Cutting to the Chase

Answering what is driving the growth of a phenomenon provides many meaningful insights. These insights provide clues to the state of affairs. It gives an inside understanding of that field. For business reasons, awareness and understanding of the market environment lead to the formulation of better business models and business plans. This blog cuts to the chase catching up with the driving forces behind the growth of the eCommerce market in Qatar.

Stream of Government Initiatives

The government in Qatar has played and continues to play a critical role in the growth and development of eCommerce in the country. Numerous initiatives have been undertaken by Qatar in different areas to promote eCommerce.

Qatar’s Vision 2030 envisages the modernisation of information and communication infrastructure and capabilities. The ICT is placed as a priority sector in this vision. There is also a growing focus on consumer protection, online transactions, transparency, and grievance redressal mechanisms.

Rules and regulations governing data privacy are updated from time to time towards keeping up with international standards and practices.

There are evolutions in the taxation framework to foster a fair and competitive business environment for eCommerce companies in Qatar.

The Qatar National ECommerce Roadmap 2017 maps a comprehensive vision and strategy to build a robust and reliable eCommerce ecosystem in the country. The key highlights of this roadmap are strengthening the regulatory framework, improving the flow of logistics and delivery, promoting digital payments, building customer confidence, and empowering merchants. For example, Theqa Trust Mark is a non-profit program that checks and certifies the legitimacy of online businesses towards building consumer trust. Theqa means ‘trust’ in Arabic. All eCommerce companies in Qatar are eligible to register for Theqa.

Near-100% Internet and Smartphone Penetration

The most fundamental technological requirement for eCommerce to exist and grow is the internet and its penetration trajectory. As in the majority of the world back in the early 2000s, internet penetration was limited in Qatar. Some estimates peg this figure at below 10% before 2005. Post 2005, Qatar has witnessed a massive increase in the number of internet users in the country touching as high as 86% in 2011 as per some estimates. Currently, nearly everyone in Qatar uses the internet putting the internet penetration rate at a near-100%.

Smartphones need not be the only nature of the device from which eCommerce shopping could take place. However, the ability to use eCommerce apps on smartphones further contributes to making shopping more mobile. Customers are empowered to manage their shopping journey and experiences from anywhere and in a matter of minutes. It is estimated that by 2013, almost every citizen of Qatar aged above 35 owned a smartphone. Today, smartphone penetration in the country is anticipated to be about 90%.

Please note that the figures and estimates used are only indicative in nature and are only intended to show that Qatar is doing good on both the parameters of internet and smartphone penetration – two complementary factors that drive the growth of eCommerce.

Exceptionally High Penetration of Social Media

Social media platforms provide a suitable window for eCommerce brands to promote their products. Because of their extensive user base, social media platforms allow brands to connect with a large audience in a very short time. Advertisements and other content can be targeted more effectively reaching users of specific demographics. Social media platforms provide a platform for direct communication for eCommerce brands to interact with customers, win their trust, and foster loyalty. Social media has also emerged as an avenue for customer support helping respond to customer queries, addressing grievances, and feeding brand personality. The ability to share content in rich formats like images and videos also contributes to influencing purchasing decisions. Such content also helps in the presentation of products and services. Shoppable posts allow customers to directly navigate from social media platforms to the websites of eCommerce brands. High usage of social media serves as a ready-made ground for advertising and sales.

Social media penetration is exceptionally high in Qatar with over 90% of internet users active on at least one platform. This represents a massive leap compared to just a decade ago showcasing the rapid adoption of social media in the country. Meta’s Facebook and Instagram have the maximum user base followed by micro-blogging site – X (Formerly, Twitter). Qatar’s tech-savvy population in conjunction with government efforts has played a big role in the rapid adoption of social media in Qatar.  

Widespread Digital Literacy

Experienced eCommerce consultants and other industry stakeholders would agree that digital literacy plays a facilitating role in the adoption and increased use of eCommerce. Although using simple online applications or their simple features is something even 5-year-olds can do nowadays, doing online shopping requires more than basic skills. It takes a bit of experience and outside knowledge to get a hang of going through the full cycle of the general online shopping process over eCommerce apps/websites. Even with adults, using a new application may take some time to get used to, even though similar apps might have been used earlier. Digital literacy is the operational understanding of the working of the internet and digital devices and online platforms for various purposes like work, personal communication, registration, shopping, making online payments, travel bookings, raising complaints, managing social media, maintaining digital safety, etc.

As a highly educated country (literacy rate above 90%), digital literacy finds a strong prominence among both citizens and the government of Qatar. The government of Qatar has launched several initiatives to impart digital skills, increase digital awareness, and encourage safe and responsible behaviour on online platforms. Other examples include offering financial and technical assistance to eCommerce merchants and the creation of a centralised platform facilitating secure online payments. ECommerce platforms like Shopify also play an important role in helping new online businesses start their eCommerce stores. There may be certain limitations in the features and functionalities offered by such eCommerce platforms. The cumulative efforts of all stakeholders have boosted the adoption and growth of eCommerce in Qatar. A near-100% internet and smartphone penetration and 90% active users on at least one social media platform further speak for the state of digital literacy in Qatar.

High-Income Levels

Qatar is an expensive place to live but at the same time, the income levels are also very high. This makes it necessary to consider levels of disposable income. According to Statista, the household disposable income per capita in Qatar is expected to touch USD 9.46k in 2024. To put this context, the same figures for China, the UK, Saudi Arabia, and UAE are USD 6.05k, USD 53.37k, USD 3.66k and USD 7.73k. In this list, the only country ahead of Qatar is the United Kingdom.

A higher disposable income signifies affordability for high-end technological products and luxury items, and most importantly, an inclination to try out new technologies and new ways of shopping including eCommerce. This inclination gives confidence to eCommerce companies in Qatar (including MSMEs) to try out new and enhanced value propositions and offerings. The general human tendency is that after needs are covered; there is a willingness to go for the desirables. Of course, values, culture, and tradition play a big role in this.

Unique Composition of Population

Qatar is a country with a high presence of expatriates. Qatar (Arab) citizens constitute <15% of the country’s entire population. There are many reasons why such a demographic composition goes in favour of eCommerce.

Compared to brick-and-mortar stores and physical marketplaces, online shopping saves time and effort in the backdrop of the unfamiliarity with local languages or the layout of cities often encountered by expats. ECommerce provides a medium to procure niche goods internationally (from home countries of expatriates) that may not be easily available in a foreign country. Familiarity with eCommerce platforms is another reason to quickly adopt them in another country. As eCommerce shopping apps/sites offer content in multiple language options, it makes shopping easier for expats who are not well-versed in local languages. The home delivery feature also makes eCommerce a more convenient option to do shopping, saving the trouble of traversing through the unknown or little-known roads and streets in a foreign land.


The way Qatar’s eCommerce market stands today is a collective outcome of many forces. On the top of the list is the effort on the part of its government. Over the past decade, there has been a stream of initiatives to create a conducive environment for both the merchants and customers of eCommerce in the country. Secondly, two essential technologies for eCommerce to thrive – the internet and smartphones – have reached almost every Qatari citizen. Thirdly, the country has also seen a rapid adoption of social media. This has allowed retail and eCommerce companies in Qatar to digitally connect with their target audiences in a short time. Then, the high digital literacy in Qatar made the adoption of eCommerce easier. The adoption of digital payments serves as an example in this case. Albeit with limitations, online store builders like Shopify have helped numerous entrepreneurs start their Shopify stores in Qatar. Fifth and sixth in the list are income and population divide. Qatar is recognised to be one of the countries with high levels of disposable income. A high level of disposable income encourages people to try new technologies and experiences and in the case of eCommerce, a different way of shopping that is also more convenient. The high presence of expatriates in Qatar is also a driving force for its eCommerce market. Different people encounter different kinds of challenges in a foreign land. It could be conversing in a foreign language, locating stores, navigating through unfamiliar traffic layouts, etc. For shopping purposes, these are almost like obstacles that make people turn towards eCommerce.

Qatar offers a highly potent eCommerce market. However, the standards of eCommerce are high and there is no room for ordinary ways of doing business. Before starting an online business in Qatar, it is critically important to be aware of the rules and regulations governing the industry.

For enquiries on eCommerce business solutions or to speak to one of our expert eCommerce consultants, please drop us a message and we will reach out to you.


How do high disposable income levels help in the growth of eCommerce business?

Higher disposable income levels indicate the potential presence of a willingness to go beyond needs. It is a precursor for having new experiences, trying new products and services, and indulging in the flexibility of eCommerce as a way of shopping. No doubt that even needs can be covered via eCommerce but with some extra punch in our pockets, we are a little less shy. These predispositions also give confidence to eCommerce brands to experiment with new and enhanced value propositions and offerings via eCommerce.

Does digital literacy contribute to the adoption and growth of eCommerce?

Digital literacy is the operational understanding of how the internet, devices and online platforms work. It plays an important role in the adoption and growth of eCommerce. Today, even kids can use many simple smartphone features and applications; online shopping takes a bit more than that. A certain degree of experience and general awareness is required to go through the complete cycle of an online shopping process over eCommerce apps and websites. We can use the example of digital payments here. Did it not take us some time to trust making payments online and get a know-how of the process of making online payments? We can use a more contemporary example of shoppable posts that allow users to directly navigate to the websites of eCommerce brands from posts on their social media feeds and complete the shopping journey. Digital literacy is also important for customers to distinguish between safe and unsafe practices like sharing of OTPs or clicking on web links. Digital literacy gives people the know-how and confidence to correctly use eCommerce shopping websites and apps.

How does social media help in the proliferation of eCommerce?

Social media channels provide an apt solution for eCommerce companies to promote their products and services. With an extensive user base, popular social media channels make it possible for eCommerce brands to connect with a large number of users within a short time. Advertisements, promotions and other brand communications can be targeted more accurately. Social media has also emerged as a channel for providing customer support.