By Ronaldo Mouchawar
High GDP per capita, robust mobile penetration rates, a younger population and ease of buying are some of the key factors fuelling a boom in online sales in the UAE.
Over the past ten years, Souq.com has gone from strength to strength, paving the way for e-commerce to thrive and for local and international businesses to flourish in this region.
Looking back we have an exciting story to tell and each year has been even more significant. Last year was a remarkable year for many reasons: growing the number of online transactions; building and broadening our brand partnerships and product portfolio; growing our m-commerce (mobile commerce) offering; and improving our online platform through rebranding the site and strengthening our partners in fulfilment. These are all just the tip of the iceberg at Souq.com and the coming year’s plans.
The Middle East is still the fastest growing e-commerce market and Souq.com is also still growing faster than the industry average. And why is that? Well, high gross domestic product per capita, robust mobile penetration rates, a younger population and ease of buying are some of the key factors fuelling a boom in online sales in the UAE.
The region has a growing number of consumers that are ‘living online’ and therefore understand the benefits of electronic payments such as speed, convenience, security and value for money.
Mobile commerce has also been a huge driver of growth in 2014 and 2015, both for Souq.com, since our mobile app launch, and for the Middle East’s online market as a whole. M-commerce grew exponentially in 2015 and over 50 percent of our sales are driven by mobile shopping. The global mobile payment market is expected to reach $507bn in the next year, a rise of 40 percent, which highlights the huge opportunity in m-commerce. We have constantly updated and added more value to our app this year and will continue to do so.
Last year we also launched exciting new initiatives behind the scenes, allowing third party sellers to benefit. Souq.com became the first player in the MENA region to open up its API (application programme interface), which allows third party developers to embed shopping deals in their site or mobile application. This highlights our ongoing commitment to foster a dynamic e-commerce ecosystem. Anyone, from large businesses through to individuals, can participate in this affiliate scheme. We also announced our developer program which allows any business to ‘white label’ the Souq.com platform to launch its own e-commerce site. By taking advantage of the Souq.com API, business owners are able to set up their own website, where the end-to-end e-commerce process, including fulfilment, is powered entirely by Souq.com.
These new programmes added to our already well-known “Sell on Souq.com” program, to offer businesses and entrepreneurs in the region a multitude of ways to earn money through its platform – a testament to supporting and championing local business.
We at Souq.com are growing significantly year-on-year and as we are evolving, we are taking our partners with us. We enable small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs to start and grow their business online.
Since last year, we have been spearheading the growth of the smartphone market in the Middle East, which is up 26 percent year-on-year, according to Wireless Smartphone Strategies (WSS) services through our factory to consumer business model. Through this we have launched global smartphone brands to the region, including Huawei’s Honor brand, which launched three devices last year.
Following our first White Friday sale in 2014, we wanted to make 2015 even bigger and better. In fact, we recreated e-commerce history for the Middle East region with White Friday, when 13 million visitors and close to 600,000 items sold. We had six times more new buyers every day, clearly indicating that Souq.com is building the awareness of online shopping and leading the e-commerce growth in the region.
For us, 2016 is looking bright and so it will be a year to add value to our partners and customers through our mobile app, particularly capitalising on the trend for m-commerce, as well as our website, seller platform and affiliates scheme, to continue to drive e-commerce and business in this region.
Ronaldo Mouchawar, CEO & Co-Founder of Souq.com.