Towards beginning of this year, in March 2017, the Middle East saw one of the biggest acquisitions marking the entry of global e-commerce behemoth Amazon in the region resulting from the acquisition of SOUQ, one of the leading online retail marketplaces in the region with localised operations in the UAE, KSA and Egypt. The acquisition process was completed towards middle of this year.
In another big move, today SOUQ announced the launch of the Amazon Global Store – on its website and mobile app – which offers customers in the UAE the ability to shop from over one million products from Amazon in the US. Customers can now enjoy a wide selection on the Amazon Global Store from categories including apparel, handbags, shoes, watches, kitchen and home goods, among others. There are two delivery options on the Amazon Global Store – priority (2-5 business days) and expedited (6-10 business days).
In an exclusive interview with Rupkatha Bhowmick, Ronaldo Mouchawar, co-founder & CEO of SOUQ, talks about the Amazon-SOUQ collaboration
“It’s a great move for the region to attract international players like Amazon to invest in regional companies like SOUQ. It will lead to the use of innovative technology, create new jobs and opportunities, making the entire ecosystem more exciting. Above all, our customers wanted more products, better experience, seamless transactions, accurate delivery, better data and recommendations – all of which we are able to provide to them,” shares Mouchawar.
Global scale with a local feel: We already have 8.5 million items on the platform. Yet customers still shop on international sites, including Amazon.com. As part of the integration, we were keen to understand what would satisfy the regional shoppers. We realised how keen people here are to shop on Amazon despite barriers including high shipping costs, custom fees, mode of payments and communication. Through the Amazon Global Store, we have Arabised our content, available in Arabia and English; customers can avail cash-on-delivery or pay by card options in the local currency; offer great customer service alleviating difficulties around returning a product purchased on an international site; offer attractive pricing inclusive of all fees. The first step for us was to make available items from Amazon US on the Amazon Global Store on SOUQ. In the future we will also look at other Amazon sites and keep adding to the inventory.
Was the M&A a tedious process: It was not a very difficult process at all. Amazon and SOUQ are similar businesses sharing similar values, vision and principles. We examined if we shared a common mission, if we think similarly about customers, if and what we can learn from the collaboration and offer to our customers. Of course, Amazon is a global force to reckon with and spearheads a lot of innovation, while SOUQ is a well-known brand in the Middle East and we know the region very well. Things worked out well from the brand DNA perspective. I’m very proud that our teams found synergies quickly.
Developing bricks-and-mortar presence: Customers are always connected and our endeavour is serve them wherever they are. We have experimented with an ‘experience store’ – Fulfilled by SOUQ on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai – where they can pick-up, return or learn about products. In fact, in bigger markets like Saudi Arabia pick-up works very well, along with delivery. We now have the Amazon Global Store offering more products and choice at good price points. Leveraging innovative technology, we always strive to ensure that the customer journey and experience is delightful yet simple. If we see the demand for more experience stores, we will open. We will also continuously innovate the mobile app and the webstore.
A few words on White Friday: SOUQ owns the copyright and IP for the ‘White Friday’ concept – the Black Friday equivalent. It’s very heartening when we see other players, including traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers, tapping into this concept. Our merchants understand the importance of events like White Friday and developed special packaging, making the whole endeavour exciting. Customers are always on the lookout for attractive deals to snap up and White Friday is a perfect opportunity. Every year White Friday has grown in scale, doubling growth compared to last year
A look back on 2017: It was a very exciting year for us. The collaboration with Amazon, launch of the Amazon Global Store today and our White Friday sale, to name a few. Our merchants are happy and our team received so much exposure in terms of technology, innovation and injection of new ideas. And the journey has just begun.