Souq ElArab Social Online Shopping Portal

10 May, 2008

Souq El Arab is an online social shopping portal for Middle Eastern products and culture. Found by Fadi F. Dababneh.

According to Souq ElArab ” It offers –its- visitors social shopping experience whereby they can network with like minded people and shop at the same time. This shopping experience is based on each other’s recommendations and feedback. Visitors can rate and review products and come together to form a community based on their hobbies, interests and traits.”

This online shopping idea blends two powerful elements of real-world shopping not found on online consumers shopping sites: word-of-mouth recommendation from trusted sources and the ability to browse products in the way that naturally leads to discovery.

Though not all promised features are functional. But the site is still adding social and other features gradually. The site e-commerce is currently running, it has large variety of products such as Books, Music, Movies, Software, Magazines, Food Products, Health Care and Beauty, Kids & Toys, Electronics, e-Downloads, Hookahs, Shisha, Clothing, Antiquities, Art, Accessories, Gifts relating to the Middle Eastern Culture.

The site is currently available in English and Arabic, though when I clicked in Arabic button I still get the English interface! Persian Africaanas, and French are coming soon.

Finding away to register the site is a hard thing where developers at the site should fix, and should add help to the registration field. When you register to the site it asks you to rate products categories: Books music and movies, Clothing and accessories, Consumer electronics, food and household, health beauty, kids toys, Gifts and gifts certificate- in order to customize your Souqy page.

Souqi is kind of a custom page, where you also get at it, My rating: the products you have rated, My recommendations: what you have recommended, My favorite list, My wish list, and My friends.

To find friends you have to search for them, or invite them. I would recommend if they add the option for the user to browser members based on location, shopping taste and other social factors. Because interacting with other members will make shopping more fun for the users at the same time it will increase retention, loyalty and their buying volume.

The Portal business model is not on buying goods and keeping a massive inventory, it is based on partnership with current offline supplier to open their shops and offer their products through the portal, and Souq El Arab will take a percentage from every sale made through its site. The site currently has a around 30 suppliers with different products categories. While the delivery of the products is available world wide, through major logistics companies such as Aramex and DHL.

Souq El Arab is self funded by its founder Dababneh, its marketing strategy is an effective one in terms of reach and cost: It is based on partnership with Non Governmental Organization (NGOs) to promote the portal to their members, in exchange these NGOs will get an Institutional Portal powered by Souq El Arab and when it comes to purchases, Souq ElArab will donate 10% of the order value to the organization that referred the buyer.

These effective partnerships enables Souq ElArab to reach Arab and Muslim communities in the west at the grass root.

To reach even more users, and increase sales volume, I recommend Souq ElArab to develop a contextual widget of its products so online publishers such as websites and bloggers can add it, and their visitors will get recommended products based on the type of the articles they are reading that they can buy, and split the revenue with the publisher.

The site still has some bugs such as switching the interface to Arabic, also when I singed in it showed my name the same as the person I invited! And as we mentioned earlier, Yamli is functional on the site, but I recommend removing it in certain form fields that has to be written in English such as email address.

Social shopping is not new to the world there are sites such as The Next, but its new to Arabic and oriental products which is unique for the target market: Arabs and Muslims across the world, a thing that stand Souq ElArab apart from current Arab e-commerce portals.

To help make the site become more successful, I recommend that the site design should be more oriental/Islamic to show one of its differentiation identities to western shopping sites. Ajax should be added to make things run faster, and more importantly bugs should be fixed as soon as possible.

Fadi F. Dababneh is a Jordanian and a former General manger at AdabWafan – an e-commerce web site for Arabic products, started in Lebanon bought my then sold to Aramex.- he has an e-commerce MBA from UK. He also teaches e-commerce lectures at the Jordanian German University in Jordan.

Souq ElArab has offices in Lebanon, Jordan and USA.

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