UAE Will Surpass UK In eCommerce Penetration: Ziad Chehade


The UAE is poised to surpass the UK in eCommerce penetration as more businesses in the Gulf country take steps to expand their online presence, said Ziad Chehade, Head of Business Marketing Mena for Google.

Sharing his insights at the 12th World Chambers Congress in Dubai during a session titled Wake-up call: In Tech We Trust, Chehade shed light on key trends reshaping the UAE’s eCommerce landscape in the wake of the Covid-led digital shift.

Highlighting the issue of consumers being online but many businesses not, Chehade, discussed the impact of Google’s strategic partnership with Dubai Chamber which has helped more than 100,000 businesses in the UAE get online, adding that the tech giant would continue to work closely with the Chamber on new projects and initiatives to help businesses expand their digital reach.

“In a pre-Covid meeting with Hamad Buamim, President and CEO of Dubai Chamber) at Google, the main question was ‘How can chambers play a bigger role in the digital world?’ A few months later, Covid happened. Little did we know that this would accelerate everything. Back then, however, the discussion emphasised two main pillars of how chambers could play a bigger role in education, and also help to support the journey and lay down the fundamentals for businesses,” said Chehade.

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Chehade revealed that a study helped identify the key issues, which included how businesses are struggling with an abundance of data and not knowing exactly how to use it, and that chambers are well-positioned to help businesses in this area.

“There’s data everywhere, however businesses don’t know how to use this data. Secondly, there’s a real gap in internal capabilities, which has grown even bigger post pandemic. So to really make a difference, chambers need to position themselves as enablers of education and centres for insights. People want data, and to be able to use it in a way that is accessible. This builds on what chambers have been doing historically, but tweaks it,” he said.

When asked how chambers of commerce can be facilitators between SMEs and tech giants like Google, Chehade replied that 64 per cent of businesses have actually increased their spending on digital but are mostly just spending due to a fear of missing out or because they think it’s the right thing to do.

“What we suggest instead is to focus and to do fewer, bigger, and better projects. With Dubai Chamber we are focusing on two pillars: education and insights. “Education, education, education will help to bridge this gap and enable discussion between businesses and consumers. They also want to simplify data, which everyone is scared of and asking ‘how can we do it.’”

Chehade emphasised the importance of privacy with respect to data and digitalisation and offered five key tips for businesses: make sure they have unique passwords for both personal and business accounts; make sure their admin always follows safety protocols; always enable backups and do so beforehand; enable updates for all apps and software; and make sure they have an assistant to verify the email to avoid spam and all forms of fraud.

As a final note, Chehade stressed the importance of businesses to get online, citing a statistic where 68 per cent of people say they don’t trust a business if they don’t find it online, with the first thing that customers do when wanting to know about a business is to google it.

“You should be found, you should be active before working on engagement. It simplifies the journey,” he said.