Starting your Online Business in Lebanon
If you’re in Lebanon and considering starting an online business, then you came to the right place! We will discuss what features are to be highly considered, both generally and in the specific case of Lebanon. But first, let’s discuss the current situation.
The majority of people selling online in Lebanon still use Facebook and Instagram as well as other social media platforms to sell their products or services, and even if it sounds like a smart and money-saving idea, social media is still an amateur method to sell.
Using social commerce only to sell is closer to a hobby since it keeps the vendor limited when it comes to brand promotion or any other sales-boosting tool, it does not give accessibility to order management, follow-ups, reports, SEO, branding, etc…But luckily things are changing and having your own professional store for a minimal cost is easier than ever today; and ecomz specifically, has a big presence in the region and more explicitly in Lebanon.
Everything you need to consider
Since we’re tackling this process in Lebanon precisely, we prepared a list of features that you should focus on, to help you tweak your plan towards success.
Do I need a registered company to sell online?
If you are a startup and simply experimenting in the market for a limited time to test your product or service, you do not need a registered business to start in Lebanon. But, if you are here for the long run, you have to be a legitimate business or collab with one; this is a must in order to accept credit cards payments since your ecommerce website will require a payment gateway, issue invoices, and to allow shipping through renowned shipping providers such as Aramex or DHL who might offer you a business-specific deal!
In order to legitimize your work and avoid any issues with the law or the banks later on, you have to operate under a real company. Social media can help you start selling but the recommended way to grow is beyond it.
What are the popular payment options?
Cash On Delivery (COD) is still popular in Lebanon, people still feel safer paying directly upon receipt of the product which technically prevents scams. Nevertheless, if your business is already established and your brand is already known offline, it is better for you to offer the credit card payment option since the country is catching up, and credit card payment methods are becoming more popular by the day since all companies are promoting it. The rise of internet money transfer will inevitably prevail.
For COD payments, shippers (such as Aramex) are already offering tools to collect the money for you. As for credit cards, the two recommended payment methods that are growing fast in Lebanon are Payfort and Cybersource (integrated with Blom Bank). Both methods are included when using the ecomz platform and for more details, you can contact www.payfort.com or Blom bank ecommerce department.
What are the best shipping providers?
Historically and geographically, Lebanon has been described to link the east to the west when it comes to trading.
Aramex is the main and recommended shipping provider to and from Lebanon. They offer a cash on delivery option, in addition to online payments of course. Ecomz already has the Aramex app integrated with the software which means that the merchant can activate the “automatic cash collection” option offered only by ecomz to its merchant as a result of the partnership between the two companies. Moreover, ecomz has partnered with Wakilini to offer merchants preferential rates when integrating their shipping.
Local shipping costs start for $4 per shipment for small packages and they can go up to $20 for larger packages. As for COD, some shippers don't charge extras for collecting the cash however you can expect up to 1% fee with a minimum of 1$ per shipment. In all cases, these are only estimates and you should shop around and compare the services and costs for shipping.
What skills do I need? Should I hire an expert?
If you choose to build your own online store by yourself, you should have great design skills, a lot of free time, and great knowledge and experience in website building, as well as some coding skills. You can do it yourself but if you need help to start and grow your online business, you can hire experts to do the hard work for you and you can focus solely on selling and promoting your brand, store, or products.
Ecomz offers a do-it-all plan that will cost merchants between 1,000 USD and 5,000 USD for standard projects, depending on the website’s customizations. This offer includes store setup, content, design, store management, marketing, SEO, payment setup, shipping configuration, and a lot more.
During these tough times, we are offering you a 3-month subscription for free on your online and a 20% on store set up which can be ready in just 3 days. Claim it now!
If you happen to be from the few who can do the whole job on their own, then feel free to contact ecomz whenever you need any assistance, without an extra cost of course!
Is it safe?
You need to choose a platform that is secured, constantly updated, and not managed by random agencies with no legitimate background. This is critical to avoid scams, hacks, or frauds since you’ll be risking your money and your business.
Ecomz, for example, is PCI level 1 compliant and uses the standard security measures adopted by banks and governments so everything you store or earn will inevitably stay secured. All credit card payments are tokenized and will never be revealed or stored at any point in time while processing transactions. In addition, Ecomz supports a fraud analysis system that will detect and flag any suspicious order on your online store and pause it for manual verification and processing.
How much will it cost?
When it comes to any online business, appearances can make the difference between a purchase and a simple surf. This is why people invest, directly or indirectly, in the look and functionality of their online store. Choosing to do the whole work from scratch (in other words, using a self-hosted platform) will cost you a lot if you don’t have the skills to build it yourself or the time to do so. It will require you to hire a large team of employees or contractors to form your website, design your layout and themes, manage the store, fix bugs, work on SEO, market the products, operate the customer service department and tech support, etc…
Ecomz offers all of the above for a small monthly fee of 24$/month for the startup store including hosting and support. With a hosted platform like Ecomz, you will be saving thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars for better quality service and a worry-free online business and invest in growing your business instead of dealing with technical issues.
Should I sell in US Dollars (USD) or Lebanese pounds (LBP)?
With the current exchange rate crisis, it is best advised to use LBP as the main currency in Lebanon. However, the international currency of ecommerce which is the USD. It is rare to find a platform that enables you to switch between several desired currencies, but ecomz has it as an option in case you must offer both currencies. That’s not all, ecomz supports all major world currencies and you can add them based on your business needs with the options of controlling the conversion rate automatically or manually including changing the currency display format for each currency.
Should I have my content in English or in Arabic?
The main language in the ecommerce business in Lebanon is still English, which is a good thing since it’s a common language that almost all the world uses to communicate in the business domain. When dealing with countries other than Lebanon but in the same region, Arabic is also common. And last but not least, ecomz is a multilingual platform that allows you to add up to 20 languages to your ecommerce website and choose between automatic or manual translation methods for the content of the website.
How long does it take?
Despite being radically different from brick-and-mortar stores, building an online store on the fundamental level is practically the same. You have to invest your time, your money and yourself into your store.
The most challenging part of moving your business online is to build your digital product catalog. This is a lengthy process since all products have to be properly and professionally photographed and images should be edited and compressed before being ready to be uploaded. In addition, all product contents should be properly classified in categories or collections. Product titles must be simple and descriptive and optimized for search engines. All product variations (such as color, size, shape) and product attributes should be well thought out as well. In general, you should have all the content in an excel file and ready to be imported to your platform.
Assuming you have the content, and if you choose a hosted and managed platform such as ecomz, you can expect to have your website ready in less than a week or two.
If you opt for self-hosted or open source technologies, you should expect 2-3 months for the same result.
Finally, if you choose to accept credit cards on your online store, you should also consider the time it takes to set up your online merchant profile with the bank wish also takes 2-4 weeks.
When should I start?
Ecommerce is here to stay. If you are still hesitant about starting or moving your business online, keep in mind that thousands of online stores are already selling in Lebanon and the most successful ones can reach tens of thousands of dollars in revenues per day.
The first movers’ advantage applies when it comes to online presence. The earlier you launch your store, visitors will get to know your business first, the higher you will be ranked on Google.
Ecomz is an award-winning ecommerce platform that allows merchants to create their dream store, manage it like a pro, grow it better and faster. It is the only solution that offers the ultimate shopping experience to customers thanks to an AI recommendation engine, a suite of advanced marketing apps, and innovative multi-channel capabilities.
Ecomz operates in more than 55 countries, serving more than 7,000 merchants helping them generate over $50M in sales. Named 2018 Top 5 B2B website by Seamless Conference, 2017 Top 10 Business by ArabNet, Ecomz has also been recognized by Google, Disrupt San Francisco (TechCrunch) and MIT Silicon Valley Program for its achievements and has been awarded by the 2018 Touch Innovation Program (TIP) and BLC Bank’s 2018 Brilliant Lebanese Award (BLA).