internet access is available. Hence, online shopping has evident untapped potential.

What’s more to this angle? Taking into perspective the current online shopping scenario in Pakistan, the following are interestingly true angles to this online shopping trend:

  1. Scant: This kind of buying is minimal. Moreover, it’s few bringing in the most. Online shopper studies vouch for the fact that from the small base of online shoppers in the country, approximately only 18% bring the most business. This means that the others probably used it for trial. This makes the angle small and non-recurrent. This could slow growth because for real expansion of the trend, the base needs to widen and become more valuable.
  2. Concentrated to Specific Products: Online shopping is also concentrated and only popular for certain products. Books are on popular demand online because quality is not an issue. As long as the name of the book online is the same as the one you want, it’s safe to order! Airline tickets are another hot-cake online – it’s easy and ensures the booking’s been done; even if the payment remains. Tech gadget deals are browsed online very often, but most people still trust the walk into a store option.
  3. Risky: Online payments are still a challenge in Pakistan. Unavailability of online credit card services by all banks, add fuel to fire.  Online shopping websites exist and are great – though few. But they all ask for payment on delivery. This is an obvious inconvenience, especially if the item costs a lot. Also lack of cyberspace rulings by the government makes it hard to trust these online websites if anything goes wrong, only the shopper gets hurt!
  4. Experience – less: In a country where shopping and eating are the two most favorite past times, will online shopping do justice? We are socialites by nature and online shopping does not really count as a group activity! This becomes more complicated with the target market analysis. Most shopping is done by housewives – but how many of them use the internet?
  5. Cost: Is online shopping another way of minting money? 10% discounts are the best that shops here give. This excludes the rare good fortune of a small-sized ‘upto 50%’ on the billboards. Online shops keep higher prices to cover their maintenance costs, but it is also believed that this premium is simply too high. Atleast high enough to not justify buying the same items from an online store.

These should have been called the shady angles. There is another entirely positive side that I have saved for last though. Online shopping is extremely convenient, booming and definitely fitting in with the security situation of the country. Not to mention, it’s needed for our changing lifestyles. If I could simply order a face cleanser online the moment I run out of it, I won’t have to take a detour, get stuck in a traffic jam and stand in a long queue at the super store!

Online shopping would be great fun if there was more transparency in terms of its prices, quality, payment and delivery. If we could just get these things right, the sky is the limit for online shopping.