7 tips for setting up a successful e-commerce business in UAE
E-commerce sales are poised to reach $20 billion by 2020.
The retail sector of the Middle East is witnessing a rapid transformation as consumers become more conscious of quality and value while also expecting the convenience of e-commerce. On one hand, e-commerce sales are poised to reach $20 billion by 2020, while on the other hand, traditional brick-and-mortar stores continue to thrive.
Alpen Capital's GCC Retail Industry Report 2019 finds that the initiatives by the industry stakeholders' have enhanced the shopping experience for consumers, who continue to want physical retail experience as well.
These apparently opposing trends are actually natural because shoppers today prefer a hybrid model -splitting their time and money among brick-and-mortar stores, online purchases, and in-store pickup. They don't just buy on a whim, but do their pre-purchase research on a variety of platforms and across multiple devices, turning themselves into omnichannel consumers. The plethora of options available make consumers increasingly selective about what they like and don't like, creating an environment where retailers are battling to maintain the customer attention.
Even the most prominent retailers have had to adopt omnichannel strategies, such as establishing presence on online retail marketplaces like Amazon, Ebay, and Walmart, advertising on social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, and offering in-store pickups. E-commerce's prompt delivery and hassle-free shopping experience has changed market dynamics and consumer expectations.
According to the Alpen Capital report, the GCC's two largest e-commerce markets-the UAE and Saudi Arabia-are expected to continue leading the region, cumulatively accounting for over 79 percent of the region's total e-commerce sales by 2020. The report states the industry is "expected to be driven by digitisation trends, rising awareness of e-commerce benefits (discounts, offers, sale, etc.), increasing millennial and expatriate population, government initiatives, launch of secured payment gateways, and improving delivery channels."
So how can you set your e-commerce business apart? Here are a few tips:
. On-demand point-of-sale: Your point-of-sale system should help shoppers engage with the e-commerce platform, browse and test products, and purchase at their convenience. Offer personalized services such as a saved wishlist and an order history that allows consumers to conveniently compare and reorder to consumers.
. Integrated AI: With key retail sector roles taken over by artificial intelligence, you can utilize AI tools to gather, study, and personalise the shopping experience from beginning to end. Integrate AI to create an efficient way to analyse consumers' browsing and shopping habits, which in turn can identify and fix any issues leading customers to drop off.
. Payment flexibility and security: Accept multiple methods of payment, ranging from credit cards and digital wallets to cash and on-delivery payment. Ensure all online payments are secure with encryption and set up the-ecommerce platform on a VPN (virtual private network) to prevent hacker threats.
. Multiple shipping vendors: Offer a variety of choices to help meet the needs of customers in different phases of the purchase process. For example, offering free shipping that may take a few days longer along with faster shipping options for an extra fee caters to those who want to save as well as those who want their purchases sooner.
. E-commerce localised for UAE: Ensure your website has an Arabic version. Don't just translate your content, but go beyond to provide a personalised experience for Arabic speakers, such as changing your Arabic website's orientation to left-to-right. Offering localised content in Arabic will be a key differentiator in the GCC market.
. Sell through multiple channels: Develop your online store to sell through as many channels as possible, such as your own e-commerce platform, third-party marketplaces such as Etsy, Amazon, and Walmart (even though it means they will take a cut of sales) and brick-and-mortar stores, even if it's only for brand awareness.
. Stay informed: Keeping up with industry news via relevant publications and events will help you stay updated on trends, especially advancements in technology that could work for your business. Carefully study e-commerce platforms that excel in the marketplace and offer a great customer experience. By analyzing great examples in your field, you'll discover features to apply to your own brand.
It is crucial to build your e-commerce platform to take advantage of shifting trends and dynamics in the retail sector. As the UAE continues to lead the market in the Middle East, your multi-channel e-commerce platform could be uniquely poised for success.
Ali Shabdar is Business Development Director, MEA, Zoho Corp. Views expressed here are is own and do not reflect this newspaper's policy.
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