The importance of the mobile web for Gulf-based businesses

Remember the good old days, when mobiles were there only for making or receiving calls? Forget them, and start thinking mobile web sites and more business (image source:

It’s official! The UAE is again a world leader, but this time in smartphone penetration. Seventy four percent of UAE residents carry a big, bad smartphone in their hands (some of us have two of them on the go at a time). Saudi Arabia is third, with seventy three percent of people carrying mobile devices according to research conducted by Google for its ‘Our Global Planet’ project.

The good people at UAE-based PR agency Spot On PR have summarized the findings for the UAE and you can do the same by going to Google’s website and customizing your query. What’s most striking is local behaviours. Have a look below.

Have a look at the frequency of local searches and look at the growth from 2012 to 2013

Have a look at the frequency of local searches and look at the growth from 2012 to 2013

Actions taken after Local Search in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and 2013 across all age ranges and gender types

Actions taken after Local Search in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and 2013 across all age ranges and gender types

What is strikingly obvious from both of the graphs above is that local search is now essential to local businesses. And yet, we’re still pretty awful when it comes to developing websites for mobile browsers.

So how do you change this? The first piece of news is pretty obvious. Go and get a website (it’s amazing how many businesses still don’t have sites in this part of the world). Secondly, if you’re not sure about how mobile-friendly your website is then test it using a tool such as W3C’s Mobile Ok Checker. These will be able to tell you what you’re doing right and what you’re getting wrong when it comes to rendering or displaying your site on a mobile browser.

If you’re stuck on how to develop a website that renders well on mobile browsers why don’t you consider using a content management system such as WordPress. WordPress has website styles that automatically adapt or respond to different browser types. WordPress is free and you don’t need to even pay hosting fees if you use WordPress’ own servers.

Even if you have a mobile-friendly website remember to use back-end analytics programmes from Google or other providers to better understand what your customers are doing on your website and what you can do to improve their experience. If you’re looking for more advice on what you should be doing to generate business from mobile have a look at this crib sheet for mobile e-marketing by local developer Saad Bhatti or get in touch with the good people at Spot On. But the general message is, do more on mobile!

How is the Middle East’s marketing industry dealing with the digital question?

Are marketing executives in the Middle East ready and willing for the digital era? (image source:

One of my favourite reads on marketing in the Middle East is a monthly publication called Gulf Marketing Review. This month’s edition included the title’s inaugural value exchange survey for the region. The survey, which is conducted by da Vinci Marketing, reached out to marketing executives across the region to better understand what is happening on a brand management level.

The report, which was included face-to-face interviews with a host of marketing executives from leading brands, outlines a number of trends across the marketing strata in the region:

1) All digital – there’s more marketing focus online but marketing executives are demanding more information to better understand the benefits of digital solutions/technologies.

2) Increased specialization – clients are increasingly moving towards ‘niche’ agencies who have specific skills sets.

3) Social, mobile and content – questions remain about who manages social media (i.e. is social media handled in-house on the client side or by the client’s agency), and the importance of search and mobile to marketing teams across the region.

You can download the da Vinci’s inaugural Value Exchange Study in GMR through this link. And if you’re based in the Middle East it’s well worth buying a hard copy of this issue’s magazine. The insights are fascinating.