Complex Made Simple

What can we learn from Amazon’s marketing strategy in the Middle East?

The brand continues to overperform despite concerns over its employees' working conditions and its users' privacy.

According to PwC, 76% of Middle East consumers use Amazon, compared to a lower 65% of global consumers Amazon decided to assimilate local e-commerce site Souq.com to more seamlessly integrate into the MENA market Among its strenghts, Amazon is quick to capitalize on innovation and high-potential markets like the Middle East

Why is Amazon one of the top 10 most valuable brands in the world? How does the brand manage to top such a list despite concerns over its employees' working conditions and its users' privacy?

It all starts with being clear on their brand principles and remaining true to them across various sectors in different markets.

Let's take a quick look at what Amazon did right in the Middle East:

1. Enabling innovation (principles: invent and simplify + hire and develop the best)

In 2017, Amazon acquired the multi-billion dirham Souq.com, which claims over 45 million visitors per month and a range of 8.4 million products across 31 categories. The move was unprecedented in scale and to this very day is cited by regional leaders as a testament of success. 

While it still remains unclear whether Amazon plans on rebranding Souq.com as Amazon.ae or shutting it down altogether, one thing is clear; Amazon successfully identified an innovative regional market leader to help them enter the market and they are set on growing the Middle East marketplace, given the ongoing job openings listed for software developers and vendor managers across the region.

2. Identifying the right customer (principle: customer obsession)

There is an estimated 50 million online customers in the Middle East region. In the UAE alone, the value of the e-commerce sector is expected to reach $27.2 billion by 2020, double what it was in 2016.

According to PwC's Global Consumer Insights Survey, 76% of Middle East consumers use Amazon, compared to a lower 65% of global consumers and 47% of the regional respondents are using Amazon Prime compared to 38% globally.

This points to the fact that even before the Souq acquisition, Amazon had a huge influence in the region and even greater potential – and they wanted to leverage it. Speaking at the Arabian Business Tech Forum, Stephen Anderson, clients and markets leaders at PwC, said that "Amazon is here…not only because of the Souq deal,” pointing to the potential of the Middle East customer who he referred to "more advanced than the global average.”

3. Directly addressing customer concerns (principles: customer obsession + earn trust)

In a region that highly values privacy, personal data and security breaches can be very alarming to existing and potential customers.

Following the recent news of Alexa – Amazon's voice assistant – collecting audio recordings for machine learning purposes, an Amazon representative did not shy away from directly commenting on the topic.

In an interview with Edward Clowes, business journalist at Gulf News, Werner Vogels, Amazon’s chief technology officer, averred: "privacy and security will be forever our number one priority, in all of our businesses…whether that’s retail, whether that’s AWS (Amazon Web Services), or whether that’s voice.” He went on to explain that an extremely small number of interactions with Alexa are anonymized, with all account access removed, before they are given to a human employee – essentially, this means that employees do not have access to who made the recording, or where it was said.

4. Going local (principles: customer obsession + think big)

Just last week, Amazon Web Services launched an Arabic version of its text-to-speech service, Amazon Polly. Not only is this service obviously localized in that it will convert written Arabic to Modern Standard Arabic speaking, but it is also localized down to the name, ' Zeina' which will certainly resonate with consumers across the region and feel easier on the tongue than 'Polly.'

This move has already seen Dubai's Emirates NBD, the largest lender in the emirate, voice their interest in integrating Amazon Polly/Zeina with their automated call center.

If you would like to read about Amazon's strategy on a more global level and get some insight into their marketing techniques, you can download Talkwalker's Amazon Marketing Strategy Report.