Saudi consumers give online retailer AliExpress boost in Middle East market

Chinese e-commerce AliExpress has started offering several new services due to the increasing amount of purchases from the region. (AliExpress)
Updated 14 November 2019

Saudi consumers give online retailer AliExpress boost in Middle East market

  • AliExpress currently delivers to more than 200 countries and can be used in 18 languages
  • Around 60 percent of the consumers are below the age of 35, with 51 percent being female

DUBAI: Due to the increasing amount of purchases from the region, the Chinese e-commerce AliExpress has started offering several new services.
The growing demand came specifically from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where the retailer started offering consolidation of orders for cheaper delivery and cash on delivery as a payment option.
These services were tailored to consumers from the region, as the company knew “cash on delivery is very popular in Saudi and UAE,” according to AliExpress’s Middle East head, Matt Zhang.
The retailer, which is under the Chinese Alibaba multinational conglomerate, is also trying to expand its provided local services.
“We have an overseas warehouse in Dubai. We are trying to open a warehouse in Saudi. We are in the process of all the legal and facility planning,” Zhang said.
Sellers will have the chance to use this facility, which is usually stocked with high-demand items, to decrease delivery times.
They also use the local delivery company Aramex in Saudi Arabia and the UAE to decrease the amount of time required for orders to reach consumers.
“Cainiao works with local partners” to enhance the buying experience, Zhang added. Cainiao is a technological company and the logistics arm of Alibaba group, providing the various businesses under the conglomerate with a variety of solutions locally and globally.
All of these additions follow AliExpress’s main strategy to expand in the region, which is to provide “a good selection, more competitive price and good service,” Zhang said.
The e-commerce company has been working with a marketing agency for the region as well, as they believe they need “more local insights,” he added.
For consumers in Saudi Arabia, their top three categories for shopping are consumer electronics, home and garden, and phones and accessories.
One of the reasons why consumers choose to buy such items from AliExpress is the value for money they get in exchange.
Buyers and sellers are now able to skip the tedious process of export and import through warehouses and distribution centers, which shortens the whole value chain and provides the same goods for a smaller amount of money.
Another interesting defining factor of consumer behavior in Saudi Arabia is the tendency to explore more options under each category compared to other countries.
The top three categories make up less than 40 percent of the ordered products, leaving the remaining more than 60 percent scattered over a long list of sub-categories.
On top of AliExpress, Alibaba is penetrating the regional market in other ways too.
If you have noticed the recent 11.11 sales and offers, they have been inspired by a decade-long shopping festival in China.
Although 11.11 is just starting to bloom in the region, it is a long-established event in China featuring a variety of entertainment and shopping events.
The famous US singer, Taylor Swift, performed at Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena during this year’s gala event for the shopping festival.
Several local retailers offered discounted items, ranging from baby care products, to groceries, to electronics and clothes.
At the end of the 24-hour shopping festival, Alibaba’s gross merchandise value (GMV) surpassed $38 billion, according to the company.
Alibaba reported that over 215 leading international brands, like Lancome and Shiseido, debuted one million new products, with over 240 11.11 themed items, during the 2019 festival.
The conglomerate is currently focusing on new retail in China, or as they have explained, an offline and online shopping experience. Tmall customers can view products online, and either buy them through delivery of find the nearest outlet to check the items in real life.
They are also undertaking new ventures in the country, such as the Flyzoo hotel in Hangzhou, which is fully automated and is operated by robots.
AliExpress currently delivers to more than 200 countries and can be used in 18 languages. Around 60 percent of the consumers are below the age of 35, with 51 percent being female.
Currently, the countries with the highest GMV are Russia, Spain, France, Poland and Brazil.
The retailer is also working on offering more international businesses to operate on their website and sell products. The service has already been launched in Russia and Turkey.

‘Dubai will be my new Beirut,’ say grieving Lebanese workers

Updated 13 August 2020

‘Dubai will be my new Beirut,’ say grieving Lebanese workers

  • About 350,000 Lebanese now live and work in the six Gulf nations

DUBAI: Just days after the enormous blast that shattered Beirut, Ali Hammoud found himself looking down on the rubble from an airplane window, leaving behind his family and hometown.

Born and raised in Lebanon’s capital, the 30-year-old IT engineer finally decided to head for Dubai after the explosion destroyed his last hopes of ever seeing Beirut prosper.

“It’s not easy at all, but I had to finally leave. I feel I’ve betrayed the city I love to death, but there is nothing left for me there except depression,” Hammoud said after arriving in the Gulf emirate.

“Now I can start a professional career, live in peace and send money back to my family,” said Hammoud, who had spent a year looking in vain for work before the Aug. 4 disaster that left more than 170 people dead and compounded Lebanon’s financial crisis.

Like many of his compatriots longing for safety and stability, the young man has applied for a job in Dubai. He joins tens of thousands of Lebanese who helped build a glitzy city that reminds them of their parents’ tales of the glamor of old Beirut — but with glimmering skyscrapers instead of Ottoman-era and French colonial villas.

Last week’s explosion of a long-neglected stock of ammonium nitrate at Beirut’s port ripped through the vibrant coastal city known for its rich history as well as legendary nightlife and cuisine.

The fact that Lebanese officials had long tolerated a ticking time-bomb in the heart of the Mediterranean city has served as proof to many of the rot at the core of the state apparatus.

“My aim is to overcome the guilt of leaving,” said Hammoud. “Dubai will be my new Beirut.”

Long before the explosion, Lebanon was heading downhill fast. The country was mired in its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, with runaway inflation and bank capital controls fueling angry street protests.

Political life in the country has been dominated for three decades by former warlords who exchanged their military fatigues for suits.

Among Sunni Muslim, Christian and myriad other groups, the most powerful force is the Shiite Hezbollah movement.

After years of systematic corruption, unsolved assassination cases, wars with neighboring Israel, and lack of basic services, many Lebanese now see the country’s elite as fighting over the spoils. They are viewed as beholden to their personal and sectarian interests, rather than the good of the nation of 6 million.

“I can’t explain how frustrated I am. I had to leave my country years ago because of those warlords. They stole from us and now they kill us?” said Firas Rachid, a 31-year-old salesman who has lived in Dubai since 2016.

Beirut, once famous for top educational and medical establishments, has lost much of its pre-civil war identity and its reputation as an oasis of enlightenment.

Millions of Lebanese, from doctors to engineers, to teachers and other professions, have emigrated over the years, seeking a better life in the Gulf and beyond.

About 350,000 Lebanese now live and work in the six Gulf nations, more than 100,000 of them in the United Arab Emirates alone, mostly in Dubai.

“Why Dubai? We drive in lanes here, we don’t fear militiamen holding guns to our heads, we have basic services, and we get paid well,” said Rachid. “My parents always describe Beirut as a hub for the region in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but this is exactly what Dubai is now.”

In his book “My Story,” Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum recalls his first visit to Beirut, years before the civil war that brought the “Paris of the Middle East” to its knees.

“In the early 1960s, its streets were clean, neighborhoods beautiful, its markets modern. It was a source of inspiration for me. I had a dream for Dubai to become like Beirut some day,” he wrote.

Decades later, Dubai has become a magnet for millions of Arabs whose countries have been ravaged by poverty and conflict.

Jordanians, Palestinians, Moroccans and others have opted to build their future in the desert city.

It does not have the history or cultural heritage of their homelands, but for many it is a fair tradeoff for peace and financial security.

At a basketball game in Dubai last year between two Lebanese clubs with different sectarian ties, there was no violence, no sectarian chants, only the slogan: “Three, two one! We are one!“