INTERNET | Jordanian retailers should take a serious look at developing e-commerce sites, Ahmad Humeid advises.
The last three years have felt as if the internet scene has gone dead in Jordan. Initially, the internet bubble of the late 90’s was felt in Jordan and we gave the Arab world popular internet companies like Maktoob.com and Arabia.com. Where’s that spirit now?
Arabia.com, after burning through millions of venture capital dollars, now lingers on in Dubai as a 3-person operation, supported out of Pakistan! The company no longer has offices in Amman.
Maktoob.com on the other hand, announced profitability for 2003 and has moved aggressively into the field of e-commerce by launching its CashU online payment card. Maktoob.com’s “kitchen” is still in Amman but does most of its sales through its Dubai Internet City based office.
Then you have sites like menafn.com, AlBawaba.com and Jeeran.com which have achieved a moderate level of visibility in the region.
Beyond that there’s not much else. While the aforementioned sites have been fairly successful in developing content and online community based sites,
e-commerce-based sites (where users can actually buy something) barely exist on the Jordanian internet map. With the exception of the efforts of Aramex, e-waseet and a few sites selling flowers, Arabic sweets and handicrafts, the Jordanian e-commerce landscape is a desert.
If you ever have the chance to go to the warehouse of a post office or a courier company in Jordan, you will notice a lot of brown boxes with the logos of Amazon.com and other global e-commerce players. So quite a number of people in Jordan are actually buying online, but not from Jordan.
Jordan and other Arab countries went online shortly after the advent of the commercial internet. A company like Arabia.com, for example was founded in 1996, just a year or so after Yahoo! Today the gap between the Arab world and the developed countries is widening at an alarming speed. Just last week, the cover of conservative British weekly The Economist declared: “E-commerce takes off”. The impressive 14-page cover story surveyed the global e-commerce market, which is showing amazing growth. In the US, shopping for travel online (including airline tickets, car rentals and hotels) is close to reaching a point in the next few years where the whole industry might move online, prompting the death of the travel agent office as we know it. Amazon.com, eBay but also retailers of clothing, toys, food and other items are seeing phenomenal growth. Women are outspending men online and each holiday shopping season is turning out bigger than the one before.
Online shopping is convenient. Amazon.com recently announced that it has broken the record in an independent customer satisfaction survey that covers both online and “brick and mortar” retailers.
And what can we in Jordan order from Jordanian sites? Almost nothing!
Building an e-commerce site can be achieved starting with a few hundred JDs. Bigger sites for bigger companies might be more costly, but are still within the reach of companies serious about exploiting the efficiencies of e-commerce and about providing their customers with a better service. Groceries, office supplies, computer hardware and many other items can easily be sold online. Alas, Jordanian retailers are too conservative to get serious about e-commerce.
The recent reduction of internet connection fees is a reminder to Jordanian businesses and institutions that the world has not stopped developing. Don’t wait until your customers eventually come online. The E-commerce wave will catch up with you whether you like it or not, so ride it before it drowns you.