If it can be bought online, then it's probably witnessing some spike in demand at the moment. 

The novel coronavirus outbreak is pushing many Arabs to rely on online services through this challenging period, a direction that could become the standard after COVID-19 wears out. 

Keeping in mind that there's no shortage of e-commerce applications and websites in the region, it's worth noting that many businesses in the Gulf region have witnessed a surge in demand in online sales. 

Here are a few of them: 

1. BinDawood Holding

Danube, Saudi Arabia, BinDawood Holding, Supermarket
A Danube supermarket branch in Saudi Arabia. Danube is owned by BinDawood Holding.

Saudi Arabia's BinDawood Holding, founded in 1984, witnessed a 200-percent spike in its online sales since the escalation of COVID-19 in the kingdom. 

BinDawood Holding has two e-commerce platforms under its umbrella - Danube supermarket and BinDawood Online – both of which have recorded a "significant upturn in organic growth the last few weeks," Majed M. Al Tahan, co-founder & MD, Danube Online, told Arabian Business. 

"Our average sales on a 10-day basis has shot up 200 percent, with our average order value up 50 percent and our app installations topping 400 percent," he added.

This spike in online orders happened despite the fact that all of BinDawood Holding stores remain open in Saudi Arabia. This comes to show people's preferred method of supermarket buying during this period. 

2. Nana Direct

Nana direct app, grocery delivery app, Saudi Arabia
Source: Argaam

Another Saudi-based platform, Nana Direct (the first word being Arabic for green mint) also witnessed a spike in demand amid the global pandemic so much so that it raised a total of $18 million in Series B funding from investors. 

It plans to use the funds to expand across the Middle East as lockdown measures moved people online in nearly all aspects of life. Following the rise in demand, the company increased its capacity threefold to be able to serve its customers. 

3. Majid Al Futtaim Retail

Carrefour, UAE, Majid Al Futtaim
A Carrefour branch in the UAE. Carrefour is owned by Majid Al Futtaim.

This trend of online grocery shopping and food delivery is not limited to Saudi Arabia. 

Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) Retail, the parent company of the famous hypermarket Carrefour, recently revealed that it has witnessed a threefold year-on-year increase in online orders during the month of March. The company has had to reshuffle its priorities, moving staff from certain departments to others to meet rising demand. 

To fulfill the rush in demand, 1,015 leisure, entertainment and cinema employees in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Lebanon were repurposed on a temporary basis to join the hypermarket.

Not only did the retailer witness a rise in online traffic but also in the number of people going to the physical Carrefour stores to stock up on inventory for the month. The company also saw an annual 59-percent increase in new online customers in March.

MAF Retail holds the exclusive franchise rights to operate Carrefour in more than 31 countries across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. It currently operates 300 Carrefour stores in over 15 countries. 

4. dubizzle

There are several other online retailers that have also reported an increase in the sale of very specific products during this period. 

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Helmut Bracun, general manager of Classifieds at dubizzle, explained that since COVID-19 began forcing people to stay home for their - and others' - safety, they have witnessed a spike in online demand. 

"Over the past few weeks, we have noticed some interesting trends emerging when it comes to items being searched for and sold on dubizzle," he said

"There was an increase in interest for baby items by 3.7 percent, home appliances by 2.7 percent, as well as mobile phones and tablets by 2.4 percent when comparing the data from February 26 to March 7 with the data from March 8 to March 18."

Why is e-commerce important during a pandemic?

Social distancing has been key in reducing the spread of the highly infectious virus. People have been advised to refrain from large gatherings and to minimize contact with other individuals - whether they're at risk or not - during this period. 

To help enforce social distancing, many countries in the Arab world have imposed a curfew on residents and has suspended public and private businesses from continuing business as usual. 

To curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), people have turned their lives upside down to adapt to a new way of life, one that is heavily reliant on technology. Remote work, virtual meetings, online stores, and delivery apps are the new reality in the Arab world. 

That means e-commerce is people's safest method of interacting with the outside world. So it's no surprise that these companies have seen an intense spike in demand.