Category Archives: Ecommerce

Sync your Content Strategy with Your Customer’s Journey

Most companies make the mistake of churning out content randomly, focusing on keywords to get a high Google rank rather than attracting relevant audience. Whatever service you are offering, there is always going to be a host of competitors in the market fighting to steal your share.

To stay afloat in the business world, it’s important to adopt a customer-centric approach instead of a campaign driven one. This is where customer journey mapping saves the day. Before we move on to the nitty-gritty details of content planning with journey mapping, it is important understand what customer journey mapping is all about.

Looking at the entire timeline between when the average internet user finds out about your company to when they become a paying customer, is what constitutes customer journey mapping. Of course there are a lot of touch-points in between for example; How the user became aware of your brand, why they interacted with you, and what finally compelled them to make a purchase). This holistic approach can help business owners come up with effective strategies to gain a larger share of their overall market share.

In the world of digital marketing content is king. So how can a journey map shape your content strategy? To make sure your content pushes the user towards conversion, it helps to break down customer journey mapping into its individual phases. Even though each business’ customer journey map will be unique, there are a few things that are common to every map.

No matter what stage your potential customer (or even existing customer) is at within your sales funnel, you should try to create content that caters to them. You can use customer journey mapping tools to quickly draft the major touch-points which are important in all the content campaigns and set-up the entire content strategy step by step.

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Pre-awareness Phase

This is the point where the user has not heard of your brand nor interacted with it at any point.  To reach out and create brand awareness at this stage, a Facebook ad tailored to the right audience is a good way to break the ice. For example, if you are a makeup brand and your Facebook ad makes its rounds on a regular makeup lover’s timeline, then they are more likely to “like” it if their friends had endorsed the brand as well. And of course it simplifies the equation if they approve of their friends’ fashion sense too.

An ad that is targeted for new users can be about upcoming sale, new launches or special discounts for first-time buyers. This will garner most interest in the post.

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Awareness

The user is now aware of your presence in the market. You can use website monitoring tools i.e. WebMon to instantly action for any down-time and Google Analytics to find out how a particular customer stumbled on your website, which social network is providing the most traffic to the website, and what is compelling your customers to subscribe to your newsletters.

They might be just browsing through and have not made purchases yet. So this is the point to draw them in. You need to generate content that will educate them more about your brand. An email with positive reviews and feedback from other customers, or a newsletter suggesting products similar to their searches might do the trick. Some users tend to save items in the cart or add them to their wish list.

They often forget about these products after their online shopping spree loses its fizz. At this stage, you can send them reminders about the items waiting in their cart or offer them a limited time discount so that they proceed from the checkout to thank you page.

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Dilemma

Most people get second thoughts when they are hovering their cursor on the checkout button. They are still deciding if your outlet is the best to buy from or if they are getting the most bang for their buck.

The content at this stage can be video testimonials. Sometimes all a potential customer needs are one good reason and one subtle push to cross the finish line. However, the content should not be too pushy carrying vibes of desperation.

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Checkout

The eureka moment when they’ve made a purchase and you have earned a new customer! To make the experience memorable for them, send them a complimentary how-to guide along with the product. If you are a clothing company, a style book would do. You can even give them a discount voucher for their next purchase to keep them hooked.

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Post-purchase Phase

Successful businesses are those that have not just customers but loyal customers. Your content for this phase should target existing customers to make them come back for more. Amazon does this by sending out personalized emails to their customers suggesting products similar to their previous purchases.

So you can further fine-tune your content strategy by analyzing your customer journey maps. If executed successfully, you might see a marked increase in revenue.  Content strategy will of course have to be adjusted if the customer trends change to make sure your business remains in the game.

What to learn more about customer journeys? Check out our infographic that provides a visual guide to the Lifecycle of a Digital Consumer. And if you want the latest updates on the ecommerce world be sure to follow PAYFORT Twitter account!

Move Your Business Online Today: Get Started!

Here at PAYFORT, we know that growing a start-up in the region isn’t easy. It takes time, hard work, and a truly dedicated team to take an idea from concept to reality. Even then, start-ups need every advantage they can get to have the best chance at succeeding.

A core value of ours has always been supporting the region’s top start-ups; we want to help them gain the traction they need so they can start shaping the future of the middle east. We do this by providing the tools and resources they need to get their businesses live quickly and reliably.

This month we are taking our support even further with a special promotion for Egyptian companies who require the best in payment solutions. From now until the end of 2016, PAYFORT will be offering FREE setup and 50% off our monthly service fee for a full year. Just sign up, integrate and go live before the end of December 2016 to catch the offer!

With PAYFORT you get access to an industry leading payment gateway and some incredible features to take your start-up to the next level.

Native iOS and Android Support

With native support on both iOS and Android, PAYFORT is the all in one solution you’ve been looking for. Whether you are app based or looking to expand into the mobile space you can be confident that your payments are safe with our mobile solutions.

Increase Customer Purchasing Power On Your Website

Offering a wide range of payment solutions PAYFORT empowers your customers to pay the way they want. We offer a flexible instalments service in partnership with 4 banks across Egypt.

Allow your customers to pay for their purchases with ZERO hassle all while enjoying a 100% online experience.

Over 50 Ready-Made Plugins for Shopping Carts

Supporting over 50 shopping carts with easy to integrate plugins, PAYFORT allows you to get up and running quickly, no matter what platform you’re using.

With a few lines of code, you’ll have access to an enterprise level solution that overs excellent fraud detection and can accept a wide range of traditional and alternative payment options.

Regionally Relevant

PAYFORT is one of the middle east’s largest payment gateways. Since we began in 2013 we’ve been focused on improving the state of online commerce and improving services for businesses and consumers alike.

We have teams across the region in the UAE, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar and offer solutions in both English and Arabic. We support you with dedicated staff to ensure your payment systems are always up and running.

What features do you need in your payment gateway? Is there something we could be offering that would allow you to start your start-up? Let us know in the comment below and we’ll be in touch to you take bring your idea to life!

How Do Free Apps Make Money?

Have you ever looked through the apps on your phone and wondered how so many can be free to download? It may seem strange, but believe it or not, a healthy portion of the world’s top earning apps are available for free.

Apps like Clash of Clans, Skype, and Netflix are just a few examples of apps that have risen to fame on the fact that they can be downloaded and used with needing to open up your wallet. This trend of free applications has created a marketplace where a large portion of users expect their apps to be free.

So in a world where apps are expected to be free, how can app creators recover their costs and turn a profit? This week we’ll be tackling that exact question to help you understand how free apps make money.

In App Monetization

Both Apple and Google understand that app development (even for free apps) isn’t cheap. So to help developers recoup their costs, both companies have provided several monetization options for free apps.

These monetization strategies fall into two main categories; in-app purchases and in-app advertising. These models allow app developers to create potential revenue streams without needing to charge any upfront cost (something that often discourages users from downloading). How a developer chooses to use each strategy will depend on the type of app and the behaviour of their audience.

IN-APP PURCHASES

An app that utilizes in-app purchases will often offer users free version of the app that provides the core elements, while simultaneously encouraging the user to purchase additional paid features that enhance the experience.

Checkout this overview of freemium apps like Pokemon GO by Vox.

This model of monetization is commonly used in mobile games where users are able to enhance the gameplay by purchasing new levels, gear, and items.

In-app purchases aren’t exclusive to games however, you will also find them in apps like Spotify, Microsoft Office, and even YouTube. In this context, in-app purchases allow the user to continue using a service that is provided via subscription or unlock additional features of a particular app.

IN-APP ADVERTISING

In-app advertising follows a similar look and feel to the banner advertising we’ve all grown accustomed to on the web. In apps, the advertisements come in a variety of sizes as well as placements and the revenue they generate is calculated using traditional advertising models. A developer will get paid depending on a range of criteria such as click-through, impressions, and the geolocation of the user.

Currently there are several advertising networks, such as Google’s AdMob and Millennial Media, that focus on in-app advertising each offering unique models for monetization and equally unique metrics to keep track of ad performance.

Conclusion

Both in-app purchases and advertising have created a unique avenue for developers to increase the reach of their applications while making money off ‘free’ software. With that said, if you’re looking to make money from a free app, you’ll have to do a lot more then add freemium options and a few ads.

Smart app monetization means taking the time to understand what revenue-generating strategies are available and what options best align with your target audience. By leveraging your knowledge of both your audience and your business, you’ll be able to cater towards the right paid user experience for your app.

What do you think about in app monetization? Do you prefer in-app purchases or advertising? Let us know in the comment below and be sure to stay connected by following PAYFORT on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

Gamification in Different Contexts

In our previous pieces about gamification we covered the basic strategies for eCommerce businesses and provided a few key examples of well executed campaigns. This week, we’re going to be broadening our scope and looking at gamification in multiple contexts.

Gamification is a powerful tool that can motivate employees, create some healthy competition, generate social buzz, and most importantly encourage customer loyalty. There are numerous techniques that can be used to get great results and no matter what your goals are, there’s a gamification technique to support them.

We’ve highlighted several areas where gamification has proven to be successful so you can better take advantage of these techniques in your day to day life as well as your business.

Personal Improvement and Motivation

Nearly everyone on this planet has something that they would like to improve. Whether it’s living healthier of cutting out a bad habit, gamification has proven to be one of the most powerful pathways to personal improvement.

An excellent example of gamification in this context is fitness blogger Jillian Michael’s challenges. The programs encourage users to follow her fitness programs using gamification techniques to promote several fitness challenges.

The site offers a wide range of challenges and allows users to select an option that closely aligns with their personal goals and lifestyle. Each challenge incorporates unique gamification techniques, including contests and prizes, achievement badges, and group challenges.

Employee Efficiency

Employee efficiency has become an increasingly important aspect of the business world. With growing workloads and employees being stretch across multiple roles, finding techniques to help them stay motivated and productive are critical.

The Email Game by Baydin is just such a tool. The Email Game uses gamification to boost productivity, by giving users a tight 3-minute time limit to respond to emails. The game then rewards you with points and accomplishments when you’ve responded quickly or better managed your workflow.

Behind the scenes, Baydin’s Email Game benefits Baydin by fostering customer loyalty, and keeping its customers engaged with the project. At the same time, there’s no denying that this type of gamification also leads to more productive teams and some friendly competition in the office.

Loyalty

Gamification continues to be an excellent tool for encouraging customer loyalty and keeping customers engaged with your product. By creating a useful and competitive platform for customers to compare their habits, you can be sure your product will always be on your customer’s mind.

The Nissan Carwings program for example aims to gamify daily driving and has proven to be incredibly successful. Offering regional rankings, owners can compare their performance to other local drivers and earn medals based on how they behaviour compares to the regional average.

Nissan also made sure to include some added value features such as connecting your car to your smartphone to get reminders, start charging the battery, set timers, and even turn on the A/C. These features combined with leader boards help create a strong connection between brand and consumer

Project Completion

When tackling large projects using online services and freelancers, there is always a concern that the work might not get completed. Fortunately, gamification has been shown to have a surprising impact in this space as well.

DevHub was one such company that used gamification to leverage the competitive nature of their network. In their case, simply adding a series of badges (called devatars) which are awarded for completing certain tasks, the company saw the number of users who completed projects jump from 10 percent to an astonishing 80 percent.

The technique looks to incentivize and motivate users during some of the most tedious and challenging obstacles, giving them that extra push right when they’re ready to give up.

Interested in learning more about the world of ecommerce strategy? Stay connected by following PAYFORT on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for the latest news! And if you want to share your favourite examples of gamification reach out in the comments below.

State of Payment 2016 Teaser: Demographics

Along our journey through the world of online payments we’ve learned how useful a little bit of knowledge can be. Understanding the current state (and more importantly the future) of ecommerce is essential to business in the Middle East. Whether your organization is big or small, everyone from small startups to government organizations benefit from a better understanding of consumer behaviour.

Each year for State of Payments we dedicate a team of talented researchers to gather the most up to date demographics data and compile it for our readers. 2016 is no exception so be sure to keep reading for a preview of what you can expect in the upcoming State of Payments Report.

Online Buyers Increase
Online Buyers Increase

 

In line with the growth of the region’s online population the number of online buyers has increased by nearly 14% over 2014 values. This increase is a positive sign that ecommerce is continuing to gain traction across the Arab World.

Social Media in the Middle East 2016
Social Media in the Middle East 2016

 

The popularity of social networks varies across the region. Facebook remains the Middle East’s most popular network however its presence is notability weaker in the KSA and Kuwait. A fairly new entrant to the social media landscape, Pinterest is gaining popularity across the region.

If you want to see more social media data, be sure to check here at the end of May to get immediate access to the PAYFORT State of Payments Report when it launches.

What’s New in the World of Social Media

The social landscape has become crucial to both individuals and businesses looking to reach their digital audience. Social media companies are constantly innovating to make this process easier and more effective, but with all this change it can be difficult to keep track of the new tools you can use to improve your marketing efforts.

This week we’re doing a quick round up of some of the latest (and possibly overlooked) additions to our favourite social media platforms. From Facebook to Snapchat you can be sure you’ll find something new in this post.

Facebook Canvas

Facebook has given advertisers a more immersive way to reach people all while keeping them in their social network. In February they officially launched their ad Canvas for all advertisers.

Facebook Ad Canvas

 

This new tool provide a more robust and immersive mobile advertising experience. When users click a Canvas connected News Feed ad, it opens a full-screen, rich media page inside the Facebook app rather than forcing users to wait for a new mobile website to load.

Snapchat On-Demand Geofilters

Snapchat users who have been feeling a little limited by the application’s geofilter overlays now have a new way to express themselves. Users now have the ability to create their own custom filters and define specific areas where they’ll show up.

Users are able to select areas that fall between 20,000 square feet (about the size of a personal residence, store or office) and 5,000,000 square feet (think stadiums and neighbourhoods). The custom filters stays live for as short as an hour and up to thirty days. The new feature is open to both businesses and individuals so expect to see a lot more creativity in future geofilters.

Pinterest Rich Pins for Recipes and Movies

Pinterest recently launched an update to its movie and recipe Rich Pins, incorporating even more rich data in hopes of further enhancing the user experience.

Pinterest Rich Recipe

Recipes have quickly become one of Pinterest’s top pinned categories with millions of ideas being shared across under ‘food’ so it was a natural fit for Pinterest to go a step further and add helpful data within each pin. The same is true for movie based pins which will add information like rating, cast members and movie reviews.

Twitter Updates Embedding on Timelines

It doesn’t matter where you’re tweeting from, sometimes your tweet needs something more than text to tell the story. Twitter has realized this new trend on their platform and are making some big changes to ensure that users get the full Twitter experience no matter where you’re accessing the tweet.

Twitter Embedded Timeline

On March 3rd, Twitter made it easier to share your stories with an embedded timeline that can display rich media anywhere the it’s embedded. The update also introduces a native video player that lets Android and iOS users engage with images, videos, and GIFs from within any app.

So there you have it, some of the latest news straight from the front lines of the social landscape. For more news be sure to follow us on Twitter and if you have any questions reach out in the comments below.

The Evolution of Food Services

Food services have come to represent one of the fastest growing sectors in the world and this is particularly true in the Middle East. A recent report by PwC estimates that the regions online food service sector will reach a staggering USD218 million by 2020. With such a large amount of money up for grabs it’s not surprising that a range of companies are flooding into the market.

At PAYFORT we are always excited to see such strong growth in a Middle East sector but lately we’ve been even more excited to see some of the innovative ways companies are capitalizing on this emerging market.

This week we’re profiling a few of the most innovative food based start-ups around, Yumamia, EasyPan, and Tastecapade to see how they’re using new ideas to take advantage of the online food boom.

Yumamia

yumamia

Yumamia is a place where home cooked meals meet a busy lifestyle. The platform puts users in contact with a network of talented home chefs eager to prepare some incredible dishes. To order simply log on to their site, pick a meal, and leave the rest to Yumamia; the chef prepares your food and Yumamia delivers it right on time.

We sat down with Belal El Borno from Yumamia to learn a little more about their experience in the online food delivery business.

What Inspired Yumamia?

The inspiration for Yumamia was the growing number of friends & colleagues we know who do not have time to cook for their families due to their hectic work schedule. Despite their best efforts to cook healthy and wholesome food for their families they eventually resort to ordering in from delivery restaurants which usually offer innutritious & expensive food.

And on the other hand, there are thousands of talented home cooks that would love to make a living from their passion for cooking but lack the skills and knowhow to get started and get customers, so we found the need to step in and create a reliable, safe & convenient service for both ends.

Belal-El-Borno

What do you think is the biggest obstacle for online delivery in the region is?

The major obstacle for online delivery is the cost of transportation. This is especially true with online marketplaces where the logistics are very complex due to vendors/cooks/suppliers being located in different areas. In our case for example most of the time our customer and cook are less than 5 kilometres away from each other but the delivery guy has to drive around 25km to reach his pickup location which obviously impacts the cost dramatically. I think there is a major opportunity for same day, location based on demand delivery service.

Easy Pan

Easy-pan

Easy Pan offers users a similar home cooked meal experience; only this time the users have to roll up their sleeves and become the chef. To get started users login at easy-pan.com and select the meal they want to cook. From there your ingredients are packed up and shipped straight to your door.

To get so more insight on how this unique approach fits into the food delivery landscape we spoke with Khaled Attallah of Easy Pan.

What Inspired Easy Pan?

Easy Pan was inspired by a real life problem of one of the partners when she was invited to one of her friends’ dinner gathering and was helping in preparing the meals. The planning, shopping, and preparing part for the meals was time consuming and an experience she didn’t want to go through again.

So we thought there must be a better solution that not only eliminates the hassle of the home cooking experience and let’s chef’s focus their energy on preparing a delicious meal. The result was Easy Pan, a recipe kit delivery service that provides you with various exotic monthly recipes and delivers fresh pre-portioned ingredients to your door step with step-by-step recipe cards that let just about anyone create delicious meals.

Khaled-Attallah

What do you think is the biggest obstacle for new businesses in the region is?

One of the biggest challenges in the region for any start-up is the premature entrepreneurial ecosystem. Start-ups during the early stages are always seeking key growth enablers like mentorship and funding.

However, incubators & investors in the region are still not confident enough to get involved in the early stages of a start-up to accelerate the growth and build momentum. This by default hinders the growth potential for many start-ups in the region.

Tastecapade

Tastecapade

Tastecapade is the region’s first culinary tour booking service dedicated to bringing food lovers and delicious life experiences together. Whether you classify yourself as a hard core foodie or you’re simply looking for some unique (and food focused) travel, tastecapade is a service you should be aware of.

We sat down with Mary from Tastecapade to see how their food focused experiences fit into the Middle East’s food services landscape.

What Inspired Tastecapade?

I’m a big foodie who loves to travel and explore countries in the most non-touristy way, like a local. Another favourite activity is to have a cooking class wherever I go to learn how to cook the cuisine.

I always found it hard to book such activities because most of the sites did not have a proper booking system; communication was just done by email. Most of the time I never got a response, and if I did, it would be after I traveled and returned home! So I decided, why not make a portal that combines food experiences providing users with one place where you can book and get a confirmation instantly.

MaryFreij

What do you think is the biggest obstacle for Tastecapade in the region is?

I would not call it an obstacle, but more of a challenge. As food tourism is a relatively new concept, I’ve found it requires a lot of education regarding food tourism, food tours, etc. Yes, people travel (and often spend 1/3 of their money on food) and food can be a major factor in selecting a destination, but people still are getting familiar with fact that there are food related activities which are informative, educational, and of course, filling.

The Future of Food Services in the Middle East

The take-up rate of new food based services like Yumamia, Easy Pan, and Tastecapade across the region suggests that a fairly large portion of the population sees value in easier and unique food services.

With people busier than ever been, services that free up a few spare minutes or allow them to escape the weekly grind all together are becoming increasingly popular. This coupled with estimated 6.8% annual growth in the Middle East food service sector means food services here to stay. Companies that find innovative ways to capitalize on this growth have a bright future in the region.

What have your experiences been like with the Middle East’s new food services? Be sure to leave us a comment below or reach out on twitter to share your story. And, if you have any questions for Yumamia, Easy Pan or Tastecapade make sure you send them a tweet @Yumamiadotcom, @easypaneg or @tastecapade

The Anatomy of an Optimized Webpage

Whether you’re just starting out or running an established business, an optimized webpage will play an important role for your organization. It not only needs to look good and have all the information your customers are looking for, it also needs to be easy to find.

Optimizing your website properly is a crucial to getting your site ranked in search engines and most importantly seen by customers. It will help your website to be found at the most critical steps in the buying process when people need your site.

So how can you build your website in a way that pleases your visitors and search engines? What are search engines even looking for?  And most importantly, how can SEO (Search Engine Optimization) help your company become more profitable? To answer these questions we’ve created a visual guide that you can use to start building a better site today.

Share you experiences with SEO in the comments below and if you have any questions, be sure to reach out on Twitter.

Download the Infographic

The Anatomy of an Optimized Webpage

Download the Infographic

How to Optimize a Landing Page

There are few things that will impact your user’s first impression more than your campaigns landing page. So a question every marketer should be asking is what makes a landing page great?

Beyond a simple design and a clear call to action, landing pages need to carefully combine persuasive content with attractive offers a do it all within a “visually pleasing” design.

What are landing pages?

Before we dive into how to optimize a landing page, it’s important to understand their purpose and how they fit into your overall site.

Traditionally landing pages are focused on achieving one single objective; they provide your users with highly specific information and push them towards conversion. Depending on your goals, a conversion might be immediate, part of a sales funnel, or more gradual through lead generation.

Creating a perfect landing page won’t be easy, but we’ve put together a quick guide to get you started with some of the basic tools you’ll need to start improving your site.

1. Use Strong Headlines

Good landing pages use language that converts, and that all begins with a strong headline. Your headline needs match and build on the promises made in the link that brought the visitor to your landing page, without being complex or vague.

It’s important to craft your headline according to your audience’s level of sophistication. A good rule to follow is to use your headline to make a clear promise, and then explain the mechanism of delivery in the page’s subtext.

2 .Bold Call to Action

Excluding your page’s headline, the call to action (CTA) will be the most important element of your landing page. With the exception of e-commerce landing pages, a good CTA should be designed to convert, rather than direct users further into the conversion funnel.

You’ll find that minor changes to both your headline and CTA can have a big impact your conversion rate. These two elements undergo a lot of testing in landing page optimization; things to consider when testing your CTA include:

  • Buttons: Test variations in size, colour, wording and placement. The wording of your CTA should be relevant to the offer and convey value.
  • Registration Form: Keep forms as simple as possible. Only ask for information you actually need as the more fields a visitor needs to complete the less likely they are to convert.

3. Be Clear on Value

When it comes to landing pages, you will convert more visitors if your value proposition is stated clearly. Use bold statements and don’t be afraid to highlight value multiple times within the pages subheadings, captions and bullet points.

Show credibility by being as specific as possible – if what you are offering can save your audience time or money, state how much.

Focus on writing your copy in the second person, using ‘You and Your’ and eliminating We, Our and Your Company’s Name wherever possible.

And above all else, be honest with your customers.

4. Keep you landing page clean and get rid of unnecessary elements

Your landing page does not need to mirror your website, so when your designing a new one start by eliminating all distracting elements. Don’t be afraid to get rid of navigation links, sidebars and footers.

Ideally the only navigation options readily available should be a Submit button, for capturing user details, and an opt-out link for users not interested in your offer. Both the Submit button and the opt-out link should redirect to an appropriate page on your company’s website.

It will sometimes be necessary to include off-page links such as Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy or social sharing buttons; when required be sure to place them out of the way of your user’s journey.

5. Use a Guiding Layout

The sole purpose of your landing page is always to convert your visitor; whether that be into a lead or customer. With that in mind, the way you layout your page should guide your visitor towards your call to action.

You can have the perfect copy, but if the layout of your landing page is confusing to users it’s not going to convert. When designing landing pages, you’ll have more freedom than similar style print ads, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore best practise. You need to be mindful of how people like to read and structure your page to match these habits.

Conclusion

While working on your landing page, it’s important to remember that there are very few ‘perfect’ landing pages. Those few pages that are perfect, resulted from months (in some cases years) of extensive testing.

That same level of discipline and rigour should be applied to your own landing pages. Always be prepared to adjust and tweak page elements, you never know when a simply change could bring about big improvements.

Do you have any experience optimizing landing pages on your site? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you’re looking for more guides be sure to check out the rest of the PAYFORT blog and if you’re not already follow us on Twitter.

Startup Marketing: How to Set Your Budget

So where should your money go? How can you determine an effective marketing budget? 
Starting a new company isn’t easy; it requires discipline, creativity, a lot of luck. One obstacle almost every startup will come across is financing and while there’s no doubt getting initial funding is difficult, but the truth is the next steps aren’t any easier.

When it comes time to allocating money within the business you’ll come across a common paradox faced by every new startup; you need to grow your brand to make money but have zero money.

So where should your money go? How can you determine an effective marketing budget? And most importantly, what’s can you expect as a return on investment (ROI)? As you can imagine trying to figure all this out is enough to make you head spin, that’s why we’ve put together a simple guide to help you set the perfect budget for you business.

If we assume the best way to determine your marketing budget is as a percentage your startup’s projected gross revenue we can find a solid starting point. It is often recommended that companies that have been in business for 1-5 years should allocate 12-20% of their gross revenue or projected revenue on marketing for the year, whereas a startup should spend more simply because they need to create buzz and carve out a market share.

Now that we have a rough estimate of the money you need to set aside, it’s time to break down the budget; technology costs, paid advertising, and even content marketing all need to be considered. For startups or brands looking to shake up the landscape of their industry, these are all essential factors (and general costs) you need to account for. Of course, many of these ‘essential’ costs will still depend upon your actually budget, so take this advice with a grain of salt.

Note: we’re referring to USD for all of the figures below.

Branding

From business cards to the homepage of you website, branding is the face of your business and will have a big impact on how it’s perceived. You should think about branding as an investment for the future of your company and as such you should be prepared to spend to achieve the perfect look.

A small design agency may charge between $4,000-5,000 for branding, but cheaper alternatives exist; just remember this is your company’s first impression so you’ll want to make it count.

Website

If you’re a web savvy entrepreneur you make think setting up your website is going to be easy. However, if you’d like your website to radiate a polished look and match the rest of your branding, don’t be afraid to bring in some extra help.

Generally, an all-inclusive website can cost $3,500-$5,000 if you go to the professionals. Depending on what you want your business to become, you’ll need to consider website tone of voice, layout, SEO, onsite content, and upkeep fees.

Finally make sure the site mobile-friendly; search engines are placing more and more importance on the mobile web and if your site doesn’t have a responsive design you’ll be behind from launch.

Social Media

You’ll often hear that if you want to succeed in social media, you need to be on every single platform—Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, Snapchat, WhatsApp, etc. As you’ll quickly find out however, for new businesses this simply isn’t possible.

If you’re just starting, try to select few social media platforms (2-3) that you feel will give you best chance to reach your audience and set a social savvy intern or staff member to handle updates.

If you don’t have anyone internally that can handle the work expect to shell out $1,000-$2,500 a month on a freelance community manager or small agency, plus the tools needed to succeed in social media and community management (Hootsuite for example).

Content Marketing

What is the driving force that keeps the internet going? The answer is content. To stay competitive you need to be creating high-quality content that attracts traffic and converts visitors into customers.

We all know Google likes content, and as it’s their algorithms that control how easy it is to find your business, it’s a no brainer then that content creation needs to be part of your budget. You may be tempted to assign ‘content creation’ to a single team member and call it a day, but if you want to create an effective strategy you’ll need to be prepared to spend a little more.

Though content marketing may take up a small portion of your initial budget, you should be prepared to increase it in the future as your business grows. The right content marketing agencies will scale with your budget, typically starting at $2,000 a month for basic content strategy and production.

Traditional Advertising and Events

Traditional advertising isn’t as precise or accurate as internet marketing, but it remains essential across a range of industries. For this type of traditional full-scaled advertising—including print, outdoor, and media — you can expect to pay at least $3,000 per month.

Finally, you want your business to grow you’re going to need to network. Attending other company’s events is a great way to get started; however holding events will be essential in many industries, and as such you should set aside some budget for functions. For a small scale event, allocate at least $5,000 and scale it up as your networking needs grow.

Conclusion For Setting your Marketing Budget

It’s important to remember that this is a top level guide and you can expect some fluctuations in costs depending on your specific needs and the evolving marketing landscape. For example content marketing is expected to grow, with 55% of companies (startups and established companies alike) saying they will increase their content marketing budget in 2016.

How do you tackle the issue of budget allocation within your business? Share your tips in the comments below or let us know on social media via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

PAYFORT 2015 Round Up – Top Five Posts

With another year coming to a close we wanted to take some time and reflect on our top stories from 2015. Throughout the year we’ve talked about a range of topic highlighting everything from up and coming entrepreneurs, to the evolving landscape of ecommerce in the Middle East.

That’s why for our last post of 2015 we wanted to share our top five posts of the year. These posts generated more traffic and social shares than any others and are definitely worth a second look.

Number 5 – 5 Predictions for Ecommerce in the Arab World in 2015

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At Payfort, we gather our teams in January and discuss the upcoming year. We did this at the start of 2015 and talked about the important trends for the year.

Check out our predictions here.

Number 4 – Saudi Arabia Ecommerce Law

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Just a few weeks after our number five post, our first prediction came true with the Saudi Ministry of Commerce and Industry announcing a new ecommerce bill.

We shared an infographic that week to detail the law, check it out here.

Number 3 – Ecommerce in the Arab World

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As you’ve guessed based on number four and five, we care a lot about ecommerce. Our number 3 post continues that trend with another infographic.

Check out our infographic on Ecommerce in the Arab World.

Number 2 – The 100 Best Twitter Handles in the Arab World

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Social networks became an even more instrumental in 2015 and one of our top posts for 2015 reflects that trend.

Our list of the 100 people you have to follow if you are an entrepreneur in the Arab World remains a valuable list heading into 2016. Check it out here.

Number 1 – Six Arab World Ecommerce Companies to Watch in 2015

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As a follow up to our 5 Predictions for Ecommerce in the Arab World in 2015 post, we wrote what proved to be 2015’s top PAYFORT post.

We chatted with our industry analysts to see which companies were poised for big things in the next 2015. Check out the list here.

So there you have it, our top posts of 2015! Was there a particular post that you enjoyed? Let us know in the comments below or via Twitter @PAYFORT.

Happy New Years from the PAYFORT team! We’ll be back with more great content in 2016!

How To Create An Effective Teaser Campaign

Whether you’re looking to launch a new website, a new product or even a new company, getting the word out is a critical first step and it will likely be your most difficult marketing challenge.

This week we’re going to be talking about teaser campaigns and how you can leverage excitement and secrecy to get the most out of your launch. A teaser campaign revolves around engaging with customers and can be a powerful tool to grab attention and generate anticipation.

To help your new idea launch successfully, we’ve put together 3 tips you can use to plan the perfect teaser campaign; check out the list below.

Develop a campaign with some mystery

As the name implies, a good teaser campaign is all about giving a little without spoiling the surprise. Some companies end up treating their teaser as the reveal and actually end up damaging their launch.

Whether you’re launching a new product, website, or business try to focus on the impact it will have, rather than the product itself. The above example is a teaser video for Microsoft’s HoloLens that does exactly that. Note how the video limits specific details and instead encourages viewer to imagine their lives with the product. When done correctly a good teaser can produce movie-premier type atmospheres.

Be aggressive across multiple channels

How you share your campaign will depend on the resources you have available, but it is important to be active across as many channels as possible. Social media has become a particularly powerful tool for sharing teaser campaigns as it allows for large reach and lots of interaction. Email is also a long-time favourite allowing you to share even more details with users that take the time to sign up for updates.

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If you want to get more tactical, you can look into using Google Adwords to promote your campaign. This type of advertising allows you to place you campaign in front of highly target users who are already searching for topics related to your launch. Take the above example which sees Samsung stealing some of the spotlight away from Apple’s iPhone 6S.

Finally content marketing (blogs, infographics, microsites, etc.) can be an excellent addition to you teaser campaign providing additional assets that can be shared with your audience.

Be unique… but don’t ignore what works

When working on a teaser campaign (or any marketing campaign for that matter) it’s important to be unique and focus on creating a story that is relevant to your brand and to your upcoming launch.

With that said, don’t be afraid to do some research and find out what has worked for other organizations in the past. For every successful marketing campaign there are dozens that didn’t perform well; understanding why the failures failed can save you a lot of time and effort.

So there you have it, three simple tips you can use to get your audience excited about your up and coming launches. Let us know if you’ve run a successful teaser campaign and if you haven’t already, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

Understanding Ecommerce Gamification

We’ve said it many times before and we’ll say it again here; ecommerce is competitive. If you want to succeed you need to be able to offer you customers something more than just product.

In a previous post we discussed how great customer can help set your online store apart and today we’re going to share another tool you can use to improve your customers’ shopping experience. Gamification refers to the use of ‘game thinking’ and ‘game mechanics’ within non-game contexts to engage users and increase customer loyalty.

On an ecommerce site, gamification is a great tool for making the shopping process more entertaining. Incorporating a range of motivators, some hidden and some visible, can completely change how your customers interact with the site.

The Psychology of Gamification

Gamification takes advantage of a common human trait; the love of finishing tasks. Whether it’s getting points, beating other customers, or collecting coupons, people love to complete a challenge and by incorporating this thinking into your ecommerce store you’ll increase loyalty and consumer engagement.

The Three Core Elements of Gamification

To help you get started we’ve broken down the 3 main components of any good gamification strategy:

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Clearly Defined Challenge – This is the critical, you want to keep your challenge straight forward and easy to understand without being boring. Remember users need to get motivated and excited before they’ll take part in your game so try to think like your audience and understand what they are willing to work towards.

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Instruction – Like any game, if the instructions aren’t clear it’s not going to be very enjoyable. Be sure to provide detailed instructions that explain how to participate and what the results can be. At the same time avoid writing a 1000-word description; keep it as simple as possible while still be informative.

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Reward – This is where it all pays off and a user gets what they’ve been working towards. Try to understand you audience and entice them with something that’s appealing to them. When possible allow them to share their accomplishments on social media; this is great for you brand and allows you to congratulate them in a public space.

Each time a user completes the process above, encourage them to repeat the challenge again. Good gamification constantly reminds users that there is an opportunity to be faster or better and receive even more. Remember your main goal is not to create a popular game in the traditional sense, but rather to build trust and loyalty that can be leveraged to improve sales.

Finally be sure design your gamification around what’s relevant for your store and don’t be afraid of testing new ideas. It will take a lot of time and effort but when you see the enjoyment customers get from engaging with your brand it will all be worth it.

Have you used gamification to improve you user‘s experience? Let us know in the comments below and if you’re not already be sure to follow us on Twitter.

The Future of Loyalty Programs – 2016 Outlook

Currently there are countless loyalty programs implemented throughout the world. These programs are a proven customer retention tool and they can help to insure your customers keep coming back.

By offering access to rewards—often in the form of redeemable points or percentage discounts—an effective loyalty program provides your customers with a sense ‘elite status’ in the eyes of your organization. In exchange for this status, consumers tend forge a strong relationship with your brand or store; driven by the idea that the more they shop with you the more they will benefit.

This model of loyalty program has worked exceptionally well over the past half century but today its effectiveness is starting to waiver. Modern shoppers are savvier than ever, and with technology giving them access to virtually limitless options, you’re not going to be able to lock in their business with a system of plastic and points.

This new style of consumer has led to the next generation of customized incentives, designed to not only appeal to shoppers’ price sensitivity, but also their social and emotional motivators.

Using Big Data to Reward Loyalty

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According to modern retail survey data, for many organizations although only a small number (12 to 15 percent) of customers are considered ‘loyal’, that group provides 55 to 70 percent of the organization’s business. Retaining this highly profitable demographic in the coming years will become more difficult and require adjustments to your loyalty program to meet the demands of a new generation.

Loyal consumers now have an expectation of personalized rewards, tailored to their unique shopping preferences and habits. Examples of this strategy are abundant in the Food and Beverage (F&B) industry where razor thin-margins make mass discounts difficult to sustain. Instead businesses rely on data analysis to provide personalized discounts that increase as consumer loyalty strengthens.

Going Mobile: Capturing a New Generation

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In an age where one is afforded limitless retail opportunities through ecommerce, mobile notifications, and social media, it’s no surprise that shoppers are expecting greater rewards for their loyalty.

To keep up, your program needs to become as dynamic as today’s shoppers and should be flexible across a variety of platforms and devices. Millennials, who represent the largest group of smartphone users, are consistently on the go and very comfortable using technologies such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Near Field Communications (NFC) to connect with brands.

Within this critical demographic, businesses are seeing opportunities to abandon traditional loyalty cards for virtual apps. This transitions looks to merge digital payment with mobile coupons, product information scans, and reward redemption opportunities available at a tap on any enabled device.

In addition to offering more value to shoppers, as a retailer this increased access to consumer information can prove invaluable in learning what motivates, discourages, or drives your customers toward a purchase. It is important to recognize that this knowledge needs to be used responsibly; it is important that you use this information to make consumers feel valuable and connected rather than violated.

A Look Forward: The New Face of Loyalty in the Middle East

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As businesses begin to understand new shopper expectations and user technologies, loyalty programs will see a major upheaval. The tactics that once proved successful, need to be redesigned align with today’s consumers.

Air Miles ME has taken a big step forward by introducing ‘Air Miles Everywhere’. This program aims to enable virtually any business to reward customers with Air Miles through a smartphone or tablet. On the consumer side this new program is paving the way to ditching their card and moving the whole program into the digital realm.

Shukran Rewards has integrated their loyalty program within a sleek smartphone application allowing users to view and use their rewards right from within the app. Though still in its early stages the app demonstrates the simplicity we can expect in future loyalty programs; allowing us to claim our rewards with a simple tap of the screen and enhancing the overall shopping experience.

To get the most out of your loyalty program you need to consider personalization, community, and connectivity. Companies that are able to innovate and provide modern consumers with truly rewarding experiences will be the future for many shoppers.

Does your business offer loyalty rewards? Let us know in the comments below and if you’re not already follow us on Twitter for the latest PAYFORT news.

How to Design the Perfect Ecommerce Checkout Page

In the world of ecommerce, businesses are constantly looking for opportunities to outperform their competitors. A few weeks ago we talked about the importance customer support and how it can set you apart. This week we’re focusing on how you can improve your checkout process, avoiding some of the common road blocks that lead to an abandoned cart.

Here are eight tips you can use to improve the checkout experience on your site.

Focus on Easy Navigation and Simple Forms

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A well optimized checkout page should feature a simple and easy to understand navigation that keeps the customer focused on checkout. To help keep the process as streamlined as possible avoid forms that require unnecessary information.

Any distractions in the checkout process can result in your customers losing interest so it’s best to remove as many obstacles as possible. Be sure to clear the page of unneeded links or form elements and present your customers with the simplest page possible.

Visual Progress Elements

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Depending on you products and the information you require, your checkout process will likely involve several steps to complete. For many customers, particularly new ones, this leaves them wondering exactly how much more they need to do to complete the purchase.

Adding a visual indicator is an excellent way to reassure customers that they are nearly there, and if your process has more than two steps, an indicator helps keep customers from becoming frustrated and abandoning their carts.

One important note to consider is that when presented with an indicator that shows a large number of steps, customers can become intimidated resulting in premature abandonment, so plan your indicator carefully.

Multiple Payment Options

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Forcing your customers to use traditional credit card transactions can have a major impact on your conversion rate. In today’s ecommerce environment your customers are much more likely to complete their transaction if they are given choices on how to pay.

Digital payments (Google Wallet, PayPal, and Apple Pay) are starting to gain popularity around the world and if you don’t have them on your site, you could be losing business.

“Continue as Guest” Option

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While collecting customer data may seem critical, asking visitors to register for your site as part of the checkout process has been known to turn people off. Allowing customers to continue through the checkout process as a guest, rather than forcing sign-up, can be the difference between a completed purchase and an abandoned cart.

The leads you generate through forced registration will likely be less valuable then the lost sale. Consider asking customers to sign up after the transaction is complete or from within the receipt email.

Free Shipping

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A shocking number of abandoned carts (some estimates are as high as 50%) are the result of unexpected costs for shipping and handling.  One of the best ways to avoid this problem is to simply offer free shipping.

Whether you decide on conditional free shipping (orders over $50 for instance) or include the cost of ‘free’ shipping in the item’s price, avoiding price-shock in the final stages of a purchase is a great way to reduce cart abandonment.

Security Certificates

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Many people (especially those in the Middle East) become nervous when completing online transactions. If your security credentials aren’t prominently displayed this adds to the anxiety and can stop a transaction in its tracks.

Your checkout page should always highlight your site’s security certifications so your customers know they are dealing with as reputable business. Sharing customer testimonials and offing product guarantees can also be very helpful in establishing trust with your customers.

Product Suggestions

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As we described earlier a clean and easy to navigate checkout page is extremely important, but your checkout page does offers some interesting opportunities to cross-sell products that relate to your customer’s purchase.

The key to an effective product suggestion is to share small accessories or add-ons (below the cost of the initial item in the cart) and offer a simple ‘Add to Cart’ button. The suggestions should not interfere with the checkout process but should instead feel like an added service or reminder.

Done correctly, offering additional products might even result in grateful customers (“I forgot I needed cables!”) and increased sales.

Post-Purchase Interactions

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Once a customer has completed their transaction you might think the process is complete, but from a customer’s perspective they may have no idea what the next steps will be. Be sure to offer a friendly thank you and provide a clear confirmation of their purchase. Adding post-purchase messages to your checkout page is a great way to reassure customers and alleviate any fears.

Bonus: Social Sharing

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In today’s social world, people love to share and allowing your customers to share their recent purchase on social media sites is an effective (and free) form of advertising. Incorporate popular sharing buttons on your confirmation page to help customers share their latest purchase.

A lot of people overlook checkout pages when it comes to optimization simply because it’s commonly accepted that if your visitor gets to the checkout page, they’re going to be a customer. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and in reality you need to consider your checkout page as the final barrier, not the finish line. Take the time to experiment with different designs and try to incorporate as many of the above tips as possible. We promise it will make a difference.

Looking for inspiration? We’ve prepared a template to help you start designing the perfect checkout page.

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Download

Have you ever abandoned a purchase because of an awful checkout page? Be sure to share your story below in the comments or reach out to on twitter @PAYFORT.

INFOGRAPHIC: Ecommerce Acceptance in Saudi Arabia – 2016 Outlook

Over the past years Saudi entrepreneurs have faced a number of challenges when starting an ecommerce in the Kingdom. The vast majority who have tried cite a lack of trust in online payments, minimal regulation, and low public awareness as the key challenges to breaking into the market.

Despite past difficulties, better infrastructure and an improved understanding of ecommerce are propelling the Saudi market to new heights. With the future of Saudi ecommerce looking more promising than ever before, 2016 is shaping up to be the year we finally see the true potential of the Saudi Arabian market.

Check out the infographic below to see some major areas of growth and be sure to follow us on Twitter for the latest ecommerce news.

Download the Infographic

Ecommerce Acceptance In Saudi Arabia 2016 Outlook

Download the Infographic

Mobile Payments Awareness Soars, but Usage Remains Low

2015 has seen the arrival of several major players to the mobile payment arena. This flood of new options has certainly had an impact on consumer awareness but has done little to increase adoption rates.

Who’s Using Them

A new report by Accenture indicates that in North America (the current mobile payments battleground) less than 20% of people are using mobile payments one time per week. The report, which is based on responses from 4,000 smartphone users across the United States and Canada, shows that while awareness of cell phone based payments rose by about 52% year on year, the growth of actual payments increased by just 1%.

The adoption driving the growth of mobile payments occurs mainly within high-income consumers with a household income of more than $150,000, followed by the millennial consumer base. Nearly 40% of high-income consumers said they make mobile payments weekly, while 23% of millennials reported the same.

How to Capture Consumer Interest

This latest data leaves companies like Apple, Google and Samsung asking a simple question; what will it take to finally lift mobile payments usage off the ground? A recent survey provides some clues with consumers expressing a demand for discount pricing and behaviour specific incentives when mobile payments are used.

Roughly 80% of consumers that have used mobile payments said they would increase usage if they were offered deals based on their shopping behaviour. At the same time 54% of consumers not currently using mobile payments said they would start if they were offered discount pricing or coupons.

The survey results also revealed the details of the evolving landscape and what platforms are pulling ahead. Just over one year after its initial release, Apple Pay has emerged as a clear front-runner accounting for over two-thirds (68%) of mobile transactions across the US.

What Does This Mean for the Middle East

Though the above data comes from a different region, it does give some indication of how mobile payments might progress here in the Middle East. With an expected 195 million smartphone users by 2018, high smartphone penetration across the region will bring mobile payments to a large audience quickly.

Smartphone users in the Middle East already use their devices for a range of shopping related tasks such as price comparison, product research, and retailer location, but it will be up to businesses to incentivise consumers and capitalize on the mobile payment trend. Entrepreneurs that listen to consumer pain points in the West and create successful solutions stand to gain the most from this innovative technology.

Ultimately, it will be the customers that determine the fate of this new payment method, but one thing’s for sure, 2016 will be a critical year in the Middle East for this developing technology.

Have you tried any mobile payment platforms? What would it take to get you to pay with your phone? Let us know in the comments below or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

YouTube Shopping Ads – Turning Videos into Virtual Storefronts

Published – 2015-11-02

In today’s advertising climate, brands are placing more pressure than ever on marketers to reach new audiences and more importantly drive conversions. As a result, marketers are constantly looking for new ways to sell quickly, without the need to push consumers through a traditional sales funnel.

Internet giants are listening closely to these demands and Google recently announced their latest tool to make selling on YouTube a whole lot easier.

YouTube’s latest addition

Over the past 5 years YouTube has evolved from a simple video hosting platform to an advertising superpower, and their latest announcement indicates they won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

Introducing YouTube Shopping Ads, a new style of ad that looks to transform the YouTube videos we know and love into virtual storefronts. The move hopes to capitalize on the growing market of product related videos and is the latest in a series to find a way to better monetize the platform.

In the past year there has been a 40 percent increase in product related video viewership and in a recent poll 20 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds say they go to YouTube to find out what to buy.

How they work

Unsurprisingly Google has kept the exact process under wraps, but we know they will be pairing shopping ads with videos based on its search algorithms. The ads are designed to be a small, unobtrusive box that appears in the upper right-hand corner of your video. A click reveals a drop down menu with product image and prices, another sends users directly to the retailers site.

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Source: YouTube

As with many other Google advertising products advertisers only pay when a user clicks on the ad to go to that site. The ads will soft launch this fall and are expect to roll out aggressively in 2016.

Social ecommerce

This move from YouTube makes it the latest ad-driven platform to really embrace e-commerce. This renewed interest isn’t just about the potential revenue from taking a cut of sales though, instead social networks are looking at the potential growth in overall marketing dollars from ads that quickly, easily drive actual sales.

For the last year Twitter has been working on the ability to buy within tweets and Facebook has been working on a “buy” button for online purchases. Recently rolled out Instagram advertising were sure to include a “Shop Now” button.

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With digital commerce estimated to be worth over $300 billion for the first time it’s no wonder companies are looking for innovative ways to get their piece of the pie.

What do you think of YouTube’s latest ad offering? Do you think it will help businesses sell more products? Share your thoughts in the comments below and if you’re not already be sure to follow us on Twitter @PAYFORT.

The New Age of Snapchat Monetization – Sponsored Lenses

Everyone agrees it isn’t easy to get hundreds of thousands, or in some cases hundreds of millions of users to flock to a social media platform. With that said, as the years go by we are increasingly seeing entrepreneurs successfully pull this off. Even for those few that are able to reach such a milestone, the biggest challenge is still awaits them.

A monetization strategy is becoming increasingly important to investors looking at up-and-coming businesses, and while mega-players like Facebook have shown that it can be done, many other popular digital networks are struggling to leverage their massive user base.

One such example is Snapchat. Traditional ads don’t really fit the app’s unique environment, and as a result they have spectacularly underperformed thus far. In-app purchases are another avenue that is currently under development, but it’s unclear whether users interested in paying to upgrade their experience.

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Snapchat’s latest announcement however, may mean that users won’t be the ones paying.

Snapchat is introducing Sponsored Lenses — a custom filter for selfies that allows brands to become part of a user’s self-snapshot. The idea is that these lenses will make snaps look cooler, making them more likely to be shared and (most importantly for the advertiser that supports the filter) more likely to get seen by a viral audience.

Built using the selfie animation technology Snapchat picked up from acquiring Looksery, Sponsored Lenses are an expansion on the Sponsored Geofilters that are used to modify the background of Snaps with a few distinct differences. Particularly, the new selfie animations are completely user-voluntary and offer a potentially fun and unique experience for users.

For example if you are a company releasing a horror movie this Halloween, why not help Snapchat users animate themselves into a brain eating zombies that they can then send to their friends.

So how much is the tech worth? At this time the market is still sorting that out, and it will likely take some time to settle once and for all. In the meantime however, according to reports by Financial Times a brand like Marvel would have to pay anywhere from $400,000 to $750,000 to distribute a selfie Lens branded with Iron Man 4 across the Snapchat network.

At that price the technology is far from accessible for the majority of SMEs in the world, but if the Selfie Lens proves popular among the big brands, you can expect Snapchat to find a way to bring it to the masses.

Be sure to follow @Payfort on Twitter for the latest updates and insights on the Middle East’s ever changing digital world.

The Sharing Economy – Global and Local Views

2014 was a rough year for Uber’s image, but you wouldn’t know it based on the company’s financials. Despite just turning six this year, Uber is projected to earn $10 billion in gross revenue in 2015 and was recently valued at over $50 billion. Uber’s incredible success despite the company’s current PR problems reveals one simple truth; their ‘share based’ business model is rock solid.

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Companies around the world are starting to explore these new business models that deliver improved customer experiences and disrupt a range of traditional industries. With the global sharing economy reaching $15 billion in 2014 and projected to grow to $335 billion by 2025, this new model isn’t a fad – it’s the new way to do business.

Old idea – New normal

The core concepts of a sharing economy isn’t entirely new; companies such as Napster, eBay and even Craigslist all followed similar tenets. Strong communities built around sharing have had a major impact on consumers, creating an environment where customers are more trusting and more willing to take risks.

Companies like Uber and Airbnb are building on this style of consumption, creating affordable solutions that place consumers at the centre of completely new experiences.

The Middle East

This new way of doing business is transforming industries and redefining user expectations around the world and the Middle East is no exception. A number of innovative companies are already looking at how they can leverage this shift in consumer behaviour and improve on existing solutions.

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Careem represents one of the most well-known platforms, offering Uber style transportation services in a number of the region’s major cities. Easily accessible through a user’s smartphone, the service provides luxury transportation quickly and easily.

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Another platform that has popped up in the UAE is Yumamia. Branding itself as the place “where home cooks & hungry foodies meet,” the platform places users at the centre of an expansive network of talented home chefs. Chefs are able to share their food will a larger audience (making money in the process) and hungry customers get access to a range of home cooked meals.

With more and more services popping up across the region, it’s clear that Middle Eastern entrepreneurs are in tune with this new style of business. It will be very exciting to see what influence the region’s unique cultures will have on this new business model.

Where it’s headed

It is unlikely the sharing economy will end with taxis, vacation rentals, and home cooked meals. Even now it is expanding rapidly and is primed to have a big impact in the coming years.

As consumers start to become more accustomed to sharing their belongings and spaces, demand in traditional industries will likely decrease. Rather than competing with a single new participant, companies will find themselves competing with millions of individuals who are willing to rent the exact same products for a fraction of the cost.

It won’t be long before the majority will no longer debate the merits and dangers of the sharing economy. It will simply be the new way we do business. Traditional companies will fight it, but in trying to do so they are setting themselves up to fail. Along the way there will be growing pains, but the fact is this new sharing economy is here to stay.

What are your thoughts on the ‘sharing economy’? Be sure to let us know in the comments below or tweet us @PAYFORT.

Take Control of Your Customer Support – Six Easy to Implement Tips

Recommendations from customers are one of the most valuable tools a company has, and in the highly competitive world of ecommerce they have a huge impact on whether a lead converts to a customer.

For both new and established ecommerce businesses this creates opportunity: if you can’t out-spend your competition, out-support them. When you take the time to provide an incredible shopping experience, you start to see the impact “word of mouth” can have.

Even a small advantage can have a big impact on sales and that’s why we’ve put together six easy to implement tips that will help get your customer support on track.

Provide Information on Your Website

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One of the most visited pages for any new business (especially an ecommerce site) is the ‘About Us’ page. When a customer begins their shopping journey, they want to learn as much about your business as possible. Having a well written ‘About us’ page makes your customers feel safer and will allow your support team to focus on higher priority issues.

Your “About Us” page needs to include the following information:

  • When you opened
  • What you sell
  • Your business values
  • Pictures of yourself and your brick-and-mortar shop (if you have one).

If potential customers can find all the above, you’ll avoid a lot inbox clutter asking for information about your company; allowing your support team to focus on support rather than education.

Offer Multiple Contact Channels

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Customers love to have choices, and this extends well beyond products. Offering your customers a wide range of contact channels is a great way to make your support more comfortable and convenient.

You will often be limited by resources but you should strive to provide:

  • An email address
  • A phone number for your support centre
  • An onsite live chat service

Make sure all of the contact information is displayed prominently so that your customers can easily reach out, and be sure to communicate expected response times (emails) or availability (phone lines) clearly.

Keep Responses Timely

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The expected response time has been slashed in recent years, with most customers expecting an answer by phone or email within four hours; requests on social media are expected even quicker.

Your ability to respond to customers will depend on the resources you have available, but there are a number of strategies you can use to streamline your support process and maximize your results:

  • Identify common issues and develop prewritten responses
  • Make sure you close out complaints – You don’t want the same customer coming back again and again for the same issue
  • Set up effective filtering to prioritize complaints resolve large issues quickly

Finally, remember that speed alone doesn’t mean good customer service. Make sure your responses address you customer’s concern, if more time is require to find a resolution, communicate that clearly in your response.

Monitor and Engage on Social Media

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Social media has become a significant component of customer service, especially for online only businesses lacking a ‘brick-and-mortar’ location. 78% of customers believe that social media should be a major component of a company’s support.

As a result you need to include a strong social media management strategy as part of broader customer service plan. By remaining active on all your social channels, you can identify customer complaints and provide solutions quickly.

Engaging with your customers regularly helps to create a customer community, which can often act as a first line of support for future customers. You can even reach out to individuals on your channel to act as ‘brand ambassadors’ to help with customer support and promotion.

Create a Strong Support Centre for Your Customers

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One of the most effective and efficient ways to improve your customer service is to help your customers help themselves. 90% of customers go to a company’s support centre before calling or emailing, so give them the answers they need.

When done right, your self-service support page can feel personal even at scale. When developing your support content, it’s helpful to view it as a top-tier reply from your support team made public for all to see and benefit from. Screenshots, videos, styling and more ensure frequently asked questions will get frequently loved answers.

While a robust customer service section will take time to develop, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and the journey to a useful knowledge base starts with your first answer.

Track Your Customer Interactions and Revise Your Support Strategy

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An important and often-overlooked issue in support is analytics. In order to provide your customers with the best results you need to be aware of not only the frequency of issues, but also the time it takes to address them.

There’s no point is relying on “It feels like we spend a lot of time on this issue…” or “I think this issue coming up a lot…” when a bit of analysis can take the guesswork out of your customer support.

Set up a procedure that allows you to keep track of all your customer interactions. It should include:

  • Customer ID or name
  • The issue faced
  • Time to resolve
  • Resolution

It’s not enough to just record the information though, set aside time each month to review the data you collect. Overtime it will help you make informed decisions about your business identify where you can improve you service.

Effectively engaging with your customers and helping them to get the most out of your product, gives them a reason to tell others why they love your business. A positive recommendation from a friend can go a long way in separating your business from the competition and making you their brand of choice.

Do you have you any tips for providing the best customer service? Be sure to share them in the comments below and follow us on twitter for even more ecommerce news.

Social advertising is here to stay – How can you take advantage of it?

There was a time when the future of social advertising wasn’t certain. Companies couldn’t yet see the benefits and for many marketers it was simply too new, too unknown, to really capture their attention. (more…)

Payfort Monthly Roundup

This week we’re introducing a new monthly roundup that covers some of the most interesting stories of the month. Whether you’re interested in the latest startups-to-watch or new technologies hitting the market, we’ve got something for you.

Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments below and if there’s a story you’d like to see covered in next month’s wrap up be sure to reach out on Twitter.

News: Wuzzuf Secures Egypt’s Largest Funding Round

Over the past years, the Middle East has seen increasing attention from western VCs looking to invest in new markets. For BasharSoft, the startup behind Egyptian recruiting site Wuzzuf, this investment has propelled the company into the local spotlight.

Last week Wuzzuf closed a Series A worth $1.7 million from Sweden-based Vostok New Ventures and UK-based Piton Capital. Wuzzuf, created in 2009 by Basharsoft, uses a proprietary algorithm that analyses applicant profiles and jobs to produce real-time recommendations for both employers and job seekers.

Despite the impressive funding round, Wuzzuf still faces stiff competition in the Egyptian recruitment market. Bayt.com is currently operating in the region and it is rumoured that Rocket Internet are looking to join the jobs classifieds business within the MENA region.

Startups to Watch: Swappaholics launches skillz.io

Swappaholics, an innovative startup that graduated from Dubai’s TURN8 Accelerator program, has launched a disruptive new platform that looks to shake up the way skilled individuals get things done.

Skillz.io is described as a ‘skills swapping portal’ and is modelled around a barter trade system that allows individuals to connect and swap skills in a social setting. A website designer might offer to design a website for a legal professional in exchange for legal services in the future.

It’s unclear whether this new style of service exchange will catch on, but if it does there’s no doubt it will have a big impact for freelancers across the region. Additionally, by turning individual’s skills and knowledge into a useable currency, Skillz has the potential to kick-start local economies where traditional money is in short supply.

Technology: Will smart-shirts be the next big thing in wearables?

Sensors are showing up in more and more of our daily items, evolving each day to improve their accuracy and most importantly their comfort. Building on the technology found in many smartphones and smart watches, Montreal-based Pierre-Alexandre Fournier has developed what may be the future of wearable sensors.

Fournier’s new ‘smart-shirt’ technology was developed by his company, Hexoskin and employs sensors that allow athletes, or anyone, to track their movement, burned calories, and more.

Fournier’s major innovation isn’t creating these wearable smart-shirts, but making them small, comfy, and affordable. Wearable sensors can be found in Nike and Adidas shoes, as well as several smart watches but the tech is bulky and expensive.

This type of wearable tech hasn’t found much use outside of professional sports and fitness enthusiasts, but as the cost drops and people get more comfortable with sensors in their lives it might only be a few years before we see products like iClothes and the Galaxy Shirt.

Event: Mix n’ Mentor – Beirut 2015 – Hosted by Wamda

Mix N’ Mentor Beirut, the largest gathering of established Lebanese startups, took place this weekend on September 5th. Mix N’ Mentor brings together promising entrepreneurs with top regional and global mentors.

The event connects you with VCs, serial entrepreneurs, and mentors all of whom are looking to remove barriers and support the region’s growing startup community.

Event: Techniya – Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Are you part of startup looking for a place to pitch your ideas? Do you want to get feedback that can help you get the most out of your business? Are you located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia?

If your answers to the above questions are yes, then be sure to check out @Techniya, a monthly meeting where you can talk with likeminded individuals to see if your idea has what it takes. It‘s a private event that takes place on the first Thursday of each month, so if your interested check out techniya.com/register and apply for an official invitation.

Are there any interesting stories you’d like to see on the Payfort blog? Be sure to share them below in the comments or reach out on twitter @payfort!

Online Payments In the Arab World

Over the past 5 years, the Middle East has experienced unprecedented growth in the world of online payments. Though initially slow to adopt the practise, more and more people across the region are starting to experience the convenience and simplicity of online payments.

As consumers become more comfortable, online payments in the region will continue expanding. A tidal wave of new customers are about to join the ecommerce market and it’s going to have a major impact across the Middle East.

With so much happening at once, it can be difficult to see the big picture and recognize where opportunities lie. That’s why we’ve put together the following infographic to help you understand where this growth has taken place thus far, and where to expect it the future. Based on transactional data and discussions with industry leaders, it will help you position yourself and your business to take advantage of the current online payment boom.

Want even more data? Be sure to check out our 2015 State of Payments report, and follow us on Twitter @payfort for even more online payments news.

Download the Infographic

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Download the Infographic

Six steps to start your eCommerce Business

The growing success of ecommerce sites around the world has made the entrepreneurial lifestyle more realistic than ever. Whether you are looking to supplement your monthly income, start-up a full time business or just share your products with the world, an ecommerce is the perfect platform to make your dreams come true. (more…)

5 Free Tools Every New Business Should Know About

Starting a business isn’t easy. Sleepless nights, long days, and thin budgets are just a few challenges every new business deals with. With money tight and time even tighter, entrepreneurs need all the help they can get. (more…)

TURN8 Hackathon: Arabic Content

Have an idea that could improve digital Arabic content? Here’s your chance to accelerate that idea and bring a product to market! TURN8 is looking for innovative business models that enhance the digital landscape for Arabic speakers. (more…)

Twitter – Social Network or Ecommerce Platform?

Last week we looked at the social media landscape here in the Middle East asking businesses where they’ll be focusing their social efforts in the coming years. What we didn’t discuss was how these social networks might evolve during that time. Earlier this week we saw an example of this evolution with Twitter’s latest venture into ecommerce. (more…)

Social Media in the Arab World – Part 2

Earlier this week we took a look at how social media is being utilized by some of the region’s biggest companies in the Airlines and Travel industries. In this post we’ll be expanding on our review to include the social media trends of Ecommerce, Marketplace Services, and the Events and Entertainment industries. (more…)

Social Media in the Arab World – Part 1

No matter what industry you operate in social media has become an important tool to expand your voice and increase brand awareness. What started out as a simple tool for connecting people is now one of the best ways for businesses to create meaningful relationships with their customers. (more…)

Decode Dubai is Back! The Hackathon Begins June 11th

There has never been a time when so few can change so much. More and more we are seeing small teams of dedicated people change the world for the better. This new realization is at the core of the Smart City App Hack (SCAH) initiative; a program that empowers citizens to create app based solutions that bring their cities into the 21st century. (more…)

Five Books Every Entrepreneur in the GCC Should Read – Part 2

Last month, we took a look through our bookshelf and shared five of our favorite books for entrepreneurs. Another month has passed and we’ve dusted off a few more tomes that we just had to add to the list.   (more…)

State of Payments Teaser

PayFort began in 2013 with a simple goal, connecting businesses and their customers through better payment options.  Since then we have processed billions of dollars in transactions and worked with hundreds of online businesses across the Arab World.

(more…)

Five Books Every Entrepreneur in the GCC Should Read

A few months ago we started a book club at the Payfort offices, and we reached out on Twitter for suggestions of what to read.

(more…)

Omni-commerce: Big Retail Fights Back

Even for those immersed in the digital world, it can be hard to keep up with the furious pace of change. Put your head down and focus on one project for a few months and when you come up for air the whole landscape has changed. Apple make watches now…? (more…)

Updates from ArabNet: Mobile Users, Emerging Sectors and Wearables

Hello from lovely Lebanon and ArabNet Beirut! We’re checking in with an update after Day 2 of the conference. (more…)

Three Things You Can’t Miss at ArabNet Beirut

It’s just 6 days until one of the Middle East’s very best conferences, ArabNet Beirut. And at Payfort we are getting ready to turn that out of office on and hop on a plane to beautiful Lebanon! (more…)

Earning Trust in the GCC

When we talk to our merchants about the challenges they face in the Arab World the one theme that always resurfaces is trust. Ecommerce companies face an uphill battle gaining trust with consumers and this slows growth across the region. (more…)

The 100 Best Twitter Handles in the Arab World – A List for the Arab Entrepreneur

One of the hallmarks of a strong digital economy is knowledge sharing. A network of conferences and influencers must lead the distribution of information that will help us tackle problems like low credit card adoption that hold back ecommerce in the region. (more…)

5 Predictions for Ecommerce in the Arab World in 2015

At Payfort, we always gather our teams in January to discuss and plan for the upcoming year.  As part of this exercise we discuss the important trends we expect to see emerge in the next twelve months. (more…)

A CEO’s Guide to Analytics

Welcome to the second installment of our series on how you can optimize your online platform. In our first post we examined the conversion funnel and how tools can smoothly guide users towards making a purchase. (more…)

Christmas, Travel and the Arab World

At Payfort we work with many companies in the travel industry, and we’ve found that Christmas is one of their peak periods for transactions. We decided to delve into the data with the aim of providing some insight to decision makers and marketers. (more…)

Ecommerce in the Arab World – The Infographic

At Payfort our passion is to drive the growth of ecommerce in the Arab World – it’s what inspired us to build this business and start this blog.

It also inspired us to pen the State of Payments report this past spring. (more…)

Optimizing Your Platform

For our second installment of the Payfort blog we’ll discuss the importance of optimizing the path your customers take as they move towards making a payment. This will be the start of a series on how to optimize your ecommerce platform. (more…)

Innovation and Payments in the Middle East

Welcome to the Payfort blog, a little corner of the internet dedicated to innovation, ecommerce and of course payments in the Middle East. We’ll be checking in with weekly installments that cover a range of issues that relate to your business. (more…)