Four Points To Keep In Mind When Designing Your E-Commerce Experience In The MENAP Region

Even an established presence cannot be guaranteed forever, leaving no room for complacency. So, how do you make sure that you are not one of those merchants that close their virtual doors for good each year?

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You must have created a checklist when designing your e-commerce strategy. You ticked off price, quality, brand strength, the shopping experience, and even your return policy. Now, while all of those factors are crucial in their own right, a subpar payment system can bring your budding enterprise to a premature end, as frustrated customers jump ship and end up in the embrace of your more meticulous competitors.


In a recent study, 45% of online consumers across the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan (MENAP) prefer to purchase products or services via an app. Many have bypassed traditional e-commerce on a laptop or desktop, and shop predominantly through mobile and social media channels. About half of consumers in the region also anticipate shopping online even more this year than in 2020.

But demand is a double-edged sword. New entrants are attracted to the market, which means increased competition. Even an established presence cannot be guaranteed forever, leaving no room for complacency. So, how do you make sure that you are not one of those merchants that close their virtual doors for good each year? Here are four points to always keep in mind when designing your e-commerce experience in the MENAP:

1. Prioritize payment preferences Today's shoppers expect to pay in the way they want, and they might go somewhere else if they can't. Around 56% of consumers say they have been permanently put off returning to a site, because their preferred payment method was not available. But how do you know what the right payment method is? It largely depends on where you are, yet a combination of popular local payment methods -such as Mada, Fawry, and others in the region- combined with digital wallets such as Apple Pay will enable merchants to capture a greater diversity of customers. Moreover, 81% of consumers say they trust the safety and security of online payments, suggesting a positive shift in sentiment towards both local and global digital payment methods.

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2. Make payments easy Today's online shoppers are looking for a seamless experience. Around half (52%) of consumers say they have been permanently put off an e-commerce site by a complex checkout. Using tokenization services such as a card-on-file option is one way to help streamline recurring payments, and help protect one's customers against fraud. These services save a returning customer from inputting all their details again and again, and lead to a faster checkout process generally. Even better is to make sure that the checkout page resonates with your customers. Serving up a payment page in a local language (e.g. Arabic) or with their local currency creates a strong connection, and helps cultivate a loyal customer base. But local sensitivities are not the only concern. A payment page that looks completely different from the site you are buying from is jarring. So too is one that is not optimized for the customer's device. Any of these factors can be enough to turn consumers away.

3. Improve authorization rates Few things frustrate an online shopper more than having their payment declined when there is no good reason. In MENAP specifically, consumers are 20% less likely to retry following a failed payment vs. peers in Europe and the US, demonstrating a low tolerance for failed payments. Higher security standards mean not 100% of this loss can be mitigated. However, a significant amount of revenue could be salvaged by optimizing authorization rates. Merchants need to have access to data in order to understand why payments are failing and unpack these insights. Yet 41% of merchants that we spoke to in MENAP last year were not receiving viable data on their transactions from providers.

4. Enter markets the right way With some things, merchants can "copy and paste" their way into new markets. Other aspects like payments need a more nuanced approach. If you're unable to navigate the local ecosystem and forge powerful partnerships, having the best product at the best price won't matter. While 64% of MENAP consumers prefer not to pay for e-commerce with cash, for example, cash-on-delivery is still preferred by 36% of consumers across the region. This represents considerable untapped opportunity. You will need to analyze your customer's payment behavior in a granular way so that you can have intimate localized knowledge of their payments behavior. This can help inform everything from your pricing strategy, the payment methods you promote in specific markets, and managing fraud and chargebacks.

The final word

For a long time, payments were seen as an operational cost center. But a reasonable payments strategy is increasingly being used as a lever of growth. In an exceedingly competitive retail environment, advantages can be won or lost based on the strength of your payment platform.

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