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UAE set to surpass UK in e-commerce density as more businesses go online
The UAE is set to overtake the UK in e-commerce penetration as more companies in the Emirates expand their presence online.
The surge comes as digital assets become an important part of consumers’ perceptions of brands.
Ziad Chehade, head of business marketing for the Middle East and North Africa region at Google, said consumers outnumbered businesses when it came to being active online, presenting an opportunity for companies to grab market share in the ultra-competitive e-commerce space.
Businesses are also struggling with an abundance of data and not knowing exactly how to use it. Business chambers, he said, could help address this gap.
“There’s a real gap in internal capabilities, which has grown even bigger post-pandemic. So, to really make a difference, chambers need to position themselves as enablers of education and centres for insights,” Mr Chehade said at the 12th World Chambers Conference in Dubai on Tuesday.
“People want data, and to be able to use it in a way that is accessible. This builds on what chambers have been doing historically, but tweaks it.”
The UAE’s e-commerce market significantly grew after the pandemic as more consumers turned to online channels for their shopping needs. The sector grew 53 per cent to a record $3.9 billion last year and it is expected to grow further, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry said in June.
Companies, both established and growing, continue to expand their capabilities. In September, Amazon, the world’s biggest online retailer, said it would create 1,500 jobs in the UAE this year to increase its storage capacity by 60 per cent and raise the area of its delivery stations by 70 per cent.
On Tuesday, China’s Wenchao
Group announced it would invest Dh735 million ($200m) to build a factory in Dubai that would cater to the growing e-commerce and food and beverage sectors.
The UAE is ranked among the highest globally on smart device penetration, with 99 per cent of its almost 10 million population active internet users, Global Media Insight data shows. The UK, on the other hand, has a penetration rate of almost 95 per cent, according to Statista data.
Google was among the most notable technology companies that signed up for the UAE’s programme to train 100,000 young people in computer programming.
It also teamed up with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry in July to start the Business Online Presence platform that helps businesses manage their online assets. The long-standing partnership between Google and the chamber has benefitted more than 100,000 businesses in the UAE.
Businesses in the UAE have been spending more to increase their online visibility. But while 64 per cent of businesses have raised their spending towards digital upgrades, as per Google estimates, Mr Chehade said this was either mostly due to a fear of missing out or because they think it is the right thing to do.
The importance of data privacy and companies’ efforts to protect is among the components consumers look at and have a big impact on their perception of brands, particularly online.
Companies must “make sure they have unique passwords for both personal and business accounts, make sure their admins always follow safety protocols, always enable back-ups and do so beforehand, enable updates for all apps and software and make sure they have an assistant to verify the email to avoid spam and all forms of fraud”, he said.
Additionally, 68 per cent of people, according to Google estimates, say they don’t trust a business if they do not find it online – and the first thing consumers do to learn more about a brand is to run a google search on it, Mr Chehade said.
“You should be found, you should be active before working on engagement.”
Business leaders at the World Chambers Congress sought to address some of the most pressing issues affecting commerce after the coronavirus pandemic.