More and more businesses based in Egypt are poised to take advantage of Internet and social media tools to try to seize the numerous opportunities generated by the growth of e-commerce in the region.

Traditionally, brands in Egypt have ignored e-commerce as a tool to lure customers but with international brands targeting the same audience through an effective online platform, local enterprises have started realising the importance of selling online.

Speaking to the Economic Review periodical of souq.com, the leading e-commerce website in the Arab world, Mr. Tamer Farid, General Manager of Samsung Appliance/Mansour Group stressed the need to drive growth through e-commerce.

“I like to see all brands in the Egyptian market selling online, even our competitors,” Mr. Farid said, and added: “Having a lot of players online will drive more and more people to view, learn and shop for products online. Due to the lower overheads that are incurred, launching and managing an e-commerce business would be less expensive for most brands if they can succeed in getting customers to buy online”.

E-commerce has been slow to take-off in Egypt due to two key factors; lack of awareness and interest, as well as lack of e-commerce portals that allow customers to buy directly from the brands via the Internet.

According to statistics, less than 20 % of local brands have any kind of online presence, whether it is a website, online marketing or an online campaign. As a result, large numbers of Egyptian consumers wishing to purchase products online have turned to foreign websites that offer a sophisticated online marketplace for speedy and secure transactions. In fact, in 2009, 58% of online purchases generated from Egypt were from foreign e-commerce sites predominantly in Europe or the United States.

However, the tide is beginning to turn in favor of online business by local brands, thanks to initiatives undertaken by e-commerce portals like souq.com.

A growing number of small and medium size enterprises (SMEs), along with large Egyptian corporations and multi-national firms doing business in Egypt have started a dialogue with consumers over the internet to help increase awareness of their products and services that  are available online. And their method of communication?  All online channels and social media tools such as search engines, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, online advertising and e-commerce.

Classic examples of Egypt-based businesses that have made the smart move to tap the tens of thousands of potential customers surfing cyberspace are Samsung Appliance/Mansour Group and Diwan Bookstores, one of the leading distributors of books and cultural products in Egypt. Through a tie-up with souq.com, Diwan is able to offer customers a hassle-free and enriching buying experience. Within weeks of its integration online, the e-store of Diwan witnessed extensive traffic from Egyptian readers and consumers interested in books, music CDs and movie DVDs from all age groups.

“There’s an exponential growth in e-commerce in Egypt, primarily due to the rapid increase in internet users along with other local factors like traffic congestion and construction projects in different cities.  Also, the new generation of youth prefers modern methods and access to different services, and online shopping is fast becoming their favorite” says Ms. Nihal Shawki, board member of Diwan Company.

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