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E-commerce is a multi-billion dollar business. It has not only redefined the retail sector, but also completely changed our approach to purchasing products and services. Leading online companies like Uber, Amazon, and eBay have been instrumental in the establishment of entirely new and unique consumer behaviors.
Market research firm eMarketer predicts e-commerce sales will eclipse US$3.5 trillion within the next five years. Additionally, they forecast that online purchases will more than double to $3.551 trillion by 2019, as a result of increased Internet use. Globally, the online retail industry is changing with new stores opening up every week. The Internet allows smaller vendors an opportunity to enter the market with considerably low overheads, and allows larger, established retailers a chance to reach out to consumers that they might be missing due to their traditional brick-and-mortar models.
The Middle East has not been immune to the fast growing phenomenon of e-commerce, with a report from online payment company PayFort valuing the market at $2.3 billion (Dh8.45 billion) in 2014. Additionally, the report predicted the UAE and KSA e-commerce markets to reach a collective value of $10 billion by 2020.
Several brands in the region have moved to an omni-channel model, resulting in online shopping drawing in a larger volume of consumers. That being said, despite sizeable growth in the Middle East over the last few years and high Internet penetration rates, the region on the whole is still lagging behind and the introduction to the world of online shopping has been relatively slow– especially amongst entrepreneurs and startups. This begs the question– what is the hold up?
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For one, there is a significant lack of online presence from businesses in the region. Though the Middle East boasts countless SMEs, a large proportion either have minimal online presence or none at all, and often don’t have a plan to help them enter the digital market. Larger multinational organizations have also fallen victim to having limited online presence in the region, offering very basic or no online retail services. Organizations often tend to think online stores are not worth the investment, due to misconceptions that consumers in the region prefer face-to-face interaction when making purchases. However, this is no longer the case. Modern day technology offers consumers the chance to view and experience products online like never before, with multidimensional angle views, reviews and engaging product demos– and of course video.
Video marketing is a vital element in driving sales and building brands. It is no coincidence that TV advertising is the leading category of advertising. Video can influence several factors essential to converting prospective customers into customers, and sporadic customers into loyal brand advocates by telling a compelling story, influencing emotions, driving behavior, and modifying tastes and preferences.
Today’s consumer craves the ability to seamlessly skim through different platforms, media, and devices when shopping online, and there are different ways in which video can be utilized by online retailers. For example, online videos allow audiences to see a product, click on the video and receive information including pricing, delivery and product specs. Interactive videos, on the other hand, can deliver endless product choices with content that has been created to show off the best that a brand has to offer. A number of interactive video technologies have been established in the last few years that apply a new method of encoding videos, enabling users to add clickable hotspots to video.
Additionally, brands can deliver a more engaging experience with the use of live streaming. Many popular brands, including Hugo Boss and Calvin Klein, have used these types of videos to deliver an experience to their consumers that they wouldn’t normally receive. In the case of Hugo Boss, their live streamed content of their Spring/Summer 2015 show at New York Fashion Week (NYFW) in September 2015 was made available across all of their online assets, including the online store and social media.
Internet users in the Middle East are very active on social media platforms and frequently access them through their mobile devices. With the widespread availability of high bandwidth, online video has evolved into a powerful marketing tool across all industries, for businesses of all sizes– and this can be capitalized upon to encourage e-commerce activity and draw activity to a brand’s website.
According to eMarketer, online video is one of the marketing methods that ensure the highest return on investment. Video marketing offers a great deal of insight into products, trends, brand culture– and can also have much greater impact than a lot of advertising methods. From short video clips on social sites, to longer-form content on your brand’s own website, companies should step on board to achieve business results.
Unlike many marketing activities, online video engagement can be tracked with the use of detailed analytics that tell brands who is watching, when and for how long and where changes need to be made. Many organizations often focus on the upfront investment that online video requires. However, the business results generated from video demonstrate its effectiveness and therefore organizations need to shift their focus from ‘budget’ to ROI. Video returns some of the best business results of any marketing tool and should be a part of any well-considered, business-grounded marketing strategy.
With so many UAE nationals and expats already engaging in online commerce when overseas or in their home countries, the infrastructure for successful online retail is already in place. However, until and unless organizations utilize and replicate the opportunities for online retail, the Middle East will not be able to harness its full potential.