Social Media in the MENA region: A look back at 2015

December 28, 2015

As 2015 is coming to an end and 2016 waits just across the corner, it is the perfect time to take a look over the past year and use it to prepare for what is coming next. This year, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat stole more ground from traditional media companies and became publishers themselves with Facebook’s Instant Articles, Twitter’s Moments and Snapchat’s Discover features.

2015 has witnessed many important and drastic changes in the social media landscape. Here are 5 important things that we should keep in mind:

Mobile-friendly becomes mobile-first

We will always be able to say that 2015 was the year where mobile devices have surpassed desktop when it comes to browsing the Internet. Social networks are constantly working on improving the experience on their mobile apps and companies are starting to shift from a mobile friendly to a mobile first mindset.

Advertising goes completely social:

Banners and popups are completely phased out, leaving more space for native ads that are completely integrated in the news feed, and a bit less interrupting of the user experience. Social media channels have become a pay-to-play space and Instagram was not going to stay out of this game.

The rise of social video:

There are 4 main facts in regards to this:

Social media has changed the way we consume content

The majority of modern Internet users are visual learners

Our attention span is shorter than ever

Video format is the most popular content format on the Internet

Having said this, it was no surprise that Facebook is now focused on creating an ecosystem focusing on video and that Instagram extended its video ads to 30 seconds in some countries.

Instant Updates are back to being the top priority:

Real-time updates are now all but demanded by consumers, and business don’t have the time to analyze or calculate each step they make online as it is moving at a very fact pace. This obsession with live streaming and instant update is going to continue on growing, and brands should think more Snapchat, Periscope etc… as this is where the consumers want to be.

Influencers and content marketing are a must:

Social media rely on the social aspect of each community, and that’s how influencer marketing got so important. A content may turn viral in just a few moments, if you manage to find the right people to talk about it. After all, users nowadays trust their peers and their network much more than any brand.

So to end the year on a useful note, here is an infographic produced by Payfort about the social media landscape in the MENA region, showing the last users habits and behaviors on the various social networks in KSA, UAE, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.

social media mena 2015 stats

مواقع التواصل الاجتماعي الخليج الشرق الأوسط ٢٠١٥


MENA is the world’s second-largest mobile phone market

October 7, 2015
smartphone MEA

The fifth annual edition of eMarketer’s Global Media Intelligence Report, produced with Starcom Mediavest Group, analyzes recent developments in MEA. It includes demographic and media usage information on audiences in Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.

internet penetration MEA 2015

Overall, 416.9 million people in the Middle East and Africa are expected to use the Internet at least once per month in 2015. In 2019, that number will approach 575 million. Predictably, Internet penetration remains far higher in wealthy states such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Females accounted for nearly 59% of residents aged 15 years and older who accessed the web with a mobile phone in 2014. Females also outnumbered males among smartphone owners in Saudi Arabia, by 55.7% to 44.3%.

The report shows that the Middle East and Africa (MEA) has the world’s second-largest mobile phone market. eMarketer estimates that just over 606 million people in the Middle East and Africa will have at least one mobile phone this year, and the total will pass 789 million in 2019.

mobile phones MEA 2015

Smartphone usage in many Middle Eastern markets jumped again in 2014. According to Ipsos MediaCT, 79% of Saudi Arabia’s entire population used an advanced handset last year; in UAE the corresponding figure was 91%, a gain of nearly 20 percentage points in a single year. In Kuwait, penetration rose from 49% to 86% in just two years, Ipsos reported.

The smartphone population in MEA will pass 106 million this year. In 2019, that share is expected to reach 22.0%, as the number of residents with a smartphone approaches 174 million.

So here are a few things that regional brands should be working on:

Improve mobile user experience:

Understanding the importance of user experience is crucial as shoppers are using their smartphones more and more for pre-purchasing activities such as comparing prices, but also to help shop while in a store (browsing product information or finding promotional offers). You should create a great user experience for your visitors and provide them with the information they want easily, even if that means changing up your navigation or building a complete mobile version of your website. Ask yourself “if someone came to my website on their phone, what do I want them to see first and what do I want them to do before they navigate away?”

Focus on mobile advertising:

Although search, social media and advertising might be a priority on mobile, brands should not disregard email marketing as 48% of emails are opened on mobile and 22% on desktop. On the other hand, knowing that in-app mobile ads perform much better than mobile web ads, brands should invest more in these types of ads following performance and usage.

Adapt to mobile search behavior:

Location based: Clearly, people accessing the Web on mobiles are interested in things around them. Search engines already do a great job of customizing search results according to the user’s location, but the least you can do is to specify your business’s location on various search engine’s webmaster settings if you’re a local business for example.

Search display: Another aspect of mobile search results is the number of results you can digest at one moment. On a typical mobile phone, you would see a maximum of 3 or 4 search results: This means getting to the top ten is no longer enough, you need to be in the Top 3.


How e-commerce in MENA will boom by the year 2020

September 23, 2015

Payfort has recently released a report called the “State of Payments 2015” which includes the forecasts by the year 2020 of all online payments in the MENA region. 60+ companies in ecommerce in the region were polled to get their view on how customers are behaving online.

Ecommerce is the fastest growing sector covered in this report and by 2020 it will become the biggest. By then, Payfort predict UAE and KSA will have a combined ecommerce market of over $10 billion in 2020 vs $3.8 billion in 2014.

Ecommerce market size in 2014

ecommerce MENA 2014

Ecommerce market size in 2020

ecommerce MENA 2020


In terms of seasonality, we can see that for the year 2014, ecommerce size was continuously growing from January to July, before dropping in August just after Eid El Fitr and it reached a peak point in November and December before Christmas and New Year. The figures charted on the graph represent divergence from the 12-month average. So if transaction size figure in September is $1.8m that means the total amount spent was +$1.8m higher than the 12 month average amount.

ecommerce MENA evolution size 2014

The most important aspect when it comes to online payment for ecommerce companies is the transaction volume. They are focused on increasing the number of transactions with the aim of capturing market share. In the future they will have to focus on increasing their average order value.

ecommerce MENA importance

Since cash-on-delivery is causing high return rates and increased costs, the main online payment challenge for ecommerce companies is to increase trust on check-out with users so they can have a more regular sales cycle, without any “surprise” for each transaction that is being made.

ecommerce MENA challenge

Facebook is still the most important social media channel for ecommerce companies when it comes to sales and consumer engagement. However Instagram may become the leading ecommerce social media channel in 2016 with their ads format being implemented in the region.

ecommerce social media MENA

Beside social media, the marketing channel that provides the biggest boost to ecommerce sales is SEO. Ecommerce companies are not heavily reliant upon paid media and instead focus on SEO, social and email marketing to increase market share.

ecommerce MENA SEO

Entertainment and electronics are the largest ecommerce sectors in the region. Groceries however, could explode if major players make it a focus.

most popular good ecommerce MENA

At the end of the day, ecommerce is heavily competitive and multiple vendors fill each niche. This is why it is no surprise that the most important challenge for ecommerce companies is still to increase market shares.

ecommerce MENA challenges

More than sending out newslettsers or creating reward program or promotional offers, some of the best ways to increase customer engagement acquire more market share are:

  • Adding a human touch to merchandising: the online shopping experience would be much more desirable if it looked closer to being in a shop.
  • Creating useful content: we’re not only talking about product features and description, but more lifestyle content that can help the consumers project themselves with the product, once they buy it. We can imagine fashion ecommerce posing street style look books, or transforming a product demo into a demo using real people in real shopping situations etc…
  • Selling the benefits of the products, not the features: This will help a lot for SEO as people are searching for a solution to their needs, something that can be achieved by the benefits of the product you are selling.
  • Sharing customer reviews with a real face: customers reviews are already very powerful, showing the face of the real person behind the comment is even more convincing, especially when everyone is wondering about the possibility of fake comments/reviews posted by competitors.
  • Providing customer service through live chatting and video: this is the best way to show the customer they can gain your trust, making them feel more comfortable in their checkout when it comes to payment or products selection.
  • Launching an online influencers program: This means re-organizing your content distribution network and expanding your relationships with a select group of online content creators that have a powerful audience on their social networks wether Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat or their blogs.

The most powerful Ramadan 2015 campaigns from MENA

July 7, 2015
ramadan MENA marketing

Ramadan is the most significant time of the year for most Muslims, stretching over an entire month of the Islamic calendar. Successful marketing strategies in Ramadan must take into account two important aspects:

– Ramadan is mainly about charity: Islam mandates that Muslims must give to the poor during the month of Ramadan.

– Ramadan is about spending time with family: During this period more than any other, families and friends regularly gather to celebrate Iftar

In that sense, Ramadan offers opportunities to marketers that are not available during the rest of the year:

– Time spent watching television is higher and prime time lasts longer than usual, as many people arrive home earlier and stay up later.

– People spend more time on social media especially at night during the holy month.

– People are able to dedicate more time for charity as they leave work earlier than usual.

During Ramadan, brands get the chance to focus more on their reputation. With its emphasis on family and charity, Ramadan is the best time for brands to enhance their reputation among customers rather than make direct sales. Messages about goodwill, acts of kindness and charity are more likely to attract the audience’s interest than aggressive marketing messages of exclusive cut-prices offers. With a clear increase in advertising budgets during Ramadan, some of the best commercials come out during this period. Below are the ones I have enjoyed the most:

Huawei Egypt: “الكلام يحلي في رمضان مع هواوي”

The commercial evokes happy feelings based on childhood memories bringing back to life the first Ramadan experiences (the first time we started fasting, the most beautiful Ramadan decorations etc…). If focuses on friends, family and the spirit of togetherness in a easy and simple way.

Unfortunately, with no Hashtag related to the campaign to push people to share their own experiences on social media, Huawei missed out a big opportunity for huge social media interactions knowing that the video has already been viewed more than 520 000 times.

Zain Group: “مهما يكبر همك الله أكبر”

Shot in a refugee camp in Jordan, the Zain Ramadan 2015 campaign focuses on humanitarianism, aimed at bringing joy, love and generosity to children who need it most. The commercial focuses on hope and the search for happiness even in times of struggle with a straightforward tagline: “مها يكبر همك الله أكبر “ a great message to be spread during Ramadan.

The campaign was released on social media and gathered more than 3.5 million views in 2 weeks. However, the brand didn’t seize the opportunity to capitalize on the power of this message to drive action and push people to get involved by proposing ideas and actions to help the children in need. The best way to do it would have been to use the social media reach and influence of the 10 artists that were involved in this commercial to offer people the possibility to actually do something to help instead of just watching the commercial.

Robi: “The power of Honesty”

The Bangladesh telecom company Robi really did something different for this Ramadan season by highlighting a major problem that many countries in our region are facing every day: corruption. Using “The Power of Honesty” as a tagline, the campaign was also adapted into two short clips for their Facebook page about services offered by the telecom company claiming the company is “honest” in everything it has to offer, which is also a major customer concern especially when it comes to telecom operators.

However, it’s too bad there was no social media adaptation of this campaign beyond the use of the two short clips on Facebook. The only thing the brand had to do to create more awareness was to launch an online activation pushing people to share their best acts of honesty for a chance to win exclusive offers from Robi.

Mobinil: #فاعل_خير 

The idea of launching the hashtag #فاعل_خير a couple of weeks before Ramadan and creating a buzz through guerilla marketing was very creative. People have been seeing the #فاعل_خير hashtag written a bit everywhere all over the streets in Egypt with no idea clear idea who is behind them. The campaign was then revealed to show through simple gestures of kindness how Egyptian people have always been so special, and their choice of music makes the campaign even nicer. So far, there has been more than 9300 mentions of #فاعل_خير on Twitter. Well done Mobinil!

Pepsi Pakistan: #LightingUpLives

PepsiCo Pakistan has launched “Lighting up Lives”, a nationwide campaign that invites consumers to help deliver eco-friendly lighting to underprivileged communities simply through buying a bottle of Pepsi during the holy month of Ramadan. PepsiCo Pakistan will donate 1 rupee for every 1.75L bottle of Pepsi purchased during Ramadan, enabling Pakistani consumers to become part of the movement to end darkness in underprivileged homes across the country. An explanatory video on how Pepsi bottles are turned into solar lights was also produced and posted on Pepsi Pakistan Facebook Page. To push things further, the “Lighting up Lives” mission is also documented through dedicated content with real time posts on Pepsi Pakistan Instagram and Twitter accounts, showing how the brand is actually keeping its promise to bring solar power and light to the people in need.

Coca-Cola Egypt: ‫#‏ثانية_تفرق

This campaign is the Arabic adaptation of the “let’s take an extra second” campaign introduced earlier this year by Coca-Cola to break down prejudices as bullying has become a serious problem in society, affecting thousands of children around the world. Coca-Cola Egypt released four different videos raising awareness around prejudices for Ramadan 2015, inviting us to take an extra second to get to know the person and discover the story behind each of them. The message is clear: without prejudice, we make a happier world.

Coca-Cola Egypt posted a 30-second video its YouTube channel and Facebook page informing that Coca-Cola chose this Ramadan not to advertise on TV and only do it on social media. The company decided to spend the TV media buying money on helping the development of 100 of the poorest villages in Egypt.

What do you think about these different Ramadan campaigns? Which one is your favorite?

Brands, Influencers

How lifestyle brands are collaborating with online influencers in the Middle East

June 10, 2015
influencers marketing middle east

The idea of collaborating with social influencers to benefit more from the creation and distribution of content sounds great in theory. This is what we call Influencers Marketing. Online influencers are people who create and share interesting or valuable content with the audiences that follow them. They have succeeded at building an audience and credibility within the digital sphere, which gives them a level of influence that is sometimes greater than the mass media, on a wide variety of topics.

These online influencers might be bloggers with large readerships or socially savvy consumers with a large followers base on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram. In all cases, they have built their audience on a long period of time and by producing interesting and valuable content, and it is the main reason people trust theses sources, relate to them and respect their opinion

Many brands are now turning to online influencers to reach new audiences or to engage them in a different way. There are plenty of opportunities for brands to connect and collaborate with these online influencers. Here are 4 different examples from the Middle East:

 1/ Offer an exclusive experience: The #AmexExplorer campaign

To mark the launch of the new Amex Platinum, American Express Middle East teamed up with three lifestyle bloggers on a journey to explore their passion for culture, food and shopping and share these experiences with their followers.

amex explorer middle east

Why we love this collaboration: It was integrated part of a full marketing campaign around the launch of the new Amex Platinum and one of the objectives was to drive people to an open competition where they could win a “trip of a lifetime” with Amex.

 2/ Co-host an event: The #TophopMEAdidas campaign with Ascia Al Faraj

The launch of the new Adidas Original x Topshop collection was revealed in Kuwait through an event hosted by style blogger Ascia AKF from The Hybrids.

ascia AKF adidas topshop ME

Why we love this collaboration: It is straight to the point and focuses on quality of content rather than quantity: a teaser post, a reveal post and an invitation post all three containing a clear view of the products.

 3/ Create a visual campaign together: The #UnlockYourWish campaign by Cartier

For the launch of the new “Amulette De Cartier” jewelry range in the Middle East, Cartier collaborated with Zahra Lyla from Lyla Loves Fashion and Nadya Hassan from The Fierce Diaries to create a photo shoot focused around the concept of the dream versus the reality and the possibility to unlock your wish with the new “Amulette de Cartier”.

zahra lyla cartier amulette

nadya hassan cartie amulette

Why we love this collaboration: The concept was adapted locally based on a global campaign from Cartier that was launched in 2014 and that focuses on clear branding guidelines and extremely rich visuals. Visibility of the campaign was also maximized since content distribution was not only done on both bloggers social media platforms but also through a partnership with covering the photo shoot.

4/ Rely on the influencer’s expertise: #SephoraDayOut with Huda Kattan

Sephora Middle East launched a social media competition giving a chance for 3 girls to win a makeover and get to spend the day with beauty blogger Huda Kattan. 4 videos where produced and distributed on Sephora ME social media channels as well as on Huda Beauty blog.

Why we love this collaboration: Aside from visibility, this type of content focuses purely on engagement. Many girls commented on Sephora ME Youtube channels and Facebook page asking for another chance or another competition for a chance to meet Huda Kattan.

Investing in influencers marketing:

We’re noticing a huge shift in how brands and marketers are reaching consumers. Investing in influencers marketing in gaining a lot of weight in brands PR and online advertising budgets. Being able to create a good collaboration means establishing a good relationship with the right influencers and it needs to follow a process that ranges from: “market to influencers”, to “market through influencers” and finally “market with influencer”.


4 beauty Youtubers from the Middle East to watch in 2015

June 1, 2015
beauty bloggers ME

Online video is at the core of content marketing, but brands will have to do more than just create one to realize its full potential. Five years in the future, no one will be reading this article; everyone will be watching it. As online video continues its inimitable rise, it is interesting for brands to find new ways to create content that is interesting and shareable, and that would reach a wide audience.

According to Google research, 50% of all beauty shoppers watch a beauty video on YouTube while they are shopping or looking to but for beauty products. But according to a study released in 2014 by YouTube marketing company Pixability titled “How YouTube is Radically Transforming the Beauty Industry and What That Means for Brands”, these shoppers are bypassing major brands when it comes to product recommendations, reviews, how to’s and beauty tips. Instead, they are following YouTube beauty personalities and vloggers who create beauty video content focused on makeup, skincare, hair care, and nails.

Huda Kattan is not he only YouTube beauty guru who is radically transforming the beauty industry in the Middle East. She’s just one of the best known YouTube vloggers but there are many other on the rise. Here are the top 4 beauty vloggers from the Middle East that everyone should know about:

huda kattan

Huda Kattan – Huda Beauty

Huda is a beauty blogger based in Dubai and an inspiration to all the make-up addicts out there as she turned her passion for make-up into a business by launching her own eye lashes brand. Her blog “Huda Beauty” ranks in the Top 20 best beauty blogs worldwide.

Youtube: 472 567 subscribers

Instagram: 4.5 million followers


maya ahmd

Maya Ahmd – Make up by Maya

Maya is a Lebanese make-up addict sharing monthly videos on her channel about make-up tips and tricks. She focuses mainly on make-up products, beauty experiences, make-up essentials and tutorials and how to’s.

Youtube: 146 967 subscribers

Instagram: 580 000 followers

razan al oudah

Razan Al Oudah – Make up by Razan

Razan is Kuwaiti make-up artist and Youtuber who creates very simple video tutorials to showcase daily make-up looks and how to’s.

Youtube: 61 016 subscribers

Instagram: 184 000 followers

dalal al doub

Dalal Al Doub – Dalalid

Dalal is a Fashion and beauty blogger from Kuwait who creates videos based on make-up products reviews and experiences. Her videos focus on the latest make-up trends and the best products to use in each categories (eyes, lips etc…) to help unleash the beauty expert in each one of her viewers.

Youtube: 237 599 subscribers

Instagram: 1.1 million followers



4 lessons every brand should learn following the bad buzz around #EtisalatChallenge campaign

May 19, 2015

I think everyone by now has heard about what happened with the #EtisalatChallenge campaign and how the hashtag actually backfired creating a negative buzz within the online community especially on Twitter. Basically, for those who haven’t, what you need to know is that Etisalat launched a global marketing campaign using top worldwide celebrities as well as local influencers, stating that they challenge any customer to find an offer they can’t match or beat using the hashtag #EtisalatChallenge.

Many brands have found themselves in this type of tricky situation in the past where they have realized they can never fully control what happens on the Internet. Whether it comes as a surprise or not, bad reviews and negative comments always happen. But what is really important and vital for a company is to know how to handle this bad buzz and always be prepared in case it escalates into something bigger. Although it may seem like this is the worst situation for a brand, it can also be the perfect opportunity to show great customer service and turn bad customers relationships into good ones.

Below are 4 important things every brand should keep in mind before launching a campaign:

1/ Listen to what your consumers have to say before launching a campaign

A simple research on Twitter around #EtisalatChallenge shows us that a huge number of Etisalat customers were unhappy with the services provided by the telecom operator and most of all they were very unsatisfied with the way Etisalat handles customer service and issues solving.
Before launching a campaign that involves promoting a service, a brand needs to make sure that most of the existing customers are already satisfied with the existing offers and services. Listening to existing social media conversations through a structured monitoring program during the preparation of the campaign can provide enough insights around how the community could react to a certain type of messaging from a brand.

2/ Test the concept of your campaign with a panel of social media users I don’t know who is the agency behind the campaign, and I’m not saying they’re bad, but there was clearly a lack of coordination between the teams handling digital and social media and the ones handling traditional media. The creative concept of the campaign is all about directly addressing the audience through a simple message: “We challenge you to find a mobile tariff in the UAE that Etisalat can’t match or beat” What about the rest of the conversation? How can customers reply to Etisalat by saying “I have found an offer that I would like you to match”? Where is the interaction between the brand and the consumers supposed to happen? Clearly not on social media since Etisalat decided not to respond to any of the tweets that contained the #EtisalatChallenge hashtag. Why wasn’t there a microsite dedicated to the campaign or a simple section on Etisalat website in which people would be able to interact with the company directly. There are other benefits to social media than the ones used to create visibility for a marketing campaign. One of the most important is being able to rapidly connect with an audience to pre-test a campaign before it is launched. Having a panel of social media users organized per interest can be very helpful in this kind of situation to test their reaction to a new offer or a campaign and adapt the messaging accordingly.

  3/ The choice of influencers: working with A-list celebrities is not always the best option etisalat challenge Using influencers in a global marketing campaign should aim at having them endorse them campaign to give it more credibility in the eyes of the consumers. Instead of focusing on the audience as main criteria in the choice of the influencers part of the campaign, Etisalat should have focused on building the advocacy of their customers first. No one is going to believe Gerard Butler saying that he is challenging us to find a better offer, however, having a bunch a real customers saying that they are more than happy with their offer from Etisalat would have had much more impact and would have cost way less. Brand advocates are sometimes much more efficient than influencers because they have more depth, they speak out of passion and conviction based on a real experience and they connect with the audience emotionally.


4/ Never censor concerns: address them publicly

In the case of Etisalat, there was clearly no preparation regarding the possibility of having a negative buzz around the campaign. The 2 big “faux-pas” were to try to create positive word of mouth through a bunch of robots on Twitter all broadcasting the same message and to ask online media outlets such as Arabian Business, Gulf Business News and The National to remove negative articles they have posted about the campaign. 

The most important things for a company when it comes to managing a bad buzz is to appear transparent and committed to solving the issue by posting positively about it and most of the time via an official online statement which They chose not to do.


the national etisalat challenge

However, reading the recent press articles from the last day about Etisalat speed downloads being faster than Du’s leads us to believe that they have found a god way to create good press after the #EtisalatChallenge crisis. What will be the different reactions in the online community?


Online Shopping in the Middle East: Statistics, trends and behaviors

May 12, 2015
online shopping Middle East

The Online Shopping Behavior Survey released by Mastercard in April 2015, measures consumers’ propensity to shop online. The survey was conducted at the end of last year and was based on interviews with 4000 respondents across eight markets in the Middle East and North Africa including the KSA, UAE, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and Lebanon.

Across all the different countries, the most important factors impacting online shopping decisions are the price and value of the items on offer, the security of the payment facility, the user-friendliness and the reputation of the website. Below are the key findings related to the study compiled in an infographic

online shopping behviour MENA Mastercard

Saudi Arabia shows promise for online shopping growth

Nearly half of the respondents had made an online purchase during the 3 months prior to the study, of which 78% were satisfied with their online shopping experience.

25-34 year olds were found to be most likely to access the Internet for online shopping and the most popular sites that respondents had visited were and Amazon. Other popular sites that attracted the highest levels of traffic included eBay, Saudi Airlines and Namshi. Respondents indicated a slight preference for local websites over foreign websites, citing a fear of hidden charges from retailers and the ability to find all the products they need locally as the main reasons for shopping on local websites.

Mobile shopping on the rise in Qatar

3 in 10 respondents made online purchases through their mobile phones during the 3 months prior to the study – an increase of 15% compared to 2013. An additional 1 in 6 respondents who had not purchased online yet said that they intended to do so in the next six months. The reasons given for shopping online via mobile phones included convenience, apps that make online shopping easy and the ability to shop while on the go.

Respondents purchased clothing and accessories primarily, followed by home appliances, electronic products and phone apps. Other frequently purchased items included hotel accommodation, airline tickets, computer software and personal or beauty care brands.

 Online and mobile shopping grows significantly in Lebanon

59% of the survey’s respondents in Lebanon accessed the internet for online shopping in 2014, representing an increase of 45%compared to the previous year. The survey also found that 92% of the respondents who had made a purchase online were satisfied with their online shopping experience. The increase witnessed in online shopping amongst respondents in Lebanon was the highest compared to the rest of MENA.

Websites such as Shtrina, Shopinleb followed by Amazon and Getforless were found to be the most commonly visited sites for online shopping in Lebanon. Airlines enjoyed the highest level of absolute online spend, followed by hotels, supermarkets, hypermarkets, restaurants and food delivery services.

Online shopping witnesses continued steady growth in Oman

Women found to be more likely to make online purchases than men, and 45 to 49 year olds most likely to make a purchase online. Airlines were found to enjoy the highest absolute spend with a significant lead over other leading categories including travel products, home appliances and electronic products.

eBay is the most commonly visited site for online shopping, trailed by Yallahoman, Muscat360, Amazon and Alshop. Respondents in Oman were found to be more likely to purchase from foreign websites than they were in 2013 although they pointed out that local sites offered benefits such as convenience and lower costs.

Kuwait consumers top the list of online shoppers in the Middle East

95% of respondents made at least one purchase online during the 3 months prior to the survey. Developments in Kuwait’s internet infrastructure has allowed a number of companies to expand their businesses to include online offerings, especially as Kuwait’s technology-savvy consumers are well versed the with the benefits of cashless payments. The most commonly visited websites for shopping were Xcite, and Blink. Other key sites that were visited include Ubuy, Letouch and Mrbabu. The share of foreign websites exhibited a significant decline both in terms of purchase occasions and online spends – signifying that Kuwaiti consumers strongly prefer shopping from local websites.

 Online shopping continues to gain popularity in the UAE

Online is quickly becoming the norm for more shoppers in the UAE due to the high level of awareness amongst consumers about the convenience, speed and safety of their transactions. In the UAE, emerged as the most commonly visited website for shopping online, with over 45% of respondents having made a purchase from the site during the three months leading up to the study. The next most visited site was, with 16% of respondents having purchased from it, reflecting UAE consumers’ preference for local websites over foreign sites.

4 powerful e-commerce marketing trends that brands should adopt:

Brands in the region should see these growing statistics as an opportunity; they must consider different ways to reach consumers in real-time. Here are a few digital strategies that can help marketers stay one step ahead:

– Think mobile optimized instead of mobile friendly: It’s not about just creating sites that work decently on mobile – it’s about adding value and creating a great customer journey on smartphones and tablets through loyalty apps or mobile services such as mobile ordering or mobile payment solutions.

– Focus on mobile advertising: This includes growing mobile ads format such as mobile display, mobile video, search and social ads that are a strong format on mobile because of their convergence with local-mobile targeting, mobile programmatic ads as well as in-app mobile ads that perform much better than mobile web ads.

– Create personalized experiences: Online stores have been serving personalized ads to prospective users since years. Many online stores also use personalized product displays and suggestion for registered users. As users become more comfortable with sharing some personal information with brands and trusted online stores, brands should start making more efforts on their online stores to offer a more meaningful personalization to users.

– Use social networks as shopping platforms: Over the last several years, brands have used social media to market their products, talk to customers, and even make merchandising decisions; but in the coming months, we anticipate brands to add “selling” to the list of things they can do on social sites (ie. the recent launches of shopping functionalities on the main social networks with Facebook’s and Twitter’s “buy” buttons)






Video viewing habits in MENA: Second and third screens as an extension of the viewing experience

May 6, 2015
Video viewing MENA

While the explosion of devices and platforms has given us more access to content and brands than ever before, video programming remains a strong influence in our lives. According to a survey done by Nielsen which results are compiled in the “Screen Wars: The battle for eye space in a TV-everywhere world” report, more than half of global respondents (55%) say video programs are an important part of their lives. The way audiences watch video, however, is shifting.

MENA respondents are particularly engaged in social media while viewing, exceeding the global average for attitudes related to social media use. For example, 57% of MENA respondents watch live programming if it has a social media tie in (compared with 49% globally). In addition, more than six-in-10 respondents in MENA (62%) say they like to keep up with shows so they can join the conversation on social media.

Using social media while watching video programming is only one example of second-screen usage. Getting extra content, researching information about characters, playing mobile games or reading/watching behind-the-scenes interviews are becoming common practices. More than half of global respondents (58%) say they browse the Internet while watching video programming.

MENA video viewing habits

Below are 5 important things brands should do to keep viewers engaged on the second screen:

1/ Adding hashtags to their ads: Adding hashtags to ads, increasingly common practice over the past year, is one of the most basic ways to extend an ad beyond 30 seconds and one channel.

2/ Leveraging the small screen during big live events: Brands should invest in traditional advertising during big live events being broadcasted on TV for a bigger chance for their message to be commented and shared by the viewers on their social media channels

3/ Gamifying TV ads: A good way to incentivize viewers to not only keep watching ads but more actively engage with them is by adding second-screen gaming elements that are either fun for their own sake or tied into contests and sweepstakes.

4/ Bridging a TV campaign with extra digital content: Instead of simply asking interested or intrigued viewers to visit a microsite or Facebook page after seeing a TV commercial, marketers can use second-screen apps like Shazam to quickly link consumers with a campaign’s online elements and provide simple ways to share their enthusiasm via social media.

5/ Giving sports fans a game of their own: When it comes to sports, fans are especially interested in supplemental information and a group-viewing experience. A good idea for a brand would be to create a online space where people could play against each other, predict game action in real time, etc..


Why connected objects should be the next big marketing innovation for brands in MENA

May 4, 2015
IoT mena

Wearable technology and the Internet of things are no longer science fiction. Although not mainstream, they are real, and, like the smartphone and tablet before them, they have the potential to disrupt brand’s marketing.

The impact of mobile, connected and wearable devices, combined with digital and social media, has transformed how people make purchase decisions today. Brands are starting to see the potential of engaging with consumers through these devices in different ways and they are now realizing that by serving information that is actually useful and that adds real value, they can change the way people experience their brand and create a more intimate relationship through a better customer experience. Creating interactions with consumers through wearables and all other connected objects will allow brands to read and gather contextual data about their behavior. When information is contextual, it is relevant, accurate and useful to the user – and therefore creates a positive reaction from the consumer’s end.

Here are 4 ways Internet of Things will helping brands achieve a better customer experience:

1/ Embracing “big data” to learn about consumer’s behavior

Brands that thought the whole “big data” movement did not apply to their business were wrong. Data collection related to user’s behavior is the key to any IoT strategy.

Brands should start using wearable devices to measure direct reactions of their consumers and gather information about their behavior. With new gadgets like glasses, watches, pedometers, fitness trackers, and sleeping monitors that will be everywhere, it will be easier for brands to understand context and drive a much more relevant message, which is better for both the advertiser and the consumer. A fitness brand, for instance, could push notifications to people who work out, a record company would be able to address individuals who spend a lot of time in transit and therefore might enjoy music, and a pharmaceutical brand could target people with specific heart conditions, moving away from traditional ads on health magazines or websites that reach broader groups.

2/ Creating a new brand experience through true personalization

Beyond the iPhone, any connected device becomes “my device”, shapes by “my data” and every interaction “I have” with it. Let’s take an example in a real life situation: I drink a fresh orange juice before my gym session every Wednesday at 9pm. One morning I don’t have the time to press my orange, but since my juicer is connected to my iPhone, it is aware that I didn’t get my juice at the right time. And since the iPhone has the hour and the address of the gym, it communicates with a service that can find a place that sells fresh juices, and sends me a coupon and the address of the juice place so I can get my juice on my way to the gym.

This is the kind of personalization services everyone will be looking at. Building an entire experience around a connected juicer is useful: it delivers an added value beyond just “making juice” which has now become a commodity. Brands like Johnny Walker have already started transforming their products into connected devices, creating a disruption in bottles’ packaging.

3/ Helping the consumer in the decision making process at the right moment

Brands are already creating content for web-based application. With the rise of connected objects, they will start creating useful content through augmented reality, geolocation and push notifications, a must part of the retail marketing strategy. By providing content that will help evaluating, navigating and monitoring at the right time, brands will assist customers in decision-making by adding value through relevance and efficiency. Some retailers are already using sensors and data integrations to guide shoppers towards finalizing purchases by providing helpful content for in-store product comparison. Another example of this is a shopper receiving a location and/or loyalty-based promotion after passing by an in-store signal.

 4/ Enabling action though service innovation and facilitation

Have you ever found yourself searching for a specific item in a pharmacy, wishing you could click control-F to locate it, pay, and leave quickly? Consumers are looking for the ability to access, acquire or accomplish what they need with ease, just when they need it. This can be done through indoor mappping softwares such as Aisle411. Companies benefit from connecting product, service, and customer data because visibility into these elements informs support, sales, and other service opportunities more quickly. For example, connected car manufacturer, Tesla delivered a 45-minute software update to more than 29,000 vehicles to resolve a recall for overheating wall chargers.

But we’re still not there yet, even on a worldwide level:

Although the IoT has clear benefits when it comes to improving customer experience, there are two main obstacles to overcome:

– Many users are still not very open to sharing such personal and intimate details about their lives. Brands need to figure out ways to entice them, such as providing rewards or educating users on the value of sharing anonymous device data.

– Most wearable devices currently available don’t offer enough utility for most consumers to continue to wear them beyond the ‘honeymoon phase’ after their initial purchase, like it was the case with cell phones in the early nineties.

For the time being, brands are still too focused on the screen when it comes to online engagement with their consumers. The real question is: what is beyond the screen? How can brands create technology-based interactions without using a screen? Marketers need to take risks and try things out. And now is the time to experiment without too much repercussion because adoption is low.

Check out the below infographic for a glimpse about the state of the Internet of Things with a focus on MENA based on predictions done by Deloitte and Cisco.


The Internet of Things Middle East