MENA E-commerce Series 2018 Part 2: Why omnichannel is a rising reality

Tahani Karrar / December 2018

In Part 1 of our MENA E-commerce Series 2018, we covered the five main insights that are driving e-commerce in MENA. In Part 2, we delve into omnichannel in the region and its growing importance for pure players as well as offline stores.

A rising number of brick and mortar stores in MENA are launching websites and investing in their online presence, but this alone does not make a retailer omnichannel.

To be truly omnichannel, retailers must provide customers with an integrated, seamless online and offline experience at every step of the consumer journey. From discovery, research, purchase and post-purchase, it’s about providing an experience that makes the physical and digital work as one.

Why MENA retailers are moving to omnichannel

The customer journey in MENA today is both online and offline. Increasingly, customers are researching products and services online before making a purchase in the physical store. As a result, regional retailers are under pressure to adapt and service their customers on multiple platforms.

By merging online and offline customer journeys, such as having in-store staff promoting and educating customers about how they can make the most of the company’s online services, retailers are able to drive more sales than having a good website alone.

“Shopping Ads are ideal for omnichannel retailers who are getting started with their digital journey,” said Farid Gharazeddine, Analytical Consultant, Retail expert for Google MENA. “With a single campaign, retailers can showcase their entire inventory across all of Google's platforms.”

This includes search ads on Google Search as well as display and video ads on the Display Network, YouTube and Gmail. Retailers can specify how much revenue they would like to generate for each dollar spent and Google's machine learning algorithms handle everything else, from setting the right bid to adjusting how ads appear to maximize impact and efficiency.

How pure players are becoming omnichannel

Omnichannel is not just about brick and mortar retailers going online, it’s also pure online players building a physical store in which human interactions can take place.

“We are seeing more and more pure players shifting and providing a physical store even if it only acts as an experience centre where customers can learn more about the products or services,” said Anne-Laure Malauzat, Manager at Bain & Company and a contributor of the white paper E-Commerce in MENA: Opportunity Beyond the Hype.

“Retailers should be looking to create experiences that are centred on emotional connections, such as showing how the product is built, telling the history of the luxury brand or personalising the product to the customer’s taste,” she added.

By signing up to Google My Business, retailers can create, verify and ensure consistent management of both offline and online business information across Google while connecting and attracting existing and new customers

A regional hunger for innovation

In MENA consumers are keen to try out new products experiences and are hungry for innovation. Millenials in particular, regardless of age, want to experience different brands and different innovative concepts such as different types of food or clothes. When it comes to innovation, retailers should aim to excite and delight their customers both online and offline.

Whether holding a YouTube masterclass series in makeup that provides knowledge transfer, or creating a community where gaming fans can come together in an offline setting and play together on playstations — these experiences all serve to strengthen customer journey experience and in turn loyalty.

“It’s about creating memories and moments through teaching you something new or just marking your mind with an awesome experience such as designing your own customized perfume,” said Malauzat.

Furthermore, MENA markets such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are synonymous with luxury, yet value brands remain in demand. Customers in the region are deal-driven and value brands are currently growing faster than luxury brands due to a high demand for cheap products.

Yet customers will still demand good service in order to keep coming back and buying more. Furthermore, there is a growing interest in localised products that are customised to the needs of the region. Examples of this are Arabic perfumes and beauty products or fusions of traditional Arab dress with a modern twist.  

“People want to feel connected to their culture, they want something that respects their culture but at the same time are fashionable and we are seeing more and more of this in food, fashion and beauty,” Malauzat said.

So, whether you are a new or mature omnichannel retailer you’ll find Smart Shopping campaigns are a powerful and cost-effective way to showcase your entire inventory and Google My Business will help you manage both offline and online business information across Google platforms.

For more insights on e-commerce in the region make sure to read our upcoming Google-Bain & Company white paper E-Commerce in MENA: Opportunity Beyond the Hype on Think with Google MENA.

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