Dubai The number of people searching online for banking and financial products in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region has quadrupled over the last two years, according to a research by global search engine provider Google. Information on credit cards, loans, insurance, investment products, general banking and mortgages have dominated search queries. "In fact, credit card tops the search queries, our data shows," Mohammad Mourad, Google's regional manager for the Gulf, told Gulf News in an interview. "For the first time in the region's history, search for online banking has surpassed the search for offline banking. This means most people are looking at online banking products and services rather than searching for offline products." This also indicates that the future of face-to-face interaction with customers will continue to decline as more and more people will opt for online banking, he said. Article continues below Google handles 120 million queries per day in the Mena region, where 56 per cent of the searches and queries are done in Arabic, followed by English and French, as Google strengthens its Arabic versions of the products and services. Growth potential "Of these, 73 per cent of the online queries are of generic nature while the remaining 27 per cent are specific. Which means companies have a great potential to improve their product offering online for clients to seek information on specific products and services," Mourad said. In the Mena region, 85 million people browse online for products, services and information on matters of their choice. About 93 per cent of them search online. On average, they spend three hours per day on the net, higher than two hours spend on television. "In Europe 67 per cent of the search users are inspired by offline channels such as billboards, print advertisement or news and other media," Mourad said. "Online information is dominating people's purchase decisions these days." However, mobile phones are clearly emerging as the most effective link between online and offline information and queries. "People learn about new things from different sources — friends, family, relatives, advertisement, etc. However, it is either their smart phones of online platforms that they actually go, search and check the information out," he said. However, internet penetration in the Mena region is still low — 25 per cent. "Which means there is lot of room for growth and we see that the internet penetration is increasing," he said.