DUBAI: E-commerce is being held back in the Middle East by a lack of simplicity as consumers struggle with transactions and communications, a new report has claimed.

Marketing consultancy Siegel+Gale surveyed more than 10,000 people worldwide, including 1,764 in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, for its Global Brand Simplicity Index 2013.

It found that internet retailing ranked 18th among key sectors in terms of simplicity, its index score of 429 being less than half that of the top sector, internet search, on 950. Globally, however, internet retail was in the top five.

Depending on the industry, the report said that up to 54% of people were willing to pay more for simpler experiences and interactions. In the case of internet retail this amounted to a 5.4% premium. Consumers would also be more likely to recommend a brand if it could provide that simpler service.

"Internet retail in the Middle East is not making life any easier – this should be a primary tenant for any online vendor brand experience," said Liana Dinghile, Siegel+Gale's director of strategy.

She told Gulf News that complexity was "rife" throughout the supply chain in the regions. "A still developing infrastructure that relies on much human interaction with browsers is ultimately killing off any trust in the sector," she averred.

Online ventures had, however, performed better when it came to content. Dinghile noted the high internet penetration in the Middle East and how online brands had adapted their service by offering the same product localised for an Arabic audience.

Ultimately, she said, successful businesses were those that made the lives of consumers easier, whether that was paying bills online or booking hotels with one click of a button.

"The challenge for brands is to innovate and improve a customer's life without complicating the experience," she said.

Her comments were echoed by Joumana El Hage, senior strategic planner at advertising and PR agency Cheil UAE, who warned firms against "polishing the outside of their brand without consideration for the internal process". Doing that was simply setting themselves up for a fall, she said.

"It is vitally important that organisations understand where their customers are most likely to be influenced along the path to purchase and ensure communications are kept simple and understandable," she added.

Data sourced from Gulf News, Siegel+Gale; additional content by Warc staff