The UAE is poised to overtake the UK in the adoption of e-commerce as more companies in the Emirates expand their presence online, as digital assets become an important part of consumers' perceptions of brands.
Consumers outnumber businesses when it comes to being active online, presenting an opportunity for companies to grab market share in the ultra-competitive e-commerce space, said Ziad Chehade, head of business marketing for the Middle East and North Africa at Google.
Businesses are also struggling with an abundance of data and not knowing exactly how to use it. Business chambers, he said, can help address this gap.
“There’s data everywhere. However, businesses don’t know how to use this data. 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. 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,” Mr Chehade said at the 12th World Chambers Conference in Dubai on Tuesday.
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 in 2020 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 will 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 will invest Dh735 million ($200m) to build a factory in Dubai that will cater to the growing e-commerce and food and beverage sectors.
The UAE is ranked as one of the highest globally in terms of 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.
Additionally, the world's biggest internet company teamed up with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry in July to launch the Business Online Presence platform that helps businesses manage their online assets. The long-standing partnership between Google and the Dubai Chamber has benefited more than 100,000 businesses in the UAE.
Businesses in the UAE have been ramping up their spending to make their presence felt online. But while 64 per cent of businesses have raised their spending towards digital upgrades, as per Google estimates, Mr Chehade said this was only mostly due to a fear of missing out or because they think it’s 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 don’t 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. It simplifies the journey.”
Business leaders from around the world gathered in Dubai at the 12th World Chambers Congress to address some of the most pressing issues affecting commerce after the coronavirus pandemic.