Making Your Name in the Digital MENA

Jun 15 2021 06:06:30 / By Saiyed Mehdi

Multi-national companies had poured commodities into the Middle East for three decades, thinking price, availability, quality products, and advertising was sufficient for market success. However, the reality is far from different in today’s tech driven world. Traditional ideas of endorsing a commodity as a brand are no longer near enough to yield the same results, especially not among the clutter of products available. Local companies need to re-think the value quotient they offer consumers if they wish to grab their attention, and identify what the label represents if they want consumer loyalty to follow. MENA shoppers have developed their own preferences with access to local and international brands through social media and e-commerce. And with Qatar playing host to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, this market is tuned for a global audience. Digital marketing agencies in Dubai have an exciting road ahead in helping build such global brands. In this article, we offer some insights into where to begin thinking when a brand considers making itself visible in the region’s online space.


According to an article in Go-Gulf, there’s plenty of room for growth for e-commerce companies within the region. The UAE alone has seen 99.0% internet penetration as of January 2021. Yet, despite the digital-savvy nature and spending potential of the consumer, total share of ecommerce in the market stands at just 2%-3%. This presents an untouched opportunity for brands to create a niche e-commerce space for themselves and meet consumers online.

Electronics have dominated the digital market in the Middle East, with almost 70% of shoppers in the region admitting they purchase gadgets online at least once. Digital marketing agencies in Dubai place personal care products right next to the electronics category, seeing that sales in both categories look similar to that of developed markets. The online footwear category is not too far behind, with early local players such as Namshi challenging Chinese mega-brands Shein and JollyChic. The online luxury segment also holds promise for growth now that work-from-home demands more comfort and personalized workstations. Though fashion and grocery e-commerce have been on the upswing, there’s much to be desired in the segment. However, healthcare, apparel, FMCG and banking are some of the sectors that have seen the highest surge of online activity.


A global brand should also mean one that is attuned with the refined and developed audience of the region. For instance, sustainability is no longer the way of the Western world alone. GCC consumers are consciously spending their money as they become more knowledgeable about environmental issues.  Arab millennials wish to understand a business, its origin and value chain, and take it upon themselves to make sustainable consumption a priority for their generation. At the same time, keeping in touch with the local culture is still regarded as important. Quite a large number of Arabs refrain from shopping online due to language barriers. Therefore, catering to the local culture is vital for brand survival in the region.

The truth is that Middle East brands require a relook at modernity. It’s a common misconception that changing the look of the logo or using contemporary language leads to modernization. Labels need to consider what they represent – a brand philosophy with ethical practices all through the business chain. This becomes especially important in a region where people hold faith and social values supreme. Senior partner at Mckinsey, Ahmed Youssef, observed the Middle East market quite accurately: the region is a complex mix of traditional and modern. He mused how an old civilization like Egypt from 3000 BC, co-exists alongside a young nation like UAE, and how that created a diverse set of audience to communicate with. Businesses need to connect with local knowledge and know how to maneuver their communication to suit the values of the people, which is where a native digital marketing agency in Dubai can be good counsel.


During the pandemic, social platforms connected isolated individuals with businesses around the world. Instagram had 63 million users from the Middle East alone, a total 10% of worldwide users for the platform. Add to this the shopping convenience and flexibility these platforms provide; Facebook and Instagram’s inbuilt shopping feature lets users browse through products and checkout from a brand’s social media page, without having to leave the platform. This brand accessibility and easy to follow for new promotions, product launches, offers, etc., helped create more demand for the products. According to MasterCard, 72% consumers surveyed had discovered new sellers through Facebook, and 56% users through Instagram. Digital marketing services in Dubai recommend every brand use social media pages as the front page of their business, because that’s where a user’s eyes was likely to first find them.


People have changed the way they consume entertainment on social media during the pandemic. Almost 79% of Middle East youth between the ages 18-24 said they stay updated with the latest news through social media. Activities such as shopping have been redefined too. MENA consumers use social platforms to research brands online more than the global average does before buying. Earlier, product endorsements were limited to celebrities whereas now social media ‘influencers’ have been the go- to people for reliable and expert advice on products. A PAYFORT survey found that 42% respondents made online purchases after watching influencer reviews of products. Influencer recommendations are considered first hand social proof of a product’s promise, and brands would do good to collaborate with top influencers who in turn become social points of contact for the brand among a community of followers. Social media will continue to be of importance for different stakeholder post pandemic.


As one of the leading Digital marketing agencies in Dubai, we suggest the use of all three of these channels to effectively tap into the market: the fastest being social media, then through existing e-commerce sites for growing consumer numbers quickly, and finally their own brand platform. Brands have successfully embraced this multi-channel strategy and used more than one in parallel to see the best of all worlds. However, if a brand truly wants to attract more customers, the concept of omni-channel offering needs to be nailed. And this is something even pure play e-commerce brands need to begin considering post pandemic.

The rise of e-commerce has changed the way retail offering would look in the future, but it will not fully replace the physical store. Instead, retail and digital will work together to nail that seamless value experience shoppers looks for when they step out of their homes. Consumers should be able to make purchasing decisions at different points: they first check online for a product’s availability in-store and much before their journey to the store. Following this, people would prefer if they could reserve a product online and later pay and collect it from the store if they are sure to buy it. The convenience of decision-making becomes hassle-free for the consumer. Integrating technology within the store can push customer experience to the storefront: scan-and-buy and self-checkouts give people the option of giving long queues a miss – a concept that has been working for retail outlets.


In a complex digital world, design and strategy can help a brand stand out in the clutter. As GCC consumers look for more evolved experiences in their shopping journeys, Wisoft is helping brands lead the way by telling their unique story to capture the mind space of a busy shopper. If you are looking to seamlessly connect with the audience of the region, click here to speak with us.