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Monday, October 25, 2021

Ride the wave or drown: How the pandemic forced traditional businesses to go online


Experts say that the emergence of online businesses could pose a serious threat to the traditional retail industry.

In recent years, e-commerce businesses have witnessed an unprecedented rise, with growth recorded last year in particular mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With the shuttering of physical stores, e-commerce websites gained traffic, prompting some traditional companies to go online for the first time since their inception, in a bid to keep afloat throughout the economic hit.

“As a result of the restrictions imposed on consumers and retailers with the Covid-19 pandemic, e-commerce activity significantly increased in Qatar in 2020,” the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MOTC) stated in a market intelligence report last year.

“As consumer preferences shift and demand increases for more household purchases online, retailers in Qatar are analysing their sales and marketing strategies and identifying ways to leverage this new and growing trend by expanding and modernising their online sales applications and platforms,” the report added.

In an interview with Doha News, a prominent Qatari entrepreneur said that although the emergence of online businesses proved to be a life-saver for many, it still has adverse impact on traditional shops and companies in the country.

“Online business or e-commerce platforms are forcing retail businesses to shut down,” the entrepreneur said. However, the impact on retail stores in Qatar, is not as extensive as in other countries, since locals prefer visiting shops, he added.

The pandemic and prolonged global lockdowns have forced consumers to shift their shopping habits and encourage online shopping, which has in recent years become even more convenient and efficient due to multiple online payment options. 

“Any retail business not having online presence will be dramatically affected by this change of consumer behaviour,” the entrepreneur said, noting that digital shopping is more accessible to the public and provides a platform for many businesses to ride the wave. 

“It’s a way to innovate and succeed,” he added.

Read also: Qatar anticipated to award $31 billion worth of projects in 2021: Kamco

Though it has now increased in popularity, online shopping has not always been a go-to option. Prior to the pandemic, most people in Qatar were unable to trust online sources due to concerns regarding scams and cyber hacks. 

Speaking to Doha News, Expert and Founder and Chairperson of Tamkeen Training and Consulting Solutions Dr. Buthaina Al Ansari, Strategic said the pandemic gave the public a chance to look forward and find alternatives to unforeseen challenges. 

“This is a big shift in the retail industry,” she said.

Al Ansari noted that expanding the business industry and generating different revenue resources is part of the Qatar national vision 2030, which aims to provide diverse revenue resources other than oil and gas. 

The expert praised Qatar’s role in supporting and encouraging investors to explore the digital market and noted initiatives by the government to protect online businesses and change the perception of e-commerce across society.

“Online businesses will overtake traditional retail businesses,” she said.

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