Just how far behind is the UAE when it comes to Digital Marketing Strategy?


October 10, 2012

Web 1.0, 2.0 and now 3.0 – but where is the UAE when it comes to Digital Marketing Strategy?

Over the last 2 years I have conservatively estimated that the market here in the UAE from an online perspective is about 4-5 years behind the developed markets of the US, Europe and Australia. However, a recent chat with some of the key players in the Digital Arena here in the region, it became apparent that in reality digital marketing strategy and the components of it are about 8-10 years behind what we would define as developed markets.

8- 10 years is a long time! Admittedly it won’t take that long to catch up, but at the rate at which technology is evolving these days, by the time the region has decided it’s time to catch up, they will be light years behind the rest of the world. The situation is not helped at the moment by the infrastructure available. Forget about the offline infrastructure that could facilitate the actual delivery of physical goods. I am talking about the internet connections we have to suffer with and the exorbitant amounts we pay for them. Admittedly the powers that be are now moving towards the LTE 4G network and you can now buy your 4g router from Etisalat, but at  between 599 and 799 AED and at the top end of the scale a 20GB download limit, it’s just not good enough. 20Gb for anyone that spends any time online would be eaten up in a matter of days, even with the 3 hours of ‘free’ useage between midnight and 3 am.

By 2016 the Forrester research interactive marketing forecast predicts that by 2016 digital marketing spend will be $76,000,000,000 – yes that’s right $76 BILLION dollars. By the end of this year 2012 it will be hitting $41,000,000,000 and yet, day in day out I come across companies that are loathe to spend 2500AED a month on future proofing their business and taking advantage of slews of search engine traffic. How can this be?

Well it’s the DISCONNECT – in this market companies, large and small can see the cutting edge technologies and the most up  to date strategies, tools and tips. But they look from afar. These companies are basically standing on one side of the Dubai Creek admiring from afar; digital marketing strategy, SEO, PPC, social media management, community management, online infrastructure, company online mindset, online communication strategy, social media posting schedule, email marketing, auto responder sequences and so on. But they are unaware (or more likely, unwilling to pay the fee) of the new motorised Abra’s that can bridge the gap and get them where they need to be. Let me revise that last sentence. They are unconsciously ignorant – they do not know what they do not know yet. So for them, there is no problem. They want to engage in a digital marketing strategy, but there is a lack of education which means the disconnect is too big. Instead they recoil back into their comfort zone and go back to what they know. Even though it’s not showing a return on investment anymore, they are safe and no one will question the advertising spend in the newspaper or the trade show or even the bilboard at the side of the Sheikh Zayed Road – but seriously, how to you measure how effective that is for your business? As a business owner do you want your marketing department adopting the CYA approach? If everyone adopts the Cover Your A** approach, everyone wants a scapegoat, someone to point at and blame when it doesn’t go quite according to plan. What does this do? Well to quote from a good friend of mine ‘It fosters mediocrity’ If no one is willing to push the market place forwards, then everyone in the market place will foster mediocrity and that will make it alright, because everyone else is doing it. And so, the gap grows bigger as we move through 3.0 the Semantic Web and onto 4.0 The Ubiquitous Web.

Drop us a line at strategy@maximumnetgain.com if you would like to bridge the gap for your company and future proof it at the same time!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Charral June 27, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Hi Barry,

I’m baffled by your article and disappointed you see the region as that far behind. I partially agree but I’m wondering when you wrote this? it’s not dated …



Barry July 2, 2013 at 8:16 am

Hi Charral

Thanks for the comment, the post was written May 21st 2013 so it’s relevant now. The proof is in the way companies are using the internet here. There is an inability to lose the ‘we are a very successful company, we don’t need to look at this for us’ attitude. Then you have the offline infrastructure to take into consideration. If you have a physical product, delivery and logistics is where your SLA will flounder. Then we have the issue of processing payments online and then actually being able to access your money, without having to lay down a fortune for the privilege of a Merchant bank account on the ground here. I’ve been in the region on and off for the last 16 years. The changes are coming on the Digital front, but they are slow. Having said that I am along for ride and looking at the various opportunities to help companies actually prepare themselves for the snowball effect when digital starts really moving in the region.

Thanks again Charral.



Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: