The Dangers of Falling Behind Online

By shipa 12 Jan, 2019

Traditional brands are disappearing. As noted by MSN, recognizable U.S. brands such as Sears and Toys”R”Us have shuttered their doors while others — like clothing retailer H&M — are struggling to stay afloat. The problem? Falling behind online. Failing to implement agile e-commerce strategies and continuing to use outdated logistics processes while other online-friendly organizations surge ahead.

And there’s plenty of room to surge, especially in growing markets like the Middle East. According to Multichannel Merchant, online sales volume has increased 1500 percent across the region over the past decade, while Forbes notes that the UAE alone is now responsible for almost $10 billion worth of online spending each year.

How do companies retool their e-commerce and logistics strategies to embrace online opportunity and avoid falling behind?

Traditional brands are disappearing. As noted by MSN, recognizable U.S. brands such as Sears and Toys”R”Us have shuttered their doors while others — like clothing retailer H&M — are struggling to stay afloat. The problem? Falling behind online. Failing to implement agile e-commerce strategies and continuing to use outdated logistics processes while other online-friendly organizations surge ahead.

And there’s plenty of room to surge, especially in growing markets like the Middle East. According to Multichannel Merchant, online sales volume has increased 1500 percent across the region over the past decade, while Forbes notes that the UAE alone is now responsible for almost $10 billion worth of online spending each year.
How do companies retool their e-commerce and logistics strategies to embrace online opportunity and avoid falling behind?

Growing Market

Traditional brands are disappearing. As noted by MSN, recognizable U.S. brands such as Sears and Toys”R”Us have shuttered their doors while others — like clothing retailer H&M — are struggling to stay afloat. The problem? Falling behind online. Failing to implement agile e-commerce strategies and continuing to use outdated logistics processes while other online-friendly organizations surge ahead.

And there’s plenty of room to surge, especially in growing markets like the Middle East. According to Multichannel Merchant, online sales volume has increased 1500 percent across the region over the past decade, while Forbes notes that the UAE alone is now responsible for almost $10 billion worth of online spending each year.

How do companies retool their e-commerce and logistics strategies to embrace online opportunity and avoid falling behind?

Back To Brick

Another trend affecting the MENA market? The rise of e-commerce brands building brick-and-mortar stores. While this seems counter-intuitive given the number of articles dedicated to the “death” of retail and the supremacy of online shopping, Inc. points out that brands like Amazon, Warby Parker and Bonobos are seeing success in physical retail locations previously occupied by big-box stores.

The difference? Online-first brands “understand the importance of meeting their customers where they are and carrying a consistent recognizable brand through every consumer touch-point.” Put simply, they recognize the primacy of the consumer as an individual rather than an amalgam, and they interact with customers in a way that demonstrates clear value and respect.

Consider e-commerce niche brand Amerisleep, which sells mattresses and accessories. Founded in 2010, the company opened its first retail location in 2017 and found that brand recognition along with highly-skilled staff drove higher in-store sales than online purchases. As noted by AdWeek, the company now plans to expand beyond U.S. borders into Australia, South Korea and the Middle East.

Adopting Online Technologies

For brands looking to stay competitive in the online market and succeed in rapid-growth areas such as the Middle East, it’s critical to adopt new strategies that account for the demographics and behavior of tech-savvy users.

As noted by Forbes, for example, 49 percent of UAE shoppers made cross-border purchases on mobile devices last year. Also worth noting? Sixty-four percent of the population in the UAE is under age 31, and in Saudi Arabia, 75 percent of the population is under age 35. The result is a customer base fluent in social media, comfortable making mobile purchases and loyal to brands that are responsive, flexible and make it easy to access products or services on demand.

What does this mean in practical terms for building out an e-commerce solution? The solution must be mobile-native rather than a duplicate of desktop websites — if elements don’t scale properly to fit mobile devices and expected functions are missing, users simply won’t bother.

Also critical is personalization. Brands must use e-commerce providers capable of showing users products that are available in their area and priced using their local currency. Providing incomplete or irrelevant pricing information or telling users after they put items in their shopping carts that delivery isn’t available is a good way to generate bad word of mouth.

Leveraging Logistics

The Middle East market also offers a master class in logistics. As noted by Forbes Middle East Technology contributor Dillip Rajagopal, “Logistics and transportation in the Middle Eastern region is still operating in traditional ways. The market is very fragmented with [a lot of current inefficiencies].” It makes sense: Transporting goods across multiple borders with varying documentation and notification processes is complicated at best and disastrous at worst. And with a recent PayPal study reporting that 49 percent of UAE shoppers are likely to cross-border shop, companies must find ways to both improve logistics visibility and lower total costs.

This means adopting mobile-enabled logistics solutions capable of managing the expensive “last mile” of the Middle East, which typically accounts for 28 to 32 percent of total logistics costs. By using mobility solutions capable of operating across 4G, 3G and 2G networks and storing data offline, it’s possible to obtain continuous updates about shipment positioning and inform customers about any delays in pickup, dropoff or cross-border delivery concerns.

Staying On Track

Companies can’t afford to get left behind as the e-commerce market in areas like the Middle East expands exponentially. With e-commerce shops now going back to brick-and-mortar and luxury good vendors taking on the MENA market, it’s critical for brands to implement adaptable e-commerce solutions and embrace cutting-edge logistic partnerships to meet growing demand.

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