Updated: May 13
Despite having the highest internet usage and penetration in the world, the GCC nations still lag behind when it comes to E-commerce transactions.
According to a study by Deloitte in 2017, UAE had the highest social media penetration in the world at 99%, while Saudi Arabia had the highest year-on-year (YoY) social media user growth at 73%. Generally, the whole GCC region has the highest internet penetration at 67%, which is slightly higher than the universal average of around 56%. However, despite the high internet usage rate, only 2% of purchases are done online. This means that e-commerce in the Middle East is still at infancy, but it is quickly gaining ground with growth projected to double from $28.6B in 2018 to nearly $70B by 2021.
As an online business owner, you want to tap into this market and take advantage of the growth spurts that the region is about to witness. You will, however, encounter one major challenge: creating an online presence that will attract traffic to your website, which will result in sales. It is one thing to create a website and another to drive people to your website- not just once, but consistently to have a cult-like following. Unfortunately, the internet is full of billions of webpages with millions uploaded each second. The immense information coupled with the short attention span of online users may easily lead your website to disappear into oblivion.
To cut yourself a considerable niche, you need an extensive digital marketing strategy. You will be going against some already established e-commerce platforms which already have a good number of users. However, this only accounts for 2% of online users, which means you still have a chance to cut yourself a considerable size of consumers from the remaining 98%. How do you plan your digital marketing on a low budget? Here are cost-effective methods of digital marketing.
Increase Organic Traffic
Organic traffic basically means the number of visitors that find their way to your site “naturally” through a search engine, without any reference from another site. For instance, if you are looking to buy something online and you Google it, then by selecting one of the websites in the Google listings it is said that you have located the website organically. The opposite of organic traffic is paid traffic, which is used by individuals and companies who want to generate traffic by paid ads
Although paid ads are usually placed at the top of the listings many people choose to ignore them, because they question the relevancy or validity of their position at the top. Also, paid traffic works effectively in the short run and once you stop paying for the ads, then the privileges of having your website listed at the top also stop. As an online retailer, you want customers who will consistently visit your website for the long haul. This means therefore that you will have to increase your traffic organically.
And the best way to do this is by taking advantage of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). There are specific keywords that are associated with certain content that search engines look out for. The more the keywords, the higher the chances that your content will be listed higher in the search results. The higher you are ranked, the higher the likelihood that people will visit your website. Think of it this way: people are more likely to visit your site if you are listed on the first page rather than on the 10th page. Compared to paid traffic, organic traffic takes time and effort, but the effects are long-lasting and you can always upgrade to newer SEO trends to secure your spot at the higher rankings.
Retargeting ads is one of the best methods of digital marketing that ensures you have a chokehold of your visitors’ attention by always reminding them about the wide array of assortments on offer. The concept of retargeting ads is very simple: when a person visits your website, you imbed a cookie in his/her computer which allows you to present your ads to them when they login to various sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Retargeting ads are very effective if you are looking to redirect first-time visitors, especially the ones who do not make any purchases (which comprises 98% of first-time visitors).
Sign up with HARO
Another way to improve the credibility of your company and in the process increase your online visibility is by signing up with HARO to become a regular PR contributor. HARO is an acronym for Help a Reporter Out and is an online service that acts as a link between reporters and reputable sources. It works this way: reporters posts various questions in this platform and a group of experts in the field give responses from which he selects the best. The selected contributors are quoted in the original article and the article is back linked to the contributors’ websites.
The reporters are usually content marketers and media people from highly established companies and websites. When your name or company’s name finds its way into these reporters’ articles, then your business is exposed to a large group of consumers who may visit your site. Registering is free, however, the process may be slow and you will have to put your A-game to get the attention of these acclaimed reporters. The reporters come from international organizations and online giants, such as Forbes, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, AOL’s Daily Finance, NY Times and USA Today. In total, it has 35,000 reporters and more than 450,000 contributors, making it very competitive but worth it. HARO is a great way to market your business to a worldwide audience.
Create a Facebook Group
You can also create a Facebook group for your company, where you may use it as an avenue to advertise your products and services. Remember the group is for the business and not your own. Therefore, any personal ideas, opinions or activities should be completely left out of the group to avoid offending potential clients with opposing views from your own. The group should be used to provide value to the customers by informing them about the products and services on sale, special discounts and offers available, events you are organizing and answering queries and concerns they may have.
You should not use the group to spam it with links to your website. It should be bustling with new updates, ideas and be exciting to keep the members interested. Be as adventurous as possible. You can even use Facebook Live to have an intimate visual interaction with your group members. The best marketing is usually through word of mouth. Although they are not using their mouths per se in this case, all activities or contributions they make in the group will translate to indirect publicity, exposure, and marketing for your business as they will be posted on their timelines. Managing a successful group is no easy feat. You will need to hire a freelance professional administrator, who will work jointly with various brand ambassadors. Alternatively, you may join an already established group and work your magic there.
Make Use of an Email List
A common misconception among many people and not just businesses is that emails are not as popular as they were a decade ago. However, emails are still widely used today and email marketing is what most successful online businesses are doing. To have an effective email marketing campaign, you need an email list. This is basically a list of emails owned by customers and visitors that you obtain when they subscribe to your website. An email list allows you to maintain a personal relationship with the customers and to update them on discounts, great offers and other valuable information concerning the products on sale.
Subscription is voluntary, which means you will have to come up with enticing and exciting ways to attract them to subscribe to your emails. There are many ways to do this, however, the common ones include surveys, pop-up messages, and subscription buttons on all landing pages. You may also post on various social media platforms about the advantages of subscribing to your email newsletter. However, having an email list should not be the end goal. All the emails you send should be exciting, personalized and well thought out so that they do not end up in the spam box. They should be categorized into three groups: transactional, relational and promotional.
Transactional emails are sent out after some form of transaction between your business and the customer. They include order confirmations, purchase receipts, shipping notices, return confirmation among others. Relational emails are used to build and nurture the relationship with the subscribers, while promotional emails are used to promote products and services offered by your business.
Facebook is the most widely used social media platform in the Middle East with more than 160 million users, as of 2019 and a high social media penetration rate of up to 99%. It goes without saying therefore that taking advantage of this large pool of Facebook consumers can do a lot for your online store. There are various ways you can market your goods and services through Facebook. Social media platforms is a convergence or a meeting place for people from diverse cultures with different needs and desires. With Facebook Targeted Ad campaigns, you are able to single out a specific niche of people that you are targeting and then supplying them with relevant Facebook ads that may lead to better conversions for your online business.
Only the targeted audience is able to view your ads, which makes it cheaper since you will be spending less on marketing budget targeting only customers that are interested. There should be a good balance however to prevent your audience range from being too narrow, as this may not translate to a higher conversion rate. For instance, if you deal with sports gear, then it would be economically feasible to advertise to various demographic groups that love outdoor activities like sports, camping, hiking, running, and rock climbing to cast a wider net to be able to capture customers from each activity.
Aside from just having the highest internet penetration, the GCC nations are also among the nations with the highest smartphones incidences. As of 2018, 9 out of 10 people in the region own a smartphone and it is also the go-to device for internet browsing with 90% of users opting to use smartphones instead of PCs. Therefore, mobile marketing is really essential if you are looking to reach a wider demographic of consumers. Mobile marketing refers to a digital marketing strategy that reaches targeted consumers through mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. It can be indirectly through websites and social media or directly through email, SMS, MMS, and apps.
There are many mobile marketing strategies that you can take advantage of. A good example is app-based advertising, where your ads appear within your app or within third-party apps by the assistance of services like InMobi, MoPub, LeadBolt, and Google AdMob. App-based advertising is very effective because the time spent on apps is more than 80%. Other methods include In-game ads, QR Codes, Google ads extensions, location-based ads, and SMS text offers. As more people are abandoning PCs for smartphones, it is right to assume that mobile marketing may be the future of digital marketing. The reason we believe mobile marketing to be one of the best digital marketing strategies is that it combines all the other strategies listed, but uses the mobile as a platform of engagement with the audience.
Host Your Video Content on YouTube
YouTube is the largest search engine on earth, coming only second to Google. It is very popular with more than a billion views each day. With more than 550 hours of video content uploaded each minute, your channel may easily disappear to the background if you do not put the needed effort to market it to viewers. This means therefore that setting up an account and uploading content is the easier part. You will have to do extensive marketing to increase traffic and subscribers to your YouTube channel. There are a lot of free resources available online to learn how to optimize your videos for youtube or you can seek support from any freelancer.
The best way to do this is to provide high-quality videos with engaging content regularly to keep your viewers excited and always looking forward to something new from you. You may also collaborate with other popular YouTube channels by contributing to them and in the process stealing a few instances where you market your own channel. It is also very important to engage with your viewers through comments and allow them to like, share and dislikes your videos. Other important factors to look out for include video quality, video length (short is better) and video titles. What we mean by video titles is that it should have the relevant title, tags, and description that will reduce the bounce rate and allow google to easily locate your videos and show it in the search results page.
Don't forget to keep track of your Conversions with Smart Goals
It would be absurd to keep casting your nets, without seeing the results. A good way to track the activities on your website is by using Smart Goals by Google Analytics. Using a scoring metric, the Smart Goals identifies the top 5% of visitors who are likely to make a conversion or perform some action on the website. There are about 15 metrics used in this campaign, the most popular ones include pages per visit, session duration, time on site, browser type, device type and days since the last visit. The information is then imported and configured into your AdWords, which can be used to improve your marketing campaign. It is free and simple to set up on the Google Analytics interface. It is also cost-efficient as the ads will only be directed to visitors who are more likely to come through with their purchases. This is very helpful for eCommerce merchants of all sizes.
There is a lot at stake in the Middle East when it comes to online shopping. Only 2% of internet users have realized the benefits of online shopping, however, future projections reveal that the number will skyrocket in the next 5 to 10 years. As an online retailer, this means that you may reap huge benefits if you are able to take advantage of the online market early. The methods we have mentioned above are catered for low budget marketing, which you can use to have the necessary online visibility for your business to take off.
Most importantly, while you are setting up these strategies in place, it is important that you carry out tests and measures to ensure they work perfectly before throwing money into any of these channels. You can set aside 20% of the budget towards this endeavor. Some businesses see great results on Google and Facebook, while others are likely to be successful on Pinterest or Reddit or other platforms. Understand where your business is more likely to take off and channel all your energy towards that.