Your localization guide for Ecommerce in Middle East

If you have this idea about the Middle East, as a region of conflicts or people on camels, then you should think again.

In recent years the Middle East has witnessed many changes, especially in the areas of technology and shopping. Middle Easterners love going to shopping malls at the weekend. It’s one of their favorite forms of entertainment, as there they can shop, go to the cinema and have a good meal in their favorite restaurant. 

Is now the time for you to shift your paradigm and start looking to the ME as a region with great potential for e-commerce?

Keep reading and you’ll find the answer!

Why you should consider MENA?

  • High internet penetration:
    67% of citizens use the internet with a rapid growth rate of 11%.
  • Big population:
    There are 245 million Arabic speakers there. More than 60% of 
    shoppers in the UAE and KSA and 43% in Egypt have completed an online transaction at least once.

  •  A big pool:
    Fewer than 20% of companies have locally based e-commerce platforms that offer delivery to the regional consumer.
  •  Fragmented market:
    The top two e-commerce players have captured between 25% and 40% of the market. This is in contrast to most other e-commerce markets, where the share of the top two players is typically more than 50%.
  • Big growth:
    E-commerce is predicted to grow 3.5 times by 2022, reaching a total market size of $28.5 billion and a penetration rate of 7% of total retail sales, similar to what is seen in continental Europe today.
Dos and Don’ts

1. Get your product title right
‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression.’ In other words, your product name is your password to any market, including the Middle East. At this point you need to make some decisions, such as:

Do I have to transliterate the brand name?
In order to decide, you need to consider language direction and cultural issues, especially if your brand name contains a number, as you have to make sure that the name is appropriate for the consumers concerned.

However, millennials are familiar with the global names of the big brands, so sometimes there is no urgent need to transliterate.

However, there is also a legal issue here: In the Gulf region, it is obligatory to transliterate. According to the law, you have to make your brand name Arabic (by translation or transliteration).

2. Designs and images
Make sure that images of products are appropriate for the culture, for example, women should be decently dressed.For some products, you should have photos without models, for example swimwear and nightwear, etc.

People in Saudi Arabia could well be puzzled by pictures of things like snowflakes and snowmen, because of course they don’t have any of this.

Use images that represent their own environment and their own people, so that the consumers will feel localized, not alienated.

3. Currency
It’s frustrating for a consumer to struggle to calculate what he would have to pay for a product in his local currency. To make his e-shopping experience easier, you should offer prices in his own currency. For example, a product made in England, with Egypt as its target market, should be priced in both sterling and Egyptian pounds.

4. Seasonal promotions

Certain seasons are always considered to offer chances to sell more, but a special feast or holiday might be just another ordinary day in another region. For instance, in Saudi Arabia with its Muslim majority, it doesn’t make much sense to market special offers for Christmas.

However, it’s a different story in Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims, and the Eid (feast), when people always celebrate by buying new clothes.

In most of the world, Mother’s Day is celebrated in May. But in the Middle East it’s always on 21 March, when people buy a lot of domestic appliances like TVs and washing machines for their Moms. It’s vital to understand the cultural background, in order to make the most of these special occasions.

5. Local phone numbers for support and sales

When I know that I can contact someone in my country if I have any complaints, queries etc., it makes me feel so much more comfortable and confident.

6. Date and time/seasons
Imagine reading on a website on Thursday a message saying, ‘Enjoy the weekend special offer today!’

Sounds weird, right? But it’s normal for someone from the Middle East, whose weekend starts on Friday!

What about mid-season offers for clothes in April, when it’s already summer in Egypt or Saudi Arabia?!

7. In-market customer support
If you were in your customer shoes, you would like to contact someone from your own country or who at least spoke your own language. Of course this is true of the Middle East, where it’s always a good idea to appoint customer care representatives who speak the local dialect.

To accomplish this satisfactorily, you should take care of the FAQ, privacy policy and other regulations. This gives your clients the impression that you really care about making the whole process crystal clear.

8. Payment options
Compared to the United States, where online shoppers make payments exclusively over the internet, consumers in the Middle East tend to pay on delivery. But the trend is changing. Payment on delivery dropped by 38% in Saudi Arabia in 2017, while credit card use for online purchases grew by 64%.People in the Middle East have different ways to pay, for example, in Egypt, they use Fawry, which offers online transaction services. Vodafone cash is another important no-cash payment method.

Case studies
In the e-commerce business, everyone knows that Amazon has acquired the e-commerce platform The interesting thing is that, although Amazon’s policy in to change the name of acquired companies to ‘Amazon’, they have still kept the name of ‘Souq’ and have written ‘an amazon company’ underneath.

This very clear example shows how important it is to speak to people in their own language and culture. (Souq) means in Arabic (market), so it has more sense than Amazon.

As for the impact of expansion in the Middle East, Ronaldo Mouchawar, co-founder and chief executive of, says:

“This year is our biggest ever [White Friday sale] with 2 million deals – four times the number of deals we had in 2017.

“In 2017, we had seven times more new customers on White Friday than on any other average day. The number of units sold were twice as many than in the previous year’s White Friday sale.”

E-commerce redefines the meaning of shopping around the world.

The Middle East is a young, prominent region with lots of opportunities and your e-commerce localization is the key to expansion in the region.

Understanding the people in the region, its language and culture is a MUST to drive a successful localization strategy. We at eLocalize understand very well what it takes to deliver your message to the people in MENA. We have the experience and services to make your product MENA- friendly.