Global brands seeking to drive e-commerce sales in overseas markets should redouble their efforts to reflect such things as local languages, cultures and religious sensitives, according to a paper in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

Mamoun Benmamoun and Mamoun Benmamoun, from Saint Louis University, and Rana Sobh, from Qatar University, discussed this subject in How advertisers can target Arab e-consumers more effectively: A framework for localizing digital advertising and marketing content to Arab e-consumers.

A first study, conducted in Qatar, involved three focus groups of five to seven participants each, including people with backgrounds in Qatar, the UAE, Palestine, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt, India and Pakistan.

Among the findings were that “websites should be bilingual in English and Arabic”, and that navigation labels written in Arabic should be truly useful, rather than complicating the experience.

“To ensure proper translation, companies need to consider carefully conceptual, idiomatic, and vocabulary equivalence present when translating from the source language to Arabic,” the study proposed.

“They also should pay close attention to the bidirectional nature of the text when translating from left-to-right languages (such as English) to Arabic, which is written from right to left.”

Linking ecommerce sites to social media was a popular option, the research found, while platforms targeted at Muslims often lacked “cultural and religious sensitivity.”

A second study was based on two online surveys, with 108 respondents from Qatar and 231 participants from the UAE, to see which online features were regarded as most important on a five-point scale.

“Arab online shoppers clearly put more emphasis on customer service, guided navigation, privacy, and security- and trust-enhancing features; these features are associated with societies that aim to minimize uncertainty and have a low tolerance for ambiguity,” the authors wrote in summary of their learnings.

“Global digital marketers and advertisers targeting Arab e-consumers thus should provide solutions that enhance and ease concerns associated with security and privacy and deliver unambiguous language and messages.”

A third study required designing and testing “four experimental websites” – a standarised English site, a standarised version translated to Arabic, a partially localised Arabic version, and a highly localised Arabic version – among 87 participants.

In an in-lab setting, the respondents took part in “imaginary purchasing situations to determine their willingness to purchase” certain PCs and laptops.

The main pointers from this third study included the lesson that “website acceptance and purchase intention increased proportional to the degree of localization.”

Sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by WARC staff