Welcome to another installment of our Entrepreneur of the Month series. Every month we’ll be profiling key leaders within the Arab World’s business community and getting key insights on their respective industries. This month we’re chatting with Yazeed Altaweel from Saudi Arabia.
Yazeed is entrepreneur who has been involved with ecommerce in KSA for over 15 years. He’s gained extensive experience launching his own start-ups and has helped many others make the move online.
We sat down to chat with him about the growth of ecommerce across the KSA and what it takes to be successful in the market.
How did you get your start in e-commerce within the KSA?
I started my first project back in 2000. The company offered web hosting for ecommerce platforms and over time we grew; by 2003 the business had evolved to include SMS services. Along the way I had several side projects developing websites and software.
What were the challenges you faced back 2000 and how do those compare to challenges we face in 2015?
In 2000, ecommerce was very new to the KSA. Payments, communication, availability of users and acceptance; 4 major aspects of the ecommerce industry were all underdeveloped and in some cases nonexistent.
Nowadays, much of this infrastructure is in place and acceptance among users is growing rapidly. Having a more developed landscape is going to help a lot of start-ups launch their businesses in the KSA.
When you consider that the KSA has the highest percentage of smartphone users in the world, I feel confident that in the coming years the KSA will be a leader in the ecommerce industry.
Recently The Ministry of Industry and Commerce have launched new ecommerce laws in KSA. What impacts will these laws have on traders and consumers?
I participated in several workshops and spent a great deal of time working on these laws. I think they’re going to do a lot to help ecommerce in the KSA.
These laws help remove some of the more strict regulations that have prevented traders from starting their online businesses in the past. From a consumer perspective one of the biggest improvements is going to be protection. It helps to assure consumers that when they buy something online they are protected from scams and fake products.
The law has been designed to effectively regulate the whole ecommerce market in KSA and protect both sides of the transaction (buyer and seller). It’s going to help companies eliminate their fears of moving online, help consumers eliminate their fears of purchasing online, and make the whole transition to ecommerce a lot easier.
What advice would you give to someone running an ecommerce company?
The community you’re selling to is always going to be the foundation of your success. If they understand ‘ecommerce’, all ecommerce companies are going to benefit. Ecommerce on the whole will succeed if it has awareness and the community’s trust.
Beyond you’re community; you have to take a serious look at your company. What are you offering? Is it unique products or is it something that’s already out there?
With unique products, you should already have top priority when it comes to getting revenue from your costumers. If your product is something that people want and you’ve got the community’s trust, growth will come quickly.
If you are offering something that already exists, you’re going to have to differentiate yourself from competitors. Focus on other aspects of your business like costumer services, delivery, exchange and refunds. In a saturated market you’ll find the product is not enough; it’s the services you offer that will define your success and increase trust with your consumers.
How can companies build the trust required to get consumers purchasing products online, whether using cash on delivery or credit cards?
When any industry enters a new market, you can expect some resistance to the technologies that come with it. Fears and cultural traditions have caused issues for online purchasing in the region, but I think this is changing.
When it comes to building trust, it depends on your marketing and more importantly positive word of mouth. If a friend of mine buys from your website and enjoys the experience, he’s going to recommend you to me, and I’m going to be far more likely to buy from you in the future.
Another important factor is the first purchase. If it’s a positive experience for the customer it will build trust and a lasting relationship. What you need to do, is provide a comfortable experience. If you can do that costumers will provide positive feedback and market your products/services for you.
What are going to be the big changes in the next 5 years of ecommerce?
With new laws empowering both traders and consumers, I believe the next 5 years will see nearly all companies and stores move online. I also expect the government will follow and move many of their services online. All this is going to have a massive impact on ecommerce awareness and acceptance.
However, there are a few areas that need to evolve to take full advantage of this shift. Shipping services need to be modernized and payment management needs to improve. Higher demand in both industries should lead to increased competition, improving quality and lowering costs.
We also need to continue to increase community awareness, exposing people to trustworthy websites and sharing positive feedback from costumers. If we can continue spreading positive stories, trust in ecommerce and ecommerce itself will continue to grow.
If you’re thinking about getting into ecommerce in the KSA, or anywhere across the Middle East, be sure follow @Yzdcc to keep up to date with the latest industry insights.