Gulf ecommerce still has plenty of room to grow as omni-channel, q-commerce take hold
With the world in rapid advance into the digital era, ecommerce in the Middle East is up for a surge. According to the report by EZDubai and Euromonitor International, the ecommerce market is expected to reach $57 billion by 2026, with 11 per cent annual growth rate over the 2022-26 period.
This was initially sparked by the pandemic, with online retail volumes soaring by over 50 per cent since late 2019 in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Now, with the consistent government commitments to digitize their economies, a flourishing fintech sector, economic stability, technology investment, and a young, tech-savvy population, growth will head higher.
To stay competitive in this market, digital-native brands must employ robust strategies.
If consumers need a shampoo, they have an infinite number of brands they can choose. So they do their homework. Data shows that customers - whether buying a shampoo, a dress, or a sofa - visit an average of more than two websites before making their decision.
Consequently, an increasing number of brands are turning to omni-channel sales strategy to meet customers on various platforms. I encourage our clients selling their goods through several sales channels: marketplaces, third-party aggregators, virtual stores, and offline vending machines.
The logic is simple: the more seamless the shopping experience is, the more attractive it is for the client to make the first purchase.
That’s not all. When implementing an omni-channel sales strategy, conduct an audit or put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Take into account any possible frustrations or barriers that customers may encounter during their journey, such as lack of special offers or limited payment options, and address them as fast as you can.
Creating a positive sales experience is important to attract customers and keep them loyal to a brand. That is not enough. Fast delivery is now the holy grail. According to a McKinsey study, the majority of customers expect two- to three-day delivery as the baseline, but 30 per cent of consumers expect same-day delivery.
As co-founder of a 15-minute grocery delivery service and marketplace aggregator, I’m convinced that to ensure a positive experience in this aspect, it is essential to consider the ‘last mile’. This last leg of the journey is crucial for brands because it represents the ultimate interaction between the customer and the product or service. Moreover, our data shows that fast delivery increases merchant order frequency, which results in doubled conversions and lifetime value.
Recognizing the significance of the last mile, brands must assess the capabilities of their logistics providers. These partners should be equipped with technologies for live inventory tracking, automated order processing, and efficient communication with carriers.
An alternative option is to collaborate with q-commerce services, such as aggregators and super-apps, that offer well-established delivery infrastructure. For businesses that prefer to develop their own last-mile delivery infrastructure, q-commerce pioneers in the market can provide their SaaS solutions.
By subscribing to these services on a monthly basis brands can access q-commerce logistics for rent.
The MENA region, comprising countries with impressive levels of internet penetration up to 99 per cent, presents a unique opportunity for cross-border e-commerce.
In its simplest form, cross-border e-commerce entails the online sale of products to customers residing in different countries. For instance, numerous businesses in the region adopt a cross-border e-commerce approach between the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
While the latter possesses strong purchasing power, the intricacies of the import process and establishing direct-to-consumer (D2C) trade can pose challenges. Consequently, many companies choose to operate from the UAE to cater to the Saudi market.
Developing this principle in my company has accelerated the transition of our clients from local to global markets without capital-intensive investments.
The beauty of cross-border trading lies in its ability to grant consumers access to a diverse range of products and services that may be unavailable or difficult to obtain locally. Similarly, merchants can expand their customer base beyond domestic borders, thus boosting their profits.
Additionally, some leverage cross-border e-commerce as a means to test product demand in new markets before fully venturing into them.
Nevertheless, challenges accompany cross-border e-commerce, notably in the form of legal and regulatory barriers. Partnering with the right entities, such as marketplaces or aggregators, can help alleviate these obstacles.