UAE customers spend more per transaction than anyone else – and they usually buy international products. Learn how to increase visibility and drive sales with eCommerce in the UAE.

When UAE customers shop, they spend big.

At $332 per purchase, their online transaction levels are the highest in the world. But they shop online less frequently than the global average, so the market has plenty of room for growth.

Overseas products account for 58% of all purchases. This is good news if you’re an international brand, but to generate strong sales, you’ll need to effectively join customers’ online and offline experience.

MEET ME AT THE MALL

Shopping malls are popular in the UAE. In fact, over half the population visits one at least once a week.

That’s because they’re more than a shopping destination – they’re a part of everyday life. People go there to spend time with friends and family, eat out and be entertained just as much as they go there to shop.

Of course, this affects customers’ shopping preferences. 77% discover new products in a store, compared to just 14% online. And 84% buy from brick-and-mortar stores.

So for your brand’s eCommerce activity to gain traction, you need to complement your in-store experience – not replace it.

KENZO is a good example.

When they launched in the UAE, they hit the streets of Dubai and Abu Dhabi in a KENZO bus. They branded the London-style double decker with KENZO’s iconic navy-blue polka dots. This allowed them to show off the brand and its products more powerfully than through traditional advertising.

They ‘connected the dots’ with an online campaign, encouraging people to follow the bus’s journey using #FollowTheKenzoBus. Thanks to this combined approach, the launch was a success – KENZO now has four stores in the UAE.

MOVE INTO MOBILE

The UAE’s mall obsession doesn’t mean you should abandon hopes of experiencing eCommerce success.

It’s still the eCommerce leader in the Gulf Cooperation Council – an Arabian alliance that includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The country’s eCommerce market is also expected to quadruple to $20 billion by 2020. And the government recently launched Dubai CommerCity to accelerate growth in the sector.

But to claim your stake, you need to be mobile-ready.

In 2015, the UAE was named the second largest mCommerce market. 57% of online shoppers made purchases using their mobile phones, and 80% of online retailers say their customers use mobile phones to buy from them.

Purchasing via apps is also preferred over browsers – basket sizes are 20% higher on mobile apps than desktops. This is especially true for the UAE’s established eCommerce sites, including Awok, Wadi, Namshi and Souq. In fact, 55% of Souq’s purchases come from their mobile app.

So these sites are crucial for building online visibility and increasing sales. As the largest eCommerce site in the Middle East, Souq is the best place to start.  

SOUQ.COM

Initially an auction site, Souq has evolved into a retail platform like Amazon. In fact, Amazon bought the platform for an undisclosed sum in 2017.

In terms of initial set-up, you’ll need a trade license, ID, bank account and shipping location to sell on Souq. While there’s no fee to sell, Souq does charge a commission on anything customers buy from you – so be sure to factor that into your costs.

Selling on Souq is a wise choice because it offers many services to make sellers’ lives easier. Souq handles payment and shipping, and also provides an authenticity guarantee for ease of purchase and sale.

Souq is particularly attractive to fashion brands right now, as fashion is a growing sector on the site. The downside is that people tend to search by brand name rather than by product. So if you’ve just launched in the market, you’ll need to invest heavily in marketing to make your brand’s profile stand out.

You can do this directly on Souq. A wide range of options are available, including sponsored products, display marketing, email marketing and ‘big executions.’

The platform’s wide reach and wealth of advertising options make it a good site to advertise on even if you’re not an eRetailer. Big brands like McDonalds, Lufthansa, HSBC and Jeep all advertise on Souq.

FINAL THOUGHTS

When it comes to eCommerce in the UAE, any online strategy should complement the in-store experience, rather than replace it. Because there’s a close connection between socializing and shopping, incorporating social media into your eCommerce strategy is a powerful way to bridge the gap.