Demystifying E-Commerce in MENA: What Goes Wrong? Part 1

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This content series, "What Goes Wrong?" is part of our new "Demystifying E-Commerce in MENA" series, which will explore the challenges that entrepreneurs face, the solutions available, and opinions and advice from players in the sector. 

E-Commerce startups are getting a lot of attention from entrepreneurs and investors nowadays. It seems that there is always a new site sprouting up to sell something different, from gadgets to shoes, jewelry, fashion, and even groceries, as businesses are realizing the online opportunity and jumping on the bandwagon to capture part of the growing market share.

And why not? Some studies suggest the regional online shopping market is worth more than $1 billon. Capture a fraction of that and you’re cruising. But when tens of similar startups are thinking the same thing, it’s not so straightforward a business prospect after all.

It appears incredibly easy. Put up a website, add a few products with prices, find a delivery solution, and you're set.  Launch, wait, and customers should start stumbling upon your store and buying smoothly.  Once the item is shipped and the customer receives their goods, you're in business. 

While this image isn't fictional, a realistic scenario is not so linear. There will be times where complexity goes up a notch or two and startups have to be ready for what goes wrong immediately after the “go-live.”  E-commerce is simply retail done online, so it’s retains all the challenges of offline retail when it comes to the fundamentals of marketing, customer service, supply chain management, and after-sales support, etc. The fact that it is online eliminates some of the offline limitations, but brings a whole new suite of variables to consider and manage, so that the model doesn't break down. 

To address these issues, I am launching a blog series that goes beyond E-commerce 101 to delve into the day-to-day challenges that face any e-commerce team through their stages of development, looking at "What Goes Wrong?" and how you can fix problems in logistics, customer service, digital marketing, scaling, and more.  

Watch this space for more, and in the meantime, share your biggest challenges with us in the comments. What is really frustrating you in e-commerce? Cash on Delivery? Import duties? Let us know.

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