The value and growth potential of the Middle East retail market is further reinforced in a summary report by the European Travel Commission who predict the value of the eCommerce market to reach and estimated 15 billion by 2015. The report provides profile of who is shopping online and how they are shopping. An important highlight of the article is the ranking of the top eCommerce sites which places online giant Amazon only third, after local offerings Souq.com and Cobone.com. This ranking shows that although Middle Eastern consumers are warming up to the idea of eCommerce, they still prefer locally focused sites as opposed to regular international giants. The article also cites a key barrier of eCommerce site as online payment systems. 46% of Middle Eastern Internet users say lack of trust in payment options as a substantial barrier to engaging in eCommerce. In line with this attitude is the finding that Cash on Delivery is still the preferred payment method when shopping online, which compared to western adoption rates might seem relatively primitive.
- Localize your content. Arabicized e-commerce websites still perform better in the region then global giants such as E-bay and Amazon. Middle Eastern consumers are slowly adopting to eCommerce but they need it on their terms. Brands that have defined the online landscape in other regions are not necessarily held in the same regard in this region. In order to gain the trust of the local consumer and help them on their eCommerce journey you must speak their language.
- Your content must be mobile enabled. M-commerce in the Middle East is already surpassing global trends. Local consumers are not only used to this channel but are experts in it. While m-commerce is often an afterthought in eCommerce strategy, when moving into this region is must be a fully functional component of your operations or you will be one step behind your target.
- Be flexible on payment gateways. Lack of trust in payment options is the biggest barrier to online business in the Middle East. Cash on delivery and prepaid cards, although seemingly primitive, remain the most common form of payment in the region. E-tailers must build credibility and trust by meeting the consumers on their terms before imposing their own procedures.