DUBAI: Some 40% of web users in the Middle East and North Africa regularly spread word of mouth about goods and services, meaning brands could gain major benefits from engaging this audience.

Effective Measure, the digital solutions firm, argued in a new study that 84m people in this area currently utilise the internet, with North Africa delivering 44% of total, the Gulf countries on 43% and the Levant yielding 11%.

Over the course of 2011, the number of people across this geography with web access has grown by an average of 6.3% per month, including an 11.5% improvement in October 2011.

Some 1.9bn pages are viewed by the local connected community each month on mobile and PC. This figure is rising by an average of 5.4% per month, according to the analysis.

Almost a quarter of the local online population are aged between 25 and 30 years old, the largest single group, while 21–24 year olds and 31–34 year olds added another 14% apiece.

Based on a survey of web users, Effective Measure also revealed 80% of netizens accessed this channel every day, and 62% "loved researching for a good bargain".

A further 40% frequently spread electronic word of mouth about products and services, 68% "enjoyed" persuading others" and 65% afforded "explaining things" to friends and family a similar status.

Effective Measure Regional Director, MENA, Dinesh Arasaratnam, said: "With the internet serving as the world's largest marketplace, positive word of mouth from satisfied consumers can add value and credibility to an emerging digital economy.  

"The time is ripe for online retailers, as well as brick and mortar businesses, to tap into the voices of MENA's internet users to grow e-Commerce opportunities across the region."

Data sourced from Effective Measure; additional content by Warc staff