Conversational commerce

Leading home-grown mobile commerce platform Zbooni is finding new ways to support and grow local SMEs via its platform

By Muhammad Ali Bandial

Published: Tue 26 Oct 2021, 3:57 PM

Zbooni, meaning ‘My customer’ in Arabic, is a technology company, founded in Dubai in 2017 that has enabled merchants to easily start, run and grow their businesses online, through a range of useful business-focused services, such as mobile payment solutions, digital storefronts, data insights, automated sales tracking and invoicing. The company was incubated at Facebook, and is backed by regional and international organisations, including Chalhoub Group, Middle East Venture Partners and B&Y Venture Capital.

Zbooni has access to one of the strongest communities of small medium enterprises (SMEs), which account for 94 per cent of all companies in the UAE, employing more than 86 per cent of private sector workforce. The platform is versatile and can accommodate the requirements of all types of commerce, irrespective of whether they be a freelancer, Instagram seller, or a brick and mortar seller.

Zbooni serves the local ecosystem and is constantly adapting and evolving itself to find new ways to support businesses. Starting from setting-up through to scaling, the platform effectively understands the needs of businesses due to its research, surveys and polls to ensure that the platform remains at the cutting edge of knowledge.

While there can be no doubt that the UAE has positioned itself at the forefront of post Covid-19 recovery through swift lockdowns and enhanced vaccination drives, not much is known about the health of business performance. To provide clarity in this area, Zbooni released the findings in its UAE SME Survey Report, which polled more than 200 businesses across a variety of sectors to identify challenges and strengths.

Zbooni surveyed a 50-50 split of physical retailers and online-only businesses, representing a broad cross-section of the SME community. The platform is home to thousands of online and offline businesses who transact millions of dollars per month via its payment facility and conduct day-to-day operations with Zbooni’s varied business commerce solutions.

Some of the noteworthy findings of the survey are mentioned below:

- Nine out of 10 or 89.3 per cent of SMEs feel that the UAE is a good location to start up a business.

- There is significant optimism amongst the SME community for 2021 as 83.7 per cent of business owners said that they were optimistic or very optimistic about the future of their company, while another 91 per cent of SMEs expect to grow in 2021.

- In spite of the disruption and uncertainty of the pandemic, 89.5 per cent of the businesses surveyed said that they had grown their business in the past 12 months.

There were other findings too such as that according to SMEs, Instagram was the top ranked channel for growing online sales, followed by WhatsApp, own branded websites, and lastly, Facebook. Only 18 per cent of SME businesses ranked online marketplaces as an important driver for their online sales.

Speaking on the occasion of the launching of the report, Rammy Assaf, the CEO and co-founder of Zbooni said, “We conducted this research to understand how SMEs are faring after a turbulent year. Whilst we have seen strong growth on our digital platform, it is encouraging to see that the SME community has also accelerated over the past 12 months, despite the difficulties of Covid-19. Entrepreneurs are the backbone of the economy, so to see such confidence and optimism in light of the circumstances is tremendously positive for the UAE and its future.”

“It would probably come as a surprise to the likes of Noon and Amazon, but they appear out of touch with more than 80 per cent of the SME community. Many products and services just can’t be serviced with traditional ecommerce marketplaces. At Zbooni, we are pioneering an exciting path of conversational commerce. It allows businesses to speak in a straightforward manner with their customers via popular chat options like WhatsApp. Rather than offer the cookie-cutter, copy and paste approach as seen on marketplaces, we allow businesses to customise their products and services to suit the needs of their customers. It’s very clear that there is more to ecommerce than marketplaces”, added Assaf.

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