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Dubai: Google, Aramex, PayPal and ShopGo have jointly launched a new initiative on Monday in empowering small businesses to go online and boost their growth by launching an online store — EZStore.me in the Middle East and North Africa.

“All the partners have realised that there is a unique opportunity in the region to accelerate e-commerce. When you look at the fundamentals for e-commerce in the region, on one hand a very large and vibrant internet population and on the other hand a very large and dynamic retail market,” Wassim Kabbara, head of retail at Google Gulf, told Gulf News.

According to latest reports, there are over 200,000 small-and medium-based businesses (SMBs) in the UAE. About 90 per cent of SMBs are not online and 97 per cent of online consumers use the internet to search for products.

Kabbara said this is the first initiative of its kind in the Mena region to take on this unique approach in empowering small businesses. SMBs that make use of EZStore.me’s services will be able to harness the power of the internet as a new channel to offer their products and services to customers in MENA and around the world.

He said some of the road blocks for e-commerce are complexity and difficulty associated with the launching of a site.

The purpose behind EZStore is help “transition from offline merchants to go online. It will be easier for merchants to come online at most affordable prices,’’ he said.

The initiative empowers small business owners by providing them with the necessary skill sets and tools to go online and removing all payments and logistical challenges; making a seamless beginning of their online journey.

Kabbara said the platform is opened to everyone but in terms of the customers who will have the most utility perception offers will be SMBs.

“Initially it is launched in the UAE as a pilot project and based on the trend it will be rolled out across the region. We hope the new venture will contribute very significantly to the e-commerce growth. It is difficult to estimate as the potential is so huge,” he said.

“We are not targeting customers who already have an e-commerce site unless they are facing lot of challenges and difficulty in maintaining the sites. But it is more geared to new online ventures. It has multiple benefits than setting up a standalone e-commerce site. Certainly it is cheaper and it has Google, Aramex, PayPal and ShopGo aspects,” Kabbara said.

He said that small business owners will receive many benefits by signing up for EZStore.me.

Aramex will offer credits and competitive prices designed specifically to boost ecommerce opportunities in the region.

Google will provide customers with vouchers for AdWords, videos and tutorials to learn how to best use AdWords and the fantastic Google tools available to merchants to help them bring traffic to their website.

PayPal will offer customers discounted transaction fees within the first three months of launching their e-store and allowing them to seamlessly and securely process payments online while ShopGo will help in building out the site, providing localised payment and shipping solutions, ready-made responsive themes, and a user-friendly platform that allows business owners to manage their entire operation on their own.