Every consumer group has a number of triggers influencing their purchasing patterns and we are highlighting triggers affecting Arab shoppers.
- Arabs consumers are brand conscious. Brands carry with them status in the Middle East. Arabs assign status to brands in everything from cars to clothes to smart phones. “Eat what pleases you but wear what pleases others.” This popular saying in the Middle East conveys that image is extremely important. Arabs are image conscious.
- Buying is very social: Arabs are usually influenced by word of mouth among their close circle of family and friends and converts them into loyal consumers for quite some time. Social media networks are also extremely popular in the region and are also used to inform buying decisions.
- Status symbols are important Typically a brand must be established within the Arab market before it becomes a status symbol. Many high end products and brands that convey status in other countries may not be established enough in some Arabian markets to convey status.
- Arabs need to touch before they buy. Online shopping is not a common practice among many Arabs. As a large percentage of Arabs still haven’t bought anything online they aren’t used to paying for products they haven’t seen. People underestimate the power of brand loyalty in this culture, helping a consumer with their first purchases can lead loyalty worth thousands in revenue. There are a few ways that brands can help ease the transition for these types of consumers. Customer support is key. Offer Cash on Delivery (COD). In Saudi Arabia for example up to 75% of local online transactions are COD calls of consumers new to online buying. This provides the shopper with a sense of security in buying the product. Have a return policy. Be willing to go the extra mile to support a consumer with their first few purchases.
- Arabs like to window shop. Shopping is a national pastime in some countries. Marketing to these consumers should include all steps in the conversion funnel from introduction, to follow up, to closing the sale, to turning them into repeat consumers.
- Fashion is immensely popular in the Middle East. In fact there are thousands of online magazines, blogs, and forums that follow the fashion industry closely. Arabs care about fashion. Fashion defies global norms in the countries in the Gulf where women buy expensive designer dresses and accessories.
- Bargaining is an essential part of Middle Eastern culture. There is a strong sense of pride and dignity in being able to negotiate better prices. The important aspect of bargaining is more about the consumer feeling they got a special deal or treatment. Sometimes a small discount or an extra incentive or gift can help the consumer walk away with a sense of pride in securing the optimal deal.
- Religion is a very important part of most Middle Eastern countries. Are your advertisements friendly to conservative areas of society? Do you offer special discounts during religious holidays like Ramadan? All of these can be ways that a company can honor and respect the local religion and customs.
- Arabic. Arabs tend to buy from companies that speak their language. Mobile phone companies like Nokia and Blackberry developed strong loyal consumer bases in the region by providing superior Arabic language support before Apple and Android. Companies wanting to take advantage of new opportunities in the region should consider language a top priority for winning new customers.
- Age is an important consideration as well. In most Arab countries a large segment of society is under the age 25. Youth shouldn’t be ignored because they are influential to the decision making process but it is also important to consider older members of society, because they typically have the purchasing power in the family.
Incorporating your understanding of the above traits and aspects of an Arab consumer is important to the success of any organization looking to do business in the MENA region.