Introducing e-commerce and the Iraqi Consumer

In this blog post we’d like to highlight some insights on e-commerce and the Iraqi consumer, as taken from our whitepaper on the findings from our Iraq Consumer Survey 2020.

How do Iraqis purchase online? And how frequently?

The survey told us that 57% of Iraqi internet users shopped online in the previous 3 months.

But how frequently are Iraqis shopping online? And how can they actually buy things online if the vast majority don’t have a bank account?

The answer is – the most popular way Iraqis shop online is direct messaging to the seller and paying cash on delivery.

In Iraq, we have to broaden the definition of ‘online shopping’ (with bank cards and associated facilities), to include: finding and ordering a product online using online messaging, an App, or website, and then paying cash on delivery. Rezhna does this regularly. It is also worth noting that many Iraqis will refer to ‘getting something online’ when they have in fact offered via a telephone number on a retailer website or social media page. 20% of internet users have done this in the past three months, but we haven’t included such purchases in our overall online shopping figure.

Hence on the basis of this, 57% of Iraqi internet users shopped online in the previous 3 months.

Male / female – what are they buying online?

Interestingly, women are also slightly more likely than men to shop online. And they are also more likely to order online using online messaging, while men prefer to order a product they found online via telephone. 

The top 3 things Iraqis buy online are clothing and footwear (42%), food delivery (36%) and health and beauty products (27%).

Women are more likely than men to shop online for clothing and footwear, and also health and beauty products. Men are more likely to shop online for consumer electronics and computers.

And it is young women who are particularly driving demand for online products, like Rezhna – whom we met in our earlier blog post.

Iraqis shop online to find new products rather than save money

Perhaps related to Iraqis not regarding the internet as a way to save money (which we wrote about in our earlier blogpost on digital behaviour, we discovered that the primary reason for shopping online is access to new products (just over half of online shoppers). And a third of the survey’s respondents said it’s to access a better product selection. Only just over a quarter feel online shopping is cheaper than in-store. Interestingly, just over a third say the most common reason they don’t shop online is fear of overspending.

If you consider reasons for shopping online by gender or region though, it’s a different story.

More men than women think it’s cheaper shopping online than in-store, which could be related to the products they are more likely to buy (electronics, like Walid’s Korean smartphone).

And in Kurdistan, people shop online for greater convenience overwhelmingly more than in Central and Southern Iraq. This reflects the fact that there’s a more developed range of apps in Kurdistan supporting online shopping, such as Lezzoo and Birsima for food and grocery delivery, as well as a better delivery and transport infrastructure.

The online shopping experience could be improved though. Two thirds of online shoppers haven’t been satisfied with a product on delivery. And in contrast to western behaviours, nearly half then opted to do nothing about it, with not even a quarter able to return the product for a replacement or refund in their most recent purchase.

 Where can you find out more?

To find out more about the Iraqi consumer – including their attitudes to the internet and financial inclusion – please take the time to read our whitepaper in full. It outlines all the detailed findings from our Iraq Consumer Survey 2020. And it’s a fascinating and visually beautiful read.

Caroline McGarrIntroducing e-commerce and the Iraqi Consumer
read more

Introducing digital behaviour and the Iraqi consumer

In this blogpost we’d like to highlight some insights on digital behaviour and the Iraqi consumer, as taken from our whitepaper on the findings from our Iraq Consumer Survey 2020 survey.

What were the highlights from the survey?

The survey told us that half of Iraqi internet users spend more than 5 hours a day online, and perhaps unsurprisingly this figure is higher for younger Iraqis, like Rezhna and Walid – who you met in our earlier blog post. Nearly two thirds of Iraqis go online just before bed, and just over a third ‘first thing in the morning’.

Regardless of age, their device of choice is resoundingly smartphones, with 82% using their smartphone to connect online.

And interestingly, a quarter of Iraqi internet users own 2 or more smartphones.

What do Iraqis think about the internet?

Differing to attitudes in the West or in Arab Gulf countries, the internet isn’t regarded by Iraqis as a way to save money. This probably relates to the fact that the internet is expensive in Iraq compared to other parts of the world, together with the challenges of online shopping for a country where very few people have bank accounts.

This high internet cost, combined with the fact that the Kurdistan Region is relatively more stable and has a more developed infrastructure than southern regions, could also help explain the significant regional differences in how Iraqis connect. Kurds usually access the internet via home landline, like Rezhna, or mobile Wi-Fi known as ‘Mi-Fi’. Whereas people in central and southern Iraq are much more likely to use public Wi-Fi, like Walid.

Nevertheless, the internet is highly regarded in other respects:

    • Three quarters of respondents think the internet helps them stay connected to friends and family. Vitally important when family is often the primary social safety net. And two thirds of Iraqi internet users agree the quality of human contact has improved thanks to technology.
    • Nearly all Iraqi internet users say the internet is the first place they search for information.
    • Just over half say the internet helps them make decisions.

And where are Iraqi internet users going to find this information to help them make purchasing decisions? Overwhelmingly, Facebook.

In fact, in Iraq when people refer to Facebook, what they often actually mean is the internet itself.

In recent years younger Iraqis are also going elsewhere to gather information though, and Instagram is now almost as popular amongst 18-24-year-old females (like Rezhna) as Facebook.


Where can you find out more?

To find out more about the Iraqi consumer – including their attitudes to e-commerce and about financial inclusion – read our whitepaper in full. It outlines all the detailed findings from our Iraq Consumer Survey 2020. And it’s a fascinating and visually beautiful read.


Caroline McGarrIntroducing digital behaviour and the Iraqi consumer
read more

Introducing Iraqi consumers Rezhna and Walid

In March we ran the first-ever Iraq Consumer Survey 2020. You can find out more about how we ran the survey here.

One of the most interesting parts of the process was speaking to young Iraqis such as Rezhna and Walid – learning about their attitudes towards being online, finance and shopping. Iraq has one of the fastest growing young populations in the Middle East, with an estimated 57% of people under 25.

Rezhna and Walid’s profiles bring to life some of the information illuminated by the survey data in the main whitepaper, and puts younger Iraqis in the spotlight – so we’d like to introduce you to them here in this blog post.


Rezhna lives in Sulaymaniyah in northern Kurdistan. As a young Iraqi female, she’s helping lead the charge with online shopping and increasing the popularity of Instagram in particular. She’s not very financially curious, relying primarily on cash payments. 


Walid is Baghdadi, older than Rezhna by a decade and with additional financial and family responsibilities. Accordingly, he’s curious to know more about banks and their facilities, in case they could be useful. But he’s also fairly wary of them. It’s a bit harder for him to get online, but he still manages it fine and likes to seek out good deals through the internet – especially for electronics.

To find out more about Rezhna and Walid, together with additional insights about young Iraqi consumers such as them – read thinkbank’s full whitepaper here.

Caroline McGarrIntroducing Iraqi consumers Rezhna and Walid
read more

Introduction to thinkbank’s Iraq Consumer Survey 2020

Brands, consultancies and researchers seeking to understand Iraq typically find it hard to gather robust data on the country and its people. So in March 2020, just before the Covid-19 worldwide lockdown, we at thinkbank market research ran our inaugural Iraq Consumer Survey 2020. It’s first-of-its-kind research, seeking to fix this lack and scarcity of data and build solid insight into a vibrant developing market full of opportunity.

About the survey

So how did we run this ground-breaking survey? Respondents were heavily screened in order to ensure eligibility. The survey itself was conducted online in both Arabic and Kurdish, among 1,997 Iraqis aged between 18-45, with a 40:60 female to male ratio, and located in the main cities of Iraq. So, it’s a robust reflection of the online population across major conurbations.

The objective was to measure core attitudes and behaviours in relation to digital behaviour, financial inclusion, e-commerce & online shopping, FMCG, travel and food service.

The findings were genuinely fascinating – even we learned a huge amount about Iraq and the Iraqi consumer. So, we wrote everything up for you in our new whitepaper which you can read here. Or if you’re short on time the remainder of this blog post summarises the whitepaper.

We’ve also saved some further insights for you on FMCG, travel and food service in Iraq, to feature in upcoming blog posts. So, look out for them on the thinkbank Iraq blog here.

Digital behaviour & the Iraqi consumer

Thanks to our survey, we know that most Iraqi internet users are online for 5 hours+ a day, overwhelmingly preferring to use their smartphones to connect. While the internet isn’t regarded as a way to save money (because it’s expensive), it is appreciated for its ability to keep Iraqis connected with friends and family, and is the place they go to search for information and helps them make purchasing decisions. Facebook is basically synonymous with the internet and is the place Iraqis mostly go to find that information. Although Instagram is also fast gaining popularity, particularly driven by young women (Instagram also meets their need for female privacy).

Financial inclusion & the Iraqi consumer

Hardly any Iraqis have bank accounts or use financial services, and they don’t trust financial institutions – preferring the informal unregulated Hawala system. This traditional system for sending and receiving cash, based on trust and honour, resonates with Iraqis as a proven system that works and has done for a long time. Iraqis prefer to spend their cash on ‘sensible’ things to help secure their financial position in life. As well as cars – which are also considered as important symbols of reputation.

E-commerce & the Iraqi consumer

The majority of Iraqis are “shopping online”, preferring to direct message the seller and pay by cash on delivery. And they’re mostly shopping online for clothing and footwear, food delivery, and health and beauty (led by women). And electronics for men. The quality of the online shopping experience could be improved, and returns have a long way to go. Kurdistan in the north is showing signs of advanced development compared to central and southern Iraq, with more people from there shopping online for convenience and having their own internet at home. Kurdistan represents a natural starting place for any brands wishing to enter the Iraq market and push online sales.

We hope this blog post has been useful in introducing the survey and summarising the whitepaper for you. Although if you have time, we’d (obviously!) recommend reading the full paper here as it has all the further data together with additional insights on Iraq and the Iraqi consumer.

Our market research agency – thinkbank – specialises in running research in Iraq and the Middle East. We’re experts in Iraq, the Middle East, and running quality market research to international standards.

Caroline McGarrIntroduction to thinkbank’s Iraq Consumer Survey 2020
read more