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From Conversations To Conversions: How C-Commerce Is Revolutionizing Sales Online sales in the MENA is expected to exceed US$50 billion by the end of this year, making this region one of the most exciting emerging markets.

By Ramy Assaf

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Online sales in the MENA is expected to exceed US$50 billion by the end of this year, making this region one of the most exciting emerging markets. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital transformation initiatives by brands, and improvements in logistics and last-mile delivery have vastly contributed to double-digit growth. Saudi Arabia is leading the way in terms of regional e-commerce growth with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 39%, just ahead of UAE (38% CAGR). However, a less talked about phenomenon driving this seismic shift is the rapidly changing consumer behavior and attitude towards retail in an omnichannel world. This is where social media comes in.

The MENA is home to some of the most prolific users of social media and messaging apps in the world with an average of 3.5 hours spent on social media per day. The UAE has the highest number of accounts per person globally, at an average of 10.5 accounts per user. Not only are users in the region creating and consuming content, they are increasingly using these platforms to discover and engage with brands as well. As of 2021, globally there were more than 200 million business accounts on Instagram. Messaging apps like WhatsApp, one of the most used platforms in the world with over two billion active users, has over 18 million business accounts, where users send approximately 175 million messages every day.

Savvy brands and online retailers are taking notice of how their customers are discovering, interacting, and shopping with them; however, traditional e-commerce is proving to be challenging in meeting customers on the channels that matter most to them. Online retailers are finding it harder to get discovered (increasing digital media costs), witnessing high abandoned cart rates, and struggling with decreasing customer lifetime value.

These are just a few of the reasons why there is increasing pressure on brands to meet their bottom lines, and look for an advantage amongst their competitors. In addition, the low to almost zero barriers to entry for digitally native challenger brands and small to medium businesses have further compounded these pressures, and they are changing the rules of the game. This widening gap between where and how customers meet, interact, and shop with brands is paving the way for the next generation of commerce.


Connected commerce, or c-commerce, enables businesses and their customers to interact and close sales through social media and messaging apps. Research has shown that almost 87% of people feel more connected to brands that communicate through social and messaging apps. Facebook's research found that 53% of respondents said they were more likely to buy from a company and take their advice through messaging apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. A message sent by a brand to its customer is opened 98% of the time on a messaging app, versus an average 10% open rate for an email or branded newsletter.

Related: Virtuzone Launches AMP, The MENA Region's First E-Commerce Accelerator Program

With connected commerce, it is possible to reach potential and existing customers directly to build trusted and personal relationships through conversations that often lead to new interactions, effective personalized recommendations, and increased spend. This behavior has quickly become a worldwide trend, allowing for brands to interact with shoppers in new ways. Brands that are pioneering c-commerce have found that when compared to traditional online carts, the average c-commerce cart is 2.7 times bigger, and is 20 times more likely to convert into a sale.

Brands can now use messaging apps to chat with their customers allowing them to discover products, make purchases, avail offers, get personalized recommendations, as well as benefit from customer support. Imagine experiencing the warmth of a knowledgeable salesperson anywhere, anytime on any device. As a result, c-commerce is poised to change the way customers shop and communicate with brands.

Steve Jobs once said "Get closer to your customers. So close, in fact, that you tell them what they need before they realize it themselves." This could not be truer in today's world of big data. C-commerce platforms (like my company, Zbooni, and the tools it offers) help brands build a comprehensive picture of their customer by tracking over three million data points. Past order history, product preferences, customer profile, frequently asked questions, and sales data can help retailers create bespoke offers and product recommendations.

C-commerce acts as a complementary sales channel for brands seeking to engage with their customers who are increasingly wanting a more personalized digital experience. Retailers can use the power of chat over habitual digital channels like WhatsApp to share new product releases, sales and offers or brand content and reviews to turn conversations into conversions. For larger retailers with brick-and-mortar outlets, c-commerce can also prove to be a useful tool to increase sales and bridge the gap from offline to online or vice versa.

Sales representatives can provide concierge-like services over messaging apps to their loyal customer database and notify them of exclusive sales, new products, and support with customer queries. This helps brick and mortar retail maximize their sales staff's time by increasing productivity and selling more. Indeed, businesses that use Zbooni have witnessed a phenomenal 81% conversion rate due to this personalized approach in selling.

Why? Because Zbooni is human to human. E-commerce brands with sales support or retailers with sales associates leverage this aspect to have direct engagement on messaging apps, and assist customers to check out, while increasing both basket size and conversion rates. As brands seek to enhance omnichannel strategies and reconfigure brick and mortar operations largely affected by the pandemic and shifting in-store experience expectations, c-commerce offers an innovative advantage.

Related: Winning The E-Commerce Battle In The Post COVID-19 Era

Ramy Assaf

Co-founder and CEO, Zbooni

Ramy Assaf is the co-founder and CEO of Zbooni. His vision and strategic direction for the business has catapulted it through business and product development, the acquisition of thousands of merchant businesses, its expansion across multi-territories including UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, hiring of a diverse and talented cross-jurisdictional team, and the scaling to a multimilliondollar revenue organization. His experience as part of Middle East Venture Partners in selecting appropriate companies for investor funding, has helped Zbooni become one of the best capitalized startups in the region. Its latest funding came in September 2021 with the closing of a US$9.5 million Series A round. Prior to founding Zbooni, Ramy held a variety of business development, marketing, and venture capital roles. Before embarking on his career, he studied Business Administration and Political Science, graduating from the University of California Riverside. Outside of developing and growing one of the most exciting tech platforms, Ramy spends time with his wife and children, learns about religion and the spiritual sciences, and watches documentaries as well as the NBA. 
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