Digital disruption for marketers in the Middle East
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Digital disruption for marketers in the Middle East

Are marketers in the Middle East prepared for a new wave of disruption from technology?

As CIM’s Ambassador in the UAE, I’ve seen significant change in the region. This month, as I prepare for one of the largest marketing shows in the corporate calendar, the Marketing and Sales Show Middle East, it’s clear the region is now regarded as one of the largest economies in the Middle East.

Possessing the world’s seventh largest oil reserve, a diversified economy, and through the integration of a strong liberal trade policy, foreign trade and investment from around the world has poured into the region. This in turn has triggered a substantial population growth, a thriving economy and prosperous sectors such as retail, construction, tourism, healthcare, energy and the environment.

We are now at the point that the UAE is a business destination British organisations simply can’t afford to ignore. Let’s look at the evidence for this, and what opportunities lie ahead for marketers and sales professionals attending the show, or those looking to take the many business advantages that the region has to offer.  

A trusted UK trading partner

The UAE is one of the UK's most important trading partners and one of the fastest growing markets for UK exports. In 2018, exports to the UAE from the UK totalled more than £10.5 billion and driving a trade surplus of more than £4 billion (ONS, 2018).

Within the UAE, Dubai is now regarded as one of the most important commercial hubs for foreign trade and investments in the Middle East. This is due to its location, both geographically and strategically. The region features a world class infrastructure and is quickly becoming an important commercial and logistics hub, with 85% of its 9.5 million population coming from other countries. The region also boasts a massive re-export industry to both Asia and Africa.

Dubai also provides access to other key markets in the region such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi, which are home to another 45 million potential customers for international businesses. The UAE’s government is focused on protecting the business community while further developing new industrial and commercial sectors such as space, aerospace and education. Political initiatives, such as the Free Zones, create lucrative business opportunities for foreign companies offering tax exemption, 100% ownership and office facilities. This is all combined with an open political mindset towards foreign business and cultures driving success in the region.

Digital disruption on the horizon

Speaking ahead of the Marketing and Sales Show ME, Ziad Rahhal, Head of LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, sites technology as a key focus for marketers in the Middle East in the coming years. He explained, “Technology will continue to increase the precision and impact we get from marketing strategies and will evolve the integrations between digital and the offline customer experience.”

A fellow speaker at the event, Bartosz Pietruszka, Chief Data Officer & Head of Analytics at HSBC, believes the rise of artificial intelligence will see technology become more prominent in almost every sector. He stated: “This has an impact on the way we all work, but people are, and will remain, absolutely crucial to the success of businesses. Not only people with technical skills to design the technology – but also people who can help us understand the problems we are trying to solve in the first place. Who can make a connection with our customers, enabling us to understand what they are thinking and feeling? And who can make the leaps of imagination needed to design new products and better services?”

The opportunity in the UAE

Speaking to Thomas Kuruvilla, Managing Partner at UAE based management consulting firm, Arthur D Little, he expressed the belief that long before the UAE became the commercial hub that it now is, it was a melting pot of people from across the world. As a result, many corporations like Arthur D Little have benefited immensely from the diversity and sheer plenitude of people from different backgrounds and cultures, varied expertise, education and know-how, practices and customs.

Thomas continued: “The UAE has always been at the forefront of innovation, the clear spill over seen in infrastructure and business facilitation constantly being upgraded to address the growing demand and need, reflects in excellent and flexible business support services. I have a view that when compared to other developed countries, the UAE also has a wider range of options with respect to ancillary services and their costs. Corporate life in our times is not limited to the confines of one’s own and client offices but out-of-office venues for collaboration activities for which there are choices aplenty over here that only keep getting better.

“My advice to people looking to operate in the region is that one should not underestimate the quality of the people and businesses in the UAE. I’ve occasionally found that expatriate-run businesses and marketers in the region can assume that markets such as the US and Europe are more developed and therefore possess a better quality of product or service than in the UAE. Whereas in other instances corporations in western countries presume that clients in the UAE can make do with a lower level of resource, rather than the very best – both are incorrect. The modernisation and sheer number of global brands operating in the UAE means that many professional services equal or are superior than many developed countries, in particular when it comes to export expertise, innovation and cutting-edge technologies.”

Understanding the region

CIM has a rich history in the UAE, working with several major universities as well as local businesses with the aim of supporting and developing marketers at every stage of their career. We were honoured when His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan accepted our invitation to be the Royal Patron of CIM for the region. CIM has members throughout the region, and I recently met with a number of key figures from leading businesses to discuss the transformation of the region and the opportunities it offers marketers.

CIM are proud to have a presence at the Marketing and Sales Show ME, which is taking place on 26-27 November 2019, and will bring together over 200 speakers to offer six free conferences. Hear from senior marketing professionals from world leading organisations, including Virgin Mobile MEA, Tetra Pak, LEGOLAND Dubai, Barclays, Zara and many more. For more information and to book your free place now, visit the website.

The Middle East is developing into one of the greatest financial and business hubs in the world, thanks to rapid advancements due to oil, money and technology. With cities such as Abu Dhabi now boasting the qualities of a modern-day metropolis and many of the world’s largest brands calling the region home, the Middle East offers huge opportunities for the marketing community. To find out more, book your place at the Marketing and Sales Show ME now.

Raj Achan CIM Ambassador, UAE
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