Internet is a MENA staple
Consumer brands must look online for growth, says TNS
Many regional markets are experiencing a staggering increase in internet usage, up from 7.8 million to 187 million users in the last decade, according to custom market research organisation, TNS MENA.
Steve Hamilton-Clark, CEO, TNS MENA said: "Over the past 10 years, internet use in the greater MENA region is up 2,300 per cent. I am seeing this as one of many indications that consumer brands must change the way they do business."
Hamilton-Clark shared that the recently-published TNS Digital Life global programme, that looks at how consumers in 60 countries behave online. "The statistics show that 90% of region-based consumers conduct research across all categories using the internet before purchase. They also indicate that e-commerce is set to grow in the region," he said.
He also stressed that as online engagement grows, consumer brands must be ready to manage a full spectrum of customer services, from assisting pre-purchase research, through to product selection, purchase, delivery, as well as a slick after-sales service.
"The internet affords infinitive opportunities and we urge marketers to fast appreciate this or face being left behind. Indeed, online and mobile shopping looks set to play an even bigger role as support channels, software and devices continue to develop," Hamilton-Clark noted.
Hamilton-Clark added that hosting loyalty schemes online provides brands with a great opportunity to become more creative in the way they hook and keep a customer, as well as manage the relationship. However, he warned the research suggests that consumers often feel that brand voice lacks lustre, with some unsure whether to trust what is being said.
"One of the keys to leadership in the digital space is the provision of timely, relevant information at the right touch points. Indeed, before stepping online, it is wise to go back-to-basics and consider the consumer experience beyond the core product," he said.
According to TNS, most residents in the UAE spend an average of 15 hours per week online, including three hours on social networking sites. TNS says users are also active in video streaming, knowledge-based activities and gaming. Hamilton-Clark said this represents enormous opportunities if used intelligently and diligently by marketers and the media. "Digital is fast becoming a primary media channel, with search engine ads currently influencing 20% of product selection made by regional consumers. However, there is still the need to incorporate offline marketing strategies to drive traffic online in the first place. An integrated approach is needed and campaigns should include on-and off-line tactics," he said.