The Internet Show Middle East Survey Report 2011

internetshow survey logo

internetshow survey logo

A report released by The Internet Show Middle East reveals important information about online and social marketing in the MENA region. The aim of the survey is to gain insight into how Middle Eastern businesses are currently dealing with internet business issues and the challenges they face now and in the future. The event which will take place on September 27 – 28 in Abu Dhabi will cover the major issues that the report raised.

Background of respondents:

The report was taken by over 900 enterprises, SMB’s and government entities within the Middle East from these respondents a vast majority were from the UAE, as shown in the image below:

Location percentage of internetshow respondants graph

And 74% said that they’re companies use the internet to promote their businesses versus 26% who supply internet based solutions:

company background internet show report screenshot


How do you market yourself online:

  1. Email / SMS / Mobile Marketing
  2. Content Management /Web design and development
  3. Information and Online Security
  4. ISP’s / Hosting companies / Domain Registration
  5. Viral Marketing / Online PR
  6. Social Networks / Blogs / User Generated content / Video/Podcasting
  7. Payment providers / Mobile commerce

What new activities would you like to do to market yourself online:

  1. Payment providers / Mobile Commerce
  2. Viral marketing / Media planning / Online PR
  3. Social Networks / Blogs / User Generated content / Video/Podcasting
  4. ISP’s / Hosting companies / Domain registration
  5. Blogs
  6. Email/ SMS / Mobile marketing

Key Priorities of your business:

So now with a little bit of background information about the people/companies who filled the survey, we look into what their key priorities when it comes to online and social media for the coming year, here’s what they had to say:

key priorities internet show middle east graph

A staggering 85% are setting content management as their key priority followed by e-commerce and payments solutions and social networking technology. Its no surprise really content is king and in order to keep your online presence managing your content in a planned and strategic way can and will pay off in the long run. But I would’ve thought that social networking would be more important than setting up e-commerce and payment solutions, especially since 74% of the respondents use the internet to promote their business. The report states that it could be due “to a lack of knowledge and understanding in this area. Many marketers are finding keeping up to date with new trends and technology difficult.” We’ll discuss that later on in this article.

Most effective payment platform for online business:

effective platform internet show graph

26% of respondents say mobile is the most effective payment platform for online businesses yet nothing about developing mobile strategies was mentioned in their key priorities!


The respondents were then asked on how much budget they’ll have to achieve their key priorities, and here’s what the results were like:

budgets internet show report graph

Over 40% will be spending between 15,000 and 100,00 US dollars this year on online, and more than 50 companies will invest more than $1 million. Since most of the respondents are from the UAE, you can roughly see how the online spend will be like in 2011.


“Digital marketing strategy can be seen as too complicated, too expensive, and too competitive.” A quote from the report I that summarizes how businesses in the Middle east view online marketing.

The major challenges that the report states are:

  1. Getting the most from a digital marketing strategy
  2. Connectivity and security
  3. Internal and external constraints and trying to keep up with continual development
  4. M-commerce and payments
  5. Budget and time

Here’s a quick summary in numbers about the challenges facing businesses in the Middle East:

  • Over 90% view Digital Marketing to be their biggest challenge. They want to better understand how to improve response of these channels and how to measure and improve the ROI of the digital marketing channels.
  • Over 80% of respondents are finding it difficult to keep up to date with the developments in technology and trends.
  • Over 70% of respondents believe that content management, social networking and web 2.0 require more understanding, development, investment and resources within their organization.
  • Over 90% of respondents feel that poor connectivity and internet speed are an issue for all businesses in the Middle East. This needs to be resolved so that Internet business can take off.
  • Over 70% of respondents feel that budgets and time constraints are an issue. Businesses need to assess the alternative solutions quickly and implement them easily and within budget.
  • Close to 80% of services providers say that increasing market share in the region is a priority. The demographics of respondents highlight that these issues are issues for senior managers, across all types of businesses and across Middle East.

I underlined the need for more or better understanding for a reason, I’ve been hearing this for the past couple of years and yet the number of people that still want to understand is increasing. I find that most businesses in the region are resisting to increase their investment in online and social media, just because they don’t understand it. Clearly it has value and these business will one day say why didn’t we start doing this earlier. So my advice to them is just do it! Stop pushing it aside and focus on making it a priority and here’s how I think they can do it, (its really not that complicated):

  1. Schedule a meeting with all the necessary people needed to be involved, make it short and to the point. Don’t go about making a big deal about it.
  2. Plan. Every strategy needs a good plan, now I know the feedback will be “Well how can we plan for something we don’t understand?”. That is a fair question but if you keep using that as an excuse you’ll never start so just get on with. Ask experts, do research online, attend conferences and see what other people are doing locally and/or globally and learn from them.
  3. Set clear objectives and goals.
  4. Put the most suitable person in charge and give them the authority to make stuff happen.
  5. Measure and make changes on the go, don’t worry about the results in the beginning you will not have all the answers from but be sure to have the agility to make things work, if things need to change them do them right away and see how they effected your results.
  6. It’s a long process, success will not happen over night keep pushing through.
  7. Repeat and keep refining your process.

Have any thoughts you’d like to share or advice, please let us know below.

Let us know your comments


Having worked with top digital agencies and companies in the MENA region for the past number of years I'm now looking now to venture on my own with small side projects in online, SaaS products. Things I like include: gaming, sports, technology, social media, start ups, funny things and reading about new bright ideas.