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Gulf leads MENA e-commerce, lags behind rest of the world
New survey finds GCC still has a long way to go in online retail, in spite of second-generation e-commerce success.
September 23, 2010 8:41 by Samuel Potter
One such company is Cobone.com. Cobone.com could be considered a second generation e-commerce site (the first generation was basically made up of mail-order catalogues online, according to the Economist. The second generation incorporates social elements).
Cobone.com is essentially modeled on the hugely successful Groupon.com in the US. It offers a deal every day for people in a particular city, but the deal only becomes active when enough people sign up. You could call it “flash buying.”
UAE-based Cobone is only two months old, but plans to expand into the rest of the region quickly. The company claims in a release this week to have already broken e-commerce records for the region, after more than 1,000 people bought one of its offers (for a meal discount at a restaurant) in a single day.
“This is an amazing record. At one point we sold a voucher every two seconds on Cobone.com,” said Paul Kenny, founder and CEO of Cobone.com. “This proves that e-commerce is maturing in the region and people are comfortable paying online with our safe payment methods. We will continue to feature the best deals on Cobone.com.”
Few companies in the region have created a really successful first-generation site or user experience, so it is significant that a company like Cobone can leap ahead with a second-generation site. Soon, the third generation (in which commerce is built on social networks and contact groups) will be here too. Regional businesses must develop this aspect of their revenue with urgency if they are to thrive in the coming years.
To help them, the Telecoms Regulatory Authority (TRA) now says it is planning to protect consumers who buy goods online, according to the National. Basema al Jaberi, the senior e-commerce specialist with the TRA, said it was in the early stages of developing a policy for online and mobile payments.
It should hurry. According to Euromonitor, e-commerce in the UAE is expected to grow by 72 percent by 2014.
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