The trend of shopping online seems to be slowly catching up in Oman. Promoters of e-commerce sites hope that the increase in Internet penetration, from 20 per cent to 78 per cent in last three years is likely to further boost their business.
“Everything in the world is going online and Oman too is catching up with the online shopping trend,’’ according to Badar al Barwani, the founder of www.muscat360.com, an online portal that sells furniture.
"The site went live last September and on an average gets 200 visitors a day, though only few of them actually buy things. “We are doing well and I am very optimistic about online shopping business,’’ he said.
The new entrant into the online business, www.alatoolmuscat.com, too is getting a good response. “I am surprised by the response we got in the last one month,’’ said Jessica Asher, business development director of the portal.
The website that went live last month comes out with different deals every day on electronic items, hotels, restaurants, spas and other services."
Looking at the good response from online shoppers, www.alatool.com is soon launching its Arabic version.
The business model of these sites is to connect sellers and buyers and eliminate middlemen. Their revenues mainly come in the form of commission from sellers.
“Online shopping help people save time and energy. They do not have to go to a shop looking for a product, just select it online and we will deliver it,’’ said Laila al Hinai of www.ohielecshopping.com.
The portal, which is part of OHI Electronic Group, mainly sells electronic items and music systems from reputed brands like Bose, JVC and others.
Although people in Muscat, which is dotted with hypermarkets offering several deals, still like to 'touch and feel’ a product before buying it, the younger generation is not averse to online shopping.
“Our focus is mainly on youngsters in Muscat as they are the ones who are online always and want buy new products,’’ said Barwani.
Changes in the shopping habits of people don’t come easily, as not many use high-speed Internet and also, many offices block social networking and e-commerce sites for security reasons.
People still have some reservations about online payments. Issues related to online payments forced the promoters of www.khimjishopping.com to change the site from online shopping portal to that of a portal giving information about products.