The year ahead for e-commerce, by ArabyAds’ Gulrez Alam

ArabyAds’ chief investment and strategy officer, Gulrez Alam crunches the numbers to see how technology will influence our shopping habits.

There was a time when predictions that came true were considered magic. Then the world got wiser and understood that the only way to predict the future is to study the past and understand the present. And as Spider Man recently said, “You know what’s cooler than magic? Math.”

Well, we did the math and let me tell you, the future is a whole new world of evolving technologies and changing shopping behaviour of the consumer that need you to sit up and take notice.

Having said that, it’s time to predict what the future holds for the ever-evolving ad-technologies that are affecting the world of online shopping.

These predictions have been segmented under three categories –namely, emerging technologies, marketing trends and regional factors – that are important for any marketer to keep in mind, specifically for MENA.

Emerging technologies

2022 will usher in an era of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), driving personalisation and bringing consumers the best shopping experience at the scroll of a thumb. Replicating the experience of your local grocery store, AI will transform online shopping. As a marketer, you need to integrate AI into your business at multiple stages, to create hyper-personalised experiences which are humanly impossible to achieve at that scale. From cross-selling to product suggestion, the shopper must exit the marketplace feeling fulfilled and not just checking off a list.

Another important technology that is changing the customer experience is ‘headless commerce’, segregating the front end and back end of your online store to create a faster, more agile, adaptable and consistent shopping experience for your consumer. Personalisation and unification of customer experience across devices becomes much better compared with your traditional or monolithic approach.

Finally the evolution of retail media – monetising your own digital space – is a masterstroke that delivers the maximum value for the retailer. It is important for you, as a marketer, to monetise the viewer that is coming to your website, and the best way is to let the resellers advertise to these contextually relevant and high-intent consumers. As a matter of fact, and pride, we at ArabyAds, are currently helping some of the largest retailers to implement this technology, which we call ‘Ritelo’.

Marketing trends

Live-stream shopping: While influencers started promoting brands and products a while ago, the newest trend is live-stream shopping, which has knocked the ball out of the park. With influencers and socialites engaging consumers with their unique streams and plugging in products, items fly off the shelves within hours at record-breaking pace.

Connected TV: There are a couple of trends that lead me to believe that connected TV (CTV) will change the advertising landscape a lot in the near future. We have witnessed a huge increase in the consumption of content via OTT, along with a decline in linear TV advertising. This is also coupled with the fact that TV manufacturers are transforming themselves more into advertising players as they can influence the customer journey on big screens.

Regional Differences

On-device advertising: While the penetration of Apple’s iOS operating system is quite high in the MENA region, Google’s Android still controls more than 65 per cent of market share in our region and most of the Android manufacturers such as Samsung, Huawei and others have big advertising businesses around the world, offering advertising on the mobile device itself.

Better payment solutions: Another important factor that affects digital advertising is the availability of better payment solutions for the consumers at the time of e-commerce checkout. These fintech solutions, such as buy-now-pay-later, have just started to make their mark in MENA, which is still dominated by the cash-on-delivery method.

Digital good commerce: Like many other developed markets, we are expecting a huge surge in this category in MENA. I would give the example of edu-tech, gaming commerce and subscription services like music and OTT where the number of players are small and there is a huge scope of growth in MENA.

Micro- and nano-influencers: Finally, MENA is unique as a region and has thrived on commerce-driven by influencers so far. The upcoming trend will see a stronger focus on micro-and nano-influencers, who lead the butterfly effect that will change the face of social commerce.

My Single message to marketers

The Year 2022 will be a fascinating year for marketers in the MENA region as the advertising landscape is changing faster than we can anticipate. I can’t stress enough the importance of implementing technologies for hyper-level personalisation for your customers, evolving with the marketing trends and keeping an eye out for how it can benefit your brands.

The year ahead promises to be glorious, so make the most of the regional opportunities that MENA can offer.