The eCommerce “Gold Rush” in MENA
Fuelled by a new shopping culture and the expanding number of mobile and internet subscribers, the MENA region is becoming one the fastest growing eCommerce markets in the world.
According to a PayPal study on e-commerce in the Middle East, online sales amounted to 11$ bn in 2013, with an increase prediction of up to 15$ bn until 2015. That speaks of a huge shopping flow amongst MENA consumers and it comes as no surprise as there are reportedly 1 billion internet users across the region, out of which 1/3 are shopping online.
By putting these facts together it’s fairly obvious that MENA has great potential regarding the development of the commerce landscape, especially for Telecom companies which are natively connected to the mobile and the customer’s digital experience. Let’s take Saudi Arabia, a state with a population of 30 million that reached 53 million mobile phone subscriptions in 2013, meaning that every citizen has two active mobile phone subscriptions on average.
The MENA region numbers 10 large national and international Telco groups with 19 countries and about 380 million people. Competition is not easy in such a context. In Telecommunications, staying ahead of market tendencies is imperative. The dynamicity of the industry and its regulations require agile approaches for the improvement of mobile packages, customer service, customer engagement and data management. Shifting the shopping experience to the online environment, by developing a commerce platform, gives telecom operators the perfect tool to acquire a big part of that tech-savvy population.
When asked what their biggest motivation for shopping online is, Middle Eastern consumers said that they can get better offers, according to a recent study. Reading between the lines, we understand that better offers also imply customised offers, because as consumers of Telco services ourselves, we expect services tailored to our needs and habits. In order to sell more plans, cloud services and mobile devices, telecom companies need to know their clients and track down their purchase journey, in order to answer their needs properly through custom-made offers. eCommerce is all about one-on-one interaction with the service, providing companies access to plentiful information about purchase habits, frequency or even inconveniences.
Businesses are also big telecommunication service consumers. Over the past 2 years, the B2B commerce market has gone through complex changes in its pursuit of a strong presence on the online landscape. The B2B market is swiftly catching up and this should stand as a strong indicator for various opportunities to be reached by companies that have neglected the importance of a digital shopping experience until now.
The good news is that MENA’s interest in investing in telecom service innovation is growing steadily. In 2013, Middle East spending on IT projects was $149.2 billion, a 5% growth from 2012.
Whether its businesses or natural persons, this eagerness to make the ‘e’ part of the e-commerce experience is rooted into customer’s behaviour. The fast pace at which users adopt new technologies raises the bar and encourages telecom companies to enhance communication services by investing in IT innovation projects.