Online shopping has been on the rise in Egypt over the last few years.
More companies have been paying attention to the potential of e-commerce, which has increased in volume to currently reach over $5 billion in the local market, with official expectations to reach $20 billion by 2020.
With Egypt’s new national strategy for e-commerce that aims to double the number of businesses selling products and services online, the country has the potential to grow exponentially in that field.
Increasing numbers of mobile phone and social media users are key to driving e-commerce forward, especially given that the population of prospective online shoppers is huge.
According to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), more than 21 million of Egypt’s 100 million population are aged between 18 to 29. The number of smart phone users in Egypt reached 27.5 million this year.
Ahram Online spoke with Manal Negmeldin, e-business manager at ElAraby Group, who has contributed to tripling online sales within a period of two years since El-Araby started online services, to talk about the opportunities and challenges facing the growth of electronic commerce in Egypt, and how social media platforms are affecting e-businesses.
Ahram Online: How do you see the development of online sales in Egypt over the last few years?
Manal Negmeldin: More people in Egypt have become so attached to their phones and spend a lot of time on social media. The younger generations of smart phone users helped in the growth of e-commerce, which has been growing steadily in the last few years, until it reached over $5 billion.
If the customers are exposed to that media for an extended period of time and they have the free will to read and are interested in your content, it becomes easier to engage current and potential customers and build a real relationship with them.
AO: How do you evaluate the e-commerce industry in Egypt, and what needs to be done for it to develop more?
MN: E-commerce will have a great future in Egypt, because of the young population and the percentage of people under the age of 30 that are tolerant of technology and love to try new things; 2018 is called the year of the millennial generation that loves technology, and which has become a strong purchasing power.
The more people use smart phones, the more online purchases will be made. Smart phone use drives the e-commerce industry forward. The potential of people willing to buy online is increasing as a result.
Additionally, the cost of establishing any e-commerce platform is very low in comparison to establishing a physical one. Also, social media platforms, such as Facebook, launched their marketplace that will support small business and startups in Egypt.
AO: What are the main purchases made online and what is ElAraby doing to increase online sales?
MN: Top items now on the e-commerce platforms are fashion, electronics and home appliances, plus many digital services.
We are aiming to offer our customers a more unique service and experience online. We deliver for free and with many payment solutions (cash on delivery - visa - fawry) and more to be added soon. ElAraby has great expectations from this channel and we are going to have more developments according to our strategy for the coming years.
AO: In your opinion, what is the importance of social media to e-commerce and online sales?
MN: Social media is a very important tool for e-commerce, not only for advertising, but also as a customer-relationship management tool and a market research tool. Through social media listening, you can have a better understanding of how your customers think and what they need.
For El Araby group, 93 percent of our target audiences are active users of social media and we do a social media analysis about our customers, and we also interact with their needs.
It is very important to study consumers’ behaviour online and how they react to your advertising and digital activities, to be reflected in increasing the conversion rate of your e-commerce portal. Social media is a great medium for getting closer to your customers and understanding them better, adding value to your products, widening distribution channels and boosting sales.
It is also about influencing the word of mouth, and the way you respond to your customers online is very important. You must be available all the time for them and answer their questions in real time.
AO: One of the main fears among online customers is security while making online purchases. How do you respond to that, and what are the measures you take to secure online purchases?
MN: The answer is to have different payment solutions; one of them is cash on delivery, and that is still the preferred way for most online purchases in Egypt.
The other one is online payment through visa with co-operation of a trusted national bank. Online customers can pay through the bank’s portal, which is very secure and has a restricted process to avoid any fraud.
Also, we are studying different digital solutions to have a variety of secured and credible payment options online.
AO: The legal control over e-commerce has been a source of controversy lately. What can the new cyber-crime law do for e-commerce in Egypt?
MN: Having such a law is a very important step to protect businesses, as there is a hindrance, specifically, in copyrights and social/digital identity.
Some people can easily claim any other company’s identity with a lack of clear legal implications or actions.