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Industry leaders gather at Visa summit to discuss unlocking of eCommerce potential

World’s leader in digital payments, Visa (NYSE:V), has hosted its inaugural eCommerce Summit for Middle East and North Africa (MENA), which brought together leaders in the eCommerce sector to discuss innovations, trends, opportunities, and challenges that are shaping the region’s eCommerce landscape.

Through a series of panels, presentations and open debates, delegates examined the rapid rise of eCommerce in the MENA region, and discussed how it is being increasingly shaped and influenced by new consumer behavior, new players, and new innovations. They also addressed a number of its key drivers and barriers, including optimizing order fulfillment, cash-on-delivery, digital solutions, and omnichannel retail.

The summit was held in Dubai, and covered a variety of themes including Building Trust, Transforming the User Experience, and Accelerating eCommerce. Over 125 senior executives from top merchants such as Souq, Careem, Emirates Airline, tajawal, fetchr, Talabat and Noon were in attendance, as well as representatives from leading financial institutions such as Emirates NBD, HSBC, and Kuwait Finance House.

Ihab Ayoub, Visa’s General Manager for Middle East and North Africa, said: “With online shopping in the Middle East expected to double to US$69 billion industry by 2020[1], the possibilities for merchants, financial services and consumers are enormous. The sector represents a true growth engine for economies across region, and only by exploring and understanding the landscape better can we ensure that it continues to evolve. By sharing best practices and working collaboratively with ecosystem players – banks, fintechs, payments technology companies, and governments – through platforms like Visa’s eCommerce Summit, our aim is to identify and capitalize on the opportunities that are being presented with the aim of incentivizing an increased migration of consumers to online commerce.”

He added: “By winning consumers’ trust and improving the infrastructure of online payments, Visa and its partners have made huge strides in championing the development of eCommerce across MENA. As we evolve into a more connected world, with substantially more people accessing the internet, it is important that we continue to build this trust by reshaping perceptions of online shopping, and offering more seamless, rewarding and secure experiences.”

The region’s increasingly tech-savvy consumers also seek end-to-end frictionless experiences when transacting from both their desktops and their mobile phones. The responsibility to deliver these seamless experiences rests with all parties of the eCommerce value chain, from technology payments companies like Visa, to the merchant experience and issuer payment authorizations, to delivery companies.

Visa works with the region’s merchants to overcome the remaining barriers to eCommerce and deliver a seamless and secure payment experience. Through the introduction of several technological innovations such as Verified by Visa, a seamless online authentication service, and Visa Checkout, a secure platform that speeds up payments, the region is seeing higher rates of adoption for eCommerce as well as a rise in transaction volumes.  Visa also works with merchant and financial institution partners, helping them to uncover new commerce opportunities and develop seamless consumer solutions that leverage Visa’s APIs (Application Program Interface) through the Visa Developer Platform.

Kunal Malani, Regional Head of Customer Value Management, Retail Banking and Wealth Management, MENA & Turkey, HSBC, who was a panelist at the summit, said: “According to HSBC’s global research report, Trust in Technology, people in the East are ahead of the West when it comes to adoption of new technologies due to greater understanding and optimism.[2] This finding is further bolstered by the rapid rise of eCommerce we are witnessing in the region, which presents an incredible opportunity for banks, FinTechs and retailers to collaborate more to bring simpler, better, faster and more secure online shopping solutions to the market.  Visa’s eCommerce Summit was an excellent platform where key players from across the industry got together to share best practices and discuss how we can collaborate to improve consumers’ trust and comfort levels with online commerce.”

Speaking on the panel, “eCommerce: A Merchant’s Perspective”, Mudassir Sheikha, Co-Founder and CEO of Careem, said:  “Convenience will always remain the core driver to pay with a registered card, removing the hassle of carrying cash and having the correct change. Our customers typically try us out with cash and then once we have their trust, they readily add a credit card to their profile. Having a card on file opens up a host of added benefits and rewards from our third-party loyalty partners thus further cementing this behavior. Unsurprisingly, the UAE having the highest penetration of credit cards among our operating countries, offers the most receptive audience for card payment. However, we too are seeing growth across our entire footprint in online payments.”

Also speaking on the panel, “eCommerce: A Merchant’s Perspective”, Muhammad Chbib, Co-Founder and CEO of  tajawal, said: “The Visa eCommerce Summit was a great platform for industry leaders and stakeholders of various segments to get together and discuss challenges and opportunities in the region. I personally appreciated the fact, that panelists and speakers gave their critical views on how much more can and must be achieved in our region. I would love to see more events of this caliber and discussions on potential improvements and necessary developments in the industry. Overall, a great event and yet another example of how Visa is an integral part of the eCommerce ecosystem.”