Ecommerce has seen a significant global rise in popularity and market share after global lockdowns across the globe during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw a shift in the retail business landscape as well as changes in consumer purchasing habits and trends.
The world realized that you can create a successful business from the comfort of your own home thanks to ecommerce. This article details everything you need to consider when starting your dream online business in the Emirates.
The UAE is considered the MENA’s financial hub, it has set up the perfect conditions for an online business to flourish and expand with favorable business laws and a fertile market.
Here are the top 10 questions to consider before starting your online business in the UAE:
1. Do I need a registered company to sell online?
You can register your online business in a Free Zone or a Mainland authority. The main difference between the two licenses is that using the Free Zone license will require you to partner with a distributor in the UAE while using a Mainland license allows you to sell your products and services directly to the local market. Your license choice depends on the nature of your business and your long-term and short-term growth goals.
The Free Zone comes with the benefits of having only the 5% VAT tax, no currency and withdrawal of capital restrictions, the luxury of 100% equity of a foreign company, low operating costs, import and export duty exemption with an ecommerce license, and the chance to hold a UAE resident visa for 3 years.
The Free Zones with a dedicated ecommerce activity license are:
- UAQ free trade zone
- Ajman free zone
- Ajman Media City free zone
- Fujairah Creative City
For more information on the different licenses and requirements in Dubai and the UAE to register your online business check out the official page on UAE’s website.
2. What are the popular payment options?
The popular payment options in the UAE include secure credit card payments (like prepaid card systems) and cash-on-delivery (COD). As an online business, you should provide every option for your customers and let them choose at their convenience. In 2020 for example, card payments in online transactions in the UAE reached 39%, which shows the decreasing dependence on cash-on-delivery (COD) by UAE citizens.
However, the payment options you make available on your online store also depend on where you are selling. If you are selling locally in the UAE, customers will still use both the credit card option and the COD, while if you are selling globally your customers can only use the credit card option.
Furthermore, you should integrate online payment solutions that cater to both needs and automate currency exchange transactions for local, regional, and international transactions. For example, ecomz allows store owners to define a payment gateway per region, this helps merchants choose the best and most popular payment gateway for each customer segment which customers appreciate and feel more comfortable with.
The popular payment gateways in the UAE are:
Activating payment gateway solutions can be tricky, read more and get to know which one suits your online business best here.
3. What are the best shipping providers?
Shipping and delivery of your products can make or break the shopping experience for your customers. There are several factors you should consider when integrating your shipping provider to your online store.
First, you should choose the shipping provider that matches the culture of your customers, whether you are selling locally, regionally or internationally, integrate with the provider that your customers are most familiar and comfortable with. Second, consider the headquarters, shipping areas, and rates of your providers, you might have questions about a certain feature or delivery so choose a company that you can easily communicate with to solve your problems.
Third, you should pay attention to the currency changes and if your provider can satisfy currency conversions on your invoices easily.
Luckily, with ecomz, you can divide your shipping zones and integrate with different providers to sell in multiple regions, which helps you satisfy customers from different countries and cultures. Moreover, ecomz allows you to both package and ship orders on your store management system directly and integrate cash-on-delivery (COD) on any order you have, helping you automate the procedure and scale your shipping operations.
The most popular shipping solution providers in the UAE are:
- Naqel Express
- Smsa Express
To learn more about creating orders with your shipping provider on your online store check our article here.
4. What skills do I need? Should I hire an expert?
Building your online store from scratch is very challenging. You should have experience in website setup, design, coding, and performance. Your website needs to have a friendly user interface and a smooth user experience to optimize the shopping experience and make sure that your customers don’t face problems or delays on your website.
Simultaneously, you should also be focusing on growing your business and creating promotions and campaigns to get traffic to your website.
You can create your website on your own or have a team of experts build it for you. If you decide to do your website on your own, ecomz offers a do-it-yourself(DIY) plan where you are responsible for the design of the website, adding products, SEO, and payment/shipment integrations. Make sure to benefit from all the free guides, FAQs, and blogs available online, they can offer unique insights you might not know about website creation.
At ecomz, we also offer a do-it-for-you plan (DIFY) where we set up your store, content, design, store management, marketing, SEO, payment setup and shipping configuration. This way you can handle the financial and marketing aspects of your business while we optimize every little detail about your online store and customer experience.
If you want to know more, book a call with our experts and see how we can help you launch your ecommerce business.
5. Is it safe?
There are many security challenges you will face on your online business. You need to make sure that all of your transactions and orders are secure, immune to fraud, and all your customer data like names and credit card info are private.
The safety of your ecommerce store is our top priority, that’s why we supply you with an SSl certificate, 24/7 monitoring, encrypted data, and a 24/7 status updates page.
In addition to that, we tokenize all credit card payments during transactions safely in a vault and have implemented a fraud analysis system that detects and flags any suspicious transactions on your website.
The UAE’s government also implemented detailed laws and policies to maintain a fair and secure ecommerce medium for all.
6. How much will it cost?
How much you pay for your online store depends on whether you want to create your website on a self-hosted platform or a hosted platform like ecomz.
If you go for the first option and don’t have website design skills or experience you need to hire specialists to design your layout and themes, manage the store, fix bugs, work on product SEO, market products, and operate customer service.
Using a hosted platform is the more popular option these days, it allows you to save tons of money and give you way more time to work on the growth of your online business. Ecomz for example offers you up to 20+ responsive themes, 24/7 support, sales and marketing boosters for the monthly fee of 24$ for the startup plan.
Your cost also depends on the customizations and integrations you choose to start with on your website. You can stick with the 24$ per month for the startup plan or pay more adding customizations like abandoned cart recovery or questions and review.
Check out all our plans and prices here.
7. Should I sell in Emirati Dirham (AED) or another currency?
It is a no brainer that you need to sell in Emirati Dirham in the UAE because it is very important to encourage your local currency in your own country. However, if you are selling outside of the UAE, you need to make sure that you offer the most attractive and culturally relatable currency in the region you are selling in.
Regionally, there are lots of currencies to consider, you have the Riyal in KSA, the Dinar in Kuwait, the Qatari Riyal, the Lira in Lebanon and so much more. While internationally, you have the Euro in Europe and the Dollar in the U.S.
That’s why Ecomz provides you with all the major currencies(150+) and has constructed a system that supports real time currency conversion and fixed manual currency conversion at checkout, transforming the entire transaction to the country’s currency which increases your sales.
Read more about our multi-currency solution here.
8. Should I have my content in English or another language?
English and Arabic are still the most widely used languages for business in the UAE, so it's only smart to use them in your online business. This increases your SEO which helps in generating traffic to your website.
If you are planning to sell regionally or internationally, adding other languages to satisfy different customer groups and cultures is also necessary.
Ecomz has 22+ languages(Spanish ,French, German, Portuguese...) and supports a multilingual feature that can automatically translate your content and language and allows for manual translations on your website which eases your work and productivity. We also offer bulk import and export of translations which saves you time and effort.
Learn how to make use of our multilingual feature here.
9. How long does it take?
Building your online business requires time, money, and effort. The most challenge you will face is with creating your digital product catalog. It will take time since you need to choose professional photographs of your products then compress and edit them for website use.
Moreover, your products should have descriptive SEO optimized titles for search engines to pick up and your product variations (color, size, shape) should be strategically chosen. You also need to set up your payment and shipping integrations early since different companies have different procedures and payment methods.
If you decide to go with a hosted platform like ecomz you can expect your online store to be finalized in a less than a week or two. The same process takes about 2 or 3 month if you opt to choose a self-hosted platform for your business.
It is integral to understand that the creation of your store is only the first step in your ecommerce journey, anyone can create an online store but not everyone can nurture it to success.
Book a call with our experts to see how you can focus on the growth of your online business here.
10. What features should I start with?
Choosing your features and integrations early is very important for increasing your traffic and converting website visitors into loyal customers.
Here are some important features we recommend for you:
- Google analytics and Google ads (for SEO & traffic)
- Facebook catalog integration (to sell seamlessly on Facebook and Instagram)
- Facebook pixel (to track Facebook traffic on your website)
- Sales boosters (coupons, discounts, deals, bundles, upsell, etc.)
- Product recommendations (to increase your sales)
- Smart search (for easy search and product discovery)
- Product questions and reviews (for SEO and user generated content)
- Credit notes (to easily handle payment refunds on your store)
- Chat tools (you know why :))
- Gift cards (easy way to increase your sales)
- Abandoned cart recovery (to not miss any sales)
- Wishlist (increase conversion rate)
- Email marketing (automate and reach your customers)
Check how you can add them to your online store here.
If you are wondering when to start, remember that ecommerce is a billion dollar industry and thousands of online businesses are already selling in the UAE while hundreds are opening per day.
Make sure to start planning for your online business as soon as possible, and remember, your customers will choose you for your brand personality and how you make them feel, so be honest with them and add your human touch to your online store.