Cross-Border eCommerce with Bahrain: Tips and trends for 2022

December 24, 2021 by
Frank Calviño
Photo by Charles Adrien for Unsplash

Cross-Border eCommerce with the Middle East has become increasingly profitable, especially when is done with Bahrain. Officially named The Kingdom of Bahrain - Mamlakat al-Baḥrayn - this nation is a fertile ground for Cross-Border eCommerce due to several key factors: 

  • It has large oil deposits which guarantee access to enough money to buy any kind of product from the outside. 
  • And the country itself, due to a combination of geographical and historical issues, has little to no capabilities to self-sustain its economy. 

This means that Bahrain has the need to buy all the things its population requires or desires - due to not being able to produce them locally - and the money to do so. Making it a perfect trading partner, so let’s find out what is profitable to trade in Bahrain and the tips and trends to do so in an effective and efficient way!  

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Cross-Border eCommerce in Bahrain 

To understand how Bahrain Cross-Border eCommerce behaves and the opportunities it presents, we first need to understand Bahrain Cross-Border trade as a whole: Bahrain produces and exports mostly oil and its derivatives - in 2020 Bahrain’s main export was Refined Petroleum ($5.51B). And mostly all the rest of the goods consumed in the country, are imported.  

It was precisely due to the remarkably profitable exports derived from oil that in 2020, Bahrain's trade surplus amounted to around 1.32 billion U.S. dollars

 ✔️ Among the many things Bahrain imports, its top imports are Cars ($848M) ✔️

This combination of needing products and having the money to pay for them has pushed large global brands to establish themselves both as eCommerce as well as physical stores in Bahrain: The Gulf Cooperation Council - a regional, intergovernmental political, and economic union in the Middle East - reported in  2015, an eCommerce revenue of $5.3 billion, or just 0.4% of gross domestic product.  

By 2020 this revenue had quadrupled to $21.6 billion. Proving that the Middle East societies are fully embracing eCommerce.

For example, Amazon launched the website to cater to the customers in Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman. And Carrefour, Ikea, Alibaba, and eBay have also launched local websites for Bahrain, or have the option to shop from Bahrain included in their main domains.  

Key factors for a successful eCommerce in Bahrain 

Establishing a successful eCommerce in Bahrain requires several key factors: 

  • Content localization
  • Payment methods 
  • Delivery times 
  • Import barriers 
  • Logistics  

Let us check each one of these factors and provide a comprehensive scenario for any entrepreneur willing to enter the Bahrain eCommerce market. 

Is language a barrier for Cross-Border eCommerce in Bahrain? 

Arabic is the most spoken and also the official language in Bahrain. Two variants of Arabic are the ones used: the Bahrani and the Gulf Arabic. But generally speaking, anyone will understand Arabic, regardless of the use of any variant, or not. 

And actually, most Bahrani websites have Arabic as a language, for example, Alayam website - one of the most important local newspapers - is in Arabic. 

Regardless, English is used in many cases as a secondary language for non-Arabic speakers. And has become so common - mainly to the large ex-pat community inside Bahrain - that even the Government uses English as a secondary “de facto” language for all its official communications.  

What payment methods are preferred in Bahrain? 

Mostly all of the internationally accepted online payment methods and online payment gateways will work in Bahrain. 

  • PayPal 
  • Paymentwall
  • 2Checkout
  • 2Checkout Convert Plus
  • Stripe 
  • Paysera 

In the case of PayPal is so widespread and accepted, that even the Bahrain Islamic Bank has made a special app for connecting their bank accounts with PayPal. 

What are the eCommerce standard delivery times for Bahrain? 

As a rule of thumb, eCommerce websites in Bahrain are capable of delivering their goods in 3 to 5 days, after the purchase, as long as the address is inside the Bahrani territory, and not in an extremely remote location. 

Ikea for example delivers in 3 to 5 days. Other websites like Alosra are capable of delivering the same day, as long as some conditions are met. And the same is true for Carrefour Bahrain. 

Import Requirements and Documentation for Bahrain

Regardless of the product or country of origin, companies who wish to trade with Bahrain, and import goods into the Kingdom, must complete a customs bill of entry. This can be done online from outside Bahrain, or by any legally appointed representative inside the Kingdom.   

It is strongly recommended to use a registered, licensed clearing agent in Bahrain, to ensure import procedures are completed expeditiously.

The official website of the International Trade Organization from The United States government provides a keen and pretty efficient guide on the legal requirements for importing goods into Bahrain. 

Here you can access the full Country Commercial Guide for Bahrain in English, to check your specific product or you can access the official Bahrani Customs website here and check the current regulations in Arabic. 

Bahrain’s logistics: Main port for Cross-Border trade 

Bahrain has two main ports: Mina Salman Port and Khalifa Bin Salman Port (KBSP), as well as a number of small fishing harbors. Originally built in the 1960s as a primarily import-oriented terminal, Mina Salman is the older of the two and the Khalifa Bin Salman is the newest and more trade-oriented, This is the official website of the Bahrain government for the Khalifa Bin Salman Port, and inside you could find all the information regarding imports and export via this facility. 

It is worth mentioning that the Khalifa Bin Salman Port is perfectly connected with the rest of the country via air and land routes. Making it the perfect hub for any imported product to reach the entirety of Bahrain in record time. 

What kind of Cross-Border eCommerce will be profitable in Bahrain?  

The biggest import sector of Bahrain is cars. Specifically, the ones traded from The United States. This is due to several legislations that promote cross-border trade in the automotive sector between Bahrain and The United States. We can say, overall, that cars imported from the USA into Bahrain are exempted from tariffs. 

The exact type of exemption and the different preferential tariff treatments can be checked on the official U.S. Customs and Border Protection website here

Photo by Charles Adrien for Unsplash

Importing car accessories into Bahrain 

With a large and booming car market in the country, car accessories are a no-brainer for small to medium businesses who wish to jump into trading with Bahrain. 

These kinds of goods are things like phone holders, cleaning products for the car - like carpet spot cleaners - windshield wipers, and things like custom tires, high-performance components for the engines, and other similar things. 

Most of these products will fit easily into the categories of being non-perishable, relatively small products that also, normally do not need specific temperature conditions, meaning they can handle the 14º to 30º Celcius degrees of temperature that Bahrain has on a yearly basis, without the need for a refrigerated warehouse. 

Which makes this line of products perfect for an eCommerce created by an entrepreneur!  

All in all, Bahrain is a magnificent market for importing goods due to the middle to the high purchasing power of its population, the top-notch facilities for maritime trade, and the pro-import legislation of the Nation. 

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