Google held a round-table discussion today with Tarek Abdalla, Head of Marketing at Google in MENA highlighting results from their study commissioned to understand the online presence and advertising behaviour of privately-owned small companies) in the UAE, KSA and Egypt. With a smartphone usage rate of 74% in the UAE and 74% in KSA, as well as over 50% of YouTube views coming from mobile devices, you would think that we are one of the most switched-on regions in the world. But that is just not the case- at least when it comes to SMBs.
According to the results highlighted by Google in the graph above, only 18% of SMBs in the UAE have an online presence. That number is lower for KSA and Egypt. When compared to global markets, online presence amongst SMBs in the core MENA countries surveyed is far below markets such as France which has 60% penetration, the US at 40% and Turkey at 37%.
Considering that 35% of the total population in the region is online (which translates to 141 million people), SMBs in the region ignoring an online presence are only hurting themselves. From those that are present online, majority simply have presence on some form of social media instead of an actual website. Google’s study reveals that 15% of SMBs in the UAE have a social media page compared to just 5% that have an actual company website. Over 76% of SMBs in the UAE have not considered having a website.
Coming to the advertising spends, almost 92% of SMBs are more inclined to spend on offline media. This is not surprising as only 6% of the total ad market in MEA (worth $5 billion) is digital with television consuming almost half of that. Interesting, the research revealed that most SMBs do not find online advertising to be expensive nor complex- they simply don’t understand its benefits. 92% of those surveyed in the UAE said they were unsure how being on the web can help them grow their business.
Of the SMBs that are present online, 87% are there to advertise their company. The professional services industry in the UAE showed the most interest in advertising online with two-thirds of Emirati SMBs ready to move their businesses online.