BY RONALDO MOUCHAWAR
Over the past 10 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 ever more significant. Last year was remarkable for many reasons. We grew the number of online transactions, built and broadened our brand partnerships and product portfolio, grew our m-commerce offering and improved our online platform through a rebranding of the site and strengthened partnerships.
These are all just the tip of the iceberg and we have bigger plans for 2016.
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 United Arab Emirates.
The region has a growing number of consumers that are ‘living online’ and therefore understand the benefits of electronic payments including 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 and for the Middle East’s online market as a whole. M-commerce grew exponentially in 2015 and mobile shopping now drives more than 50 per cent of our sales. The global mobile payment market is expected to reach $507bn this year, a rise of 40 per cent.
This highlights the huge opportunity in m-commerce. We have constantly updated and added more value to our app in 2015 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 Middle East and North Africa region to open up its application programme interface, allowing third party developers to embed shopping deals in their site or mobile application.
This highlights our ongoing commitment to fostering a dynamic e-commerce ecosystem. Anyone, from large businesses through to individuals, can participate in this affiliate scheme. We also announced our developer programme allowing any business to ‘white label’ the Souq.com platform to launch its own e-commerce site. By taking advantage of the our 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 us.
These new programmes added to our already well-known initiative to offer businesses and entrepreneurs in the region a multitude of ways to earn money through our platform. We are growing significantly year-on-year and we are taking our partners with us.
Since last year, we have been spearheading the growth of the smartphone market in the Middle East, up 26 per cent year-on-year – according to Strategy Analytics. Our factory to consumer business model allows us to deliver unparalleled value to customers. Through this, we have launched global smartphone brands in the region including Honor. The company’s three devices launched in 2015 are leaders in their relevant price categories.
The year ahead is looking bright. It will be a year to add value to our partners and customers through our mobile app, particularly by capitalising on the trend for m-commerce. We will also use our website, seller platform and affiliates scheme to continue to drive e-commerce and business in this region.