There has been rampant growth of e-commerce and digital businesses in Pakistan. This has helped open up the region to new market opportunities over time. The world has grown and become a global market, in which people from different continents can order and get items effortlessly within a month or two. Even though shipping may take a while, items are still exchanged in different regions. The future is also digital, and the faster people embrace it, the better. This is because people are now working remotely, exchanging goods overseas, importing goods, exporting goods, conducting remote meetings, and much more. Businesses like online stores, print on demand, auctioning goods, and drop-shipping are now done at people’s comfort.
Internet penetration in Pakistan has grown to be 54 percent. That’s a major increase from previous years. This shows how many citizens are positively embracing the internet every day. However, most internet users are found in urban areas. Out of the 54 percent, almost 46 percent access the internet every day. The most abundant users are the younger generations and employees in different areas.
YouTube is one of the most popularly used sites in Pakistan. People use it for education, recipes, music, videos, practical tasks, hobbies, and knowledge. Google Search is also being widely used to research certain concepts. People also use the internet when they want to purchase something. This has increased e-commerce use in Pakistan. Most Pakistani shoppers prefer shopping online due to accessibility and comfort.
Statistics from 2021 show that almost 55 million people use YouTube often, followed by Facebook at 49 million, TikTok at 23 million, Instagram at 19.4 million, LinkedIn at 7.5 million, Twitter at 5 million, Snapchat at 20.7 million, and Pinterest at 3 million. This shows that Pakistani people are willing to embrace technology. Most people use these social media sites to promote their businesses and products. YouTube is used to provide knowledgeable videos in which even influencers use their channels to promote certain services and products. Facebook is used to connect people, sell stuff, promote online businesses, socialize, and engage with customers. TikTok is popular for uploading videos, in which you can still promote your products and services through creative videos.
Instagram is another platform that has led to the growth of many e-commerce businesses. Some people even opt to have Instagram accounts and partake all their sales through that with a separate delivery location. LinkedIn is another growing platform in which employers recruit people and also people grow their professional network. Twitter is a great place to learn about the latest trends, and people are actively using it to promote their services and engage with customers. Snapchat has also grown, in which people communicate with each other through chats and snaps. It works almost the same as WhatsApp. If you are creative, Pinterest is the best platform to check out. People share creative pictures which are linked to their websites, blogs, and e-commerce websites.
According to 2022 reports, there are over 189 million cellular subscribers in Pakistan. There are over 110 million broadband internet subscribers, and 99 million smartphones currently being used. This has led to an increase in internet use and subsequent e-commerce growth. On average, $5.97 billion has been spent on e-commerce business transactions. If the government could invest in this, it would increase the digital business growth in Pakistan. This is a clear indication that people are ready to embrace the growing digitalization. Even most physical shops are opting to also have a social media presence, websites, use social influencers, and promote their businesses online. The digital media in Pakistan is growing rapidly, which is a good thing for the growth of the economy.
Businesses in different categories are growing significantly. As per 2021, the fastest growing industry is fashion and beauty ($4300 million), travel, mobility & accommodation ($1800 million), electronics & physical media ($600 million), food & personal care ($400 million), video games ($300 million), furniture and appliances ($200 million), and toys, DIY & hobbies ($200 million). This shows growth in the different business sectors. The steady growth has helped in estimating e-commerce growth as time goes by. This gives confidence to different stakeholders and investors on where best to invest. However, the market fluctuates differently, and you need to be ready for any outcome.
The total Pakistan population is 227 million, which is why the steady growth of businesses digitally is a great move. At the moment, there are over 123 million active internet users, which is a great statistic for anyone who wants to engage in online e-commerce businesses. There are over 51 million active social media users, with 75 million actively using YouTube.
People are using social media sites to promote their services and products. Social media consumption and the influencer market have played a major role in this. This has led to many people becoming brand ambassadors of different products. The new e-commerce startups are playing a huge role in changing the landscape of online buying behaviour. Out of the active internet users, women come to 49 percent, while men make 51 percent.
However, even with that, other reasons lead to low internet usage. These include obstacles to access, limited content and violation of user rights. The Pakistan government still controls the internet environment, in which they carry out internet shutdowns, platform blocking, and harsh convictions for bad online speeches. There is also removal of unlawful content. Hence, people still need to provide content that aligns with their main objective.
Ideally, e-commerce businesses are amazing because it helps reduce geographical limitation, gain customers through search engines, lower costs, eliminate the need for a physical shop unless you have a warehouse, allow online comparison shopping, show your deals, discounts, and new products easily and provide abundant information.
If you are a business owner in Pakistan, you can consider carrying out your physical business online too to increase your customer reach. However, you need to be specific about the region you want. E-commerce businesses thrive well when you know your target customers, target region, and the social media sites that they use. If you want to target the younger generations, you can easily capture them through social media sites. E-commerce growth in Pakistan is a great way to boost the economy.
The writer is CTO & director, Centre of Information Technology at IoBM.
He tweets @imranbatada and can be reached at: Imran.firstname.lastname@example.org
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