Are SMEs up for the digital marketing challenge in Lebanon?
Beirut, Lebanon – 24 April, 2013 - Online marketing strategy, when executed properly, has the potential to effectively widen a company's reach beyond its usual client base. Because it is relatively more cost effective than traditional methods of selling and promoting, Internet marketing also holds particular value to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), according to executives at Genesis Consulting Middle East, an innovative, performance-driven marketing communication agency based in Dubai.
In Lebanon and Middle East, as in many regions worldwide, the SME sector has been an invaluable economic driving force. In the UAE alone, the SME landscape has expanded so rapidly over the past years that it now represents 40 per cent of the nation's GDP, and is responsible for generating over 40 per cent of the domestic employment requirements.
“While there is currently no research that underscores the extent of regional SMEs' online marketing penetration levels, anecdotal evidence shows that some companies, unfortunately, are late to the game as they fail to capitalise on possible sales leads that lie in cyberspace,” said Bahaa Fatairy, PR Manager at Genesis Consulting ME.
The trend is not exclusive to Lebanon and Middle East, however. In the United Kingdom, less tech-savvy SMEs are reportedly losing out on GBP122 billion (AED732 billion) in sales revenue by neglecting to develop and implement a sustainable marketing plan, particularly one that involves an online strategy, according to a survey published in March by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr).
Fatairy said that as their numbers increase and the market become highly competitive, SMEs must embrace innovation as their plan of action in order to remain afloat. “Online marketing, for this matter, has been an ideal platform to promote and grow a company, not just within its home base, but also worldwide as recent media trends would suggest.”
Over the years, online media's influence has been gathering momentum and gaining an upper hand versus print media as more and more readers turn to the Internet for their daily information consumption. As consumers make their presence felt on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, companies are obliged to embrace social media in a bid to engage with existing and potential customers.
“However, one of the major challenges that marketers and communication specialists in Lebanon face is the need to educate clients on the basics of online technology, web presence and social media – and how these can be adopted into their company's growth strategy,” Fatairy explained.
Unfortunately, many SMEs want immediate results and fail to appreciate the importance of understanding website audit, analytic analysis and gradual yet sustainable marketing improvements, he added.
He also mentioned that consumers' changing lifestyle and in-depth understanding of the digital environment are now constant reminders that companies need to update their marketing approach or continue to fall behind.
Facebook usage in Lebanon and Middle East (excluding North Africa), for instance, stood at over 26 per cent or almost 24 million of the total Internet user population of 90 million as of June 2012, according to data from InternetWorldStats.com.
A research conducted by Google and Ipsos MediaCT last year also found that smartphone users in Lebanon and Middle East are more likely to make mobile purchases than their American counterparts. Likewise, over 90 per cent of smartphone owners in the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are more perceptive of mobile advertising as they access the Internet on their device's browser.
In addition, International Data Corporation (IDC) expects tablets to outstrip portable PC shipments in Lebanon and Middle East by 2016 as consumer demand continues to grow. As a result, companies must look at optimising their websites for tablet viewing and interaction.
“After considering all of these factors, the question remains: Are Lebanese SMEs up for the digital marketing challenge? The list of tasks for companies will continue to grow as demand for new technology increases,” Fatairy said.
“Adapting to those challenges is the key and companies need to understand that the path to either success or failure is basically down to interaction – positive interaction yields results and negative interaction yields pain.”