Most UAE businesses are still not online
Research by Google reveals that more companies have social media pages than websites.
December 4, 2013 5:49 by Muhammad Aldalou
The Middle East region may enjoy incredibly high internet and smartphone penetration when compared with other countries around the world, but it’s clear that small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are yet to fully appreciate the countless benefits of having an online presence.
As inconceivable as it might sound for any company to ignore the power of the internet, a new study by Google, which surveyed 1,500 privately owned SMBs in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, found that only 18 per cent of companies (250 employees or less) in the UAE are online, while 76 per cent admit they haven’t even considered setting up a company website.
When compared with global markets, online presence among SMBs in the countries surveyed is far below markets such as France, which has 60 per cent penetration or the US (40 per cent) and Turkey (37 per cent).
The research reveals that most SMBs do not find online advertising to be expensive nor complex, they simply don’t understand its benefits. A striking majority of respondents said that they were unsure about how being on the web can help them grow their business (92 per cent in UAE, 90 per cent in KSA and 80 per cent in Egypt) and are more inclined to spend their money on offline advertising.
In fact, more SMBs in the UAE have a social networking page (15 per cent) than a website (five per cent). The majority (87 per cent) of businesses in Egypt and Saudi Arabia added that the main reason they have a website is to advertise their company.
However, only two potential sectors expressed readiness to move online – the travel and hospitality sectors in Egypt and KSA, and the professional services segment in the UAE.
Commenting on the results of the research, Tarek Abdalla, head of marketing at Google Middle East and North Africa, says that small businesses in the region are missing a great economic opportunity by not embracing the web. “The internet and online advertising can provide small businesses with the same advantages that large companies have long had,” he adds.
Online advertising makes up only six per cent of the total advertising spend in the Mena region, according to Arab Media Outlook, while internet users in the region are expected to reach 141 million by the end of 2013, representing more than 35 per cent of the total population.
Abdalla adds that users spend more time on the web than any other media, including TV, and yet, SMBs with small marketing budgets spend the bulk of their ad spend on traditional media outlets, such as print and TV, with the average online spend remaining below five per cent.