E-commerce has been living a substantial growth. Companies are implanting their digital activities around the world. Even though the African continent is not yet as active as Western or American continent, Maghreb E-commerce market is showing to develop rapidly, this can be subscribed to the ever-increasing use of the internet on the territory.

The countries in question represent a new market for investors and entrepreneurs, making it attractive to invest. Maghreb countries, especially Morocco has the biggest potential of improvement and opportunities, followed by Algeria and Tunisia. These opportunities are caused by the increase of digital objects in these countries. Plus, financial advantages such as cheap raw material and services play their part in the process.

Obviously, these countries’ ways of improvement are not the only variables you need to study to anticipate a fluent implantation on the North African market. Discover the 8 biggest steps to follow on this market.

1. Competition

Some internet markets are already saturated, online platforms such as Avito are settled, they captivate a big part of the consumers’ attention. Which might cause a negative influence for newcomers. About 250.000 people dedicate 16 minutes and 26 seconds of their days on Avito.

You need to analyse your sector’s big actors before you can go ahead and implant your business; get to know your competition. Analysing your environment will also enable you to create partnerships and associations. These actors know the place and the market you are going to invest in. Plus, it is a good way to get your audience to know you on the Maghreb e-commerce place.

In order to implant effectively in this market and to get ahead of competition, a differentiation strategy is recommended. Differentiating yourself allows people to relate to your brand and its values.

Other solutions can be applied, like selling high-margin products to a small portion of the population. This would permit you to get an idea of your competition’s main target. This method can bring you to identify your wished target and apply a pricing differentiation.

In order to create a bond of trust between the consumers and your company, it is wise to include after-sale services in your business model. It also allows customers to give direct feedback with which you can improve your business.

2. Communication strategies

Before discussing the communication strategies, here are a few statistics that are important to be aware of:

  • more than 70 percent of the internet consumers is aged between 18 and 24
  • most searched words are: deals & offers, fashion, high tech, footwear, makeup, hostel & trip, home appliance
  • most of the consumers live in a big city

The most popular social network in Maghreb is Facebook, followed by Instagram and LinkedIn. You need to focus on these social media channels to target different population segments and be successful on the Maghreb E-commerce market:

  • Facebook: the core target is 25 to 34 years, while the secondary target is 18 to 25 years old. Multiple resources show that the average time spent on the social media is increasing. Facebook is the ideal social network to create a community and to apply corporate communication.
  • Instagram: the core target is 18 to 24 years old, followed by the secondary target who is 25 to 34 years old. The commitment rate is 4 times higher than Facebook. The number of users has doubled since last year, making Instagram the best social network to advertise on. Ads have to be planned during the afternoon, depending on the best posting hours.
  • LinkedIn: the core target is more than 50 years old and spend 17 minutes a month on the network. The platform is ideal to practise B2B or find partners. The purpose is to expand your network, especially by following your competition’s followers.

Moreover, SMS campaigns are very effective in terms of communicating information and news to customers. These campaigns are thus helpful in order to create a relationship and to engage with clients.

To really make a difference in Maghreb, it is advised to translate your website in Arab. This allows you to cover more territory. And don’t forget holidays like Ramadan, which is the day internet sales in these territories are the highest.

3. M-commerce

M-commerce is expanding rapidly throughout the territory. Smartphones are becoming people’s favourite tool to go on the internet and an essential tool for buying online. Internet merchants should not neglect m-commerce since it is becoming increasingly popular and is a great way to touch upon audiences. To popularise your m-commerce strategy, you need to :

  • Launch personalized emailing campaigns, with push notifications to inform your customers on the latest products and sales for example.
  • Create attractive QR codes to introduce your coupon and/or tutorial system, allowing you to captivate your customers

Implementing these strategies will increase your conversion rate. Thus, the best strategy is to include a complementary app to your business model. These tools together will bring dynamism, fluidity and ergonomics to your company.

4. Getting to know Maghreb’s culture

Competition is not the only thing you will have to study before entering into the Maghreb E-commerce market. Cultural differences will have to be taken into account as well.

Rules and laws may regulate freedom of speech in the media. Censoring and surveillance applies to the citizens internet, just like on every news spread. If the subject of the news is too sensitive for the State, it gives itself the right to block it. Thus, you have to be careful about the subjects you cover and the used language.

As mentioned before, Ramadan plays a big part of muslim countries’ economy. The end of this holiday is marked by Eid al-Fitr. Every year, 1.8 billion muslims around the world celebrate the end of Ramadan. Retailers take this opportunity to apply 90 percent discounts on their products during the 4-5 days of celebration. These commercial gestures show the value of this holiday.

5. The means of payment

The most common means of payment in North Africa are the cash payments upon delivery. Paying for goods directly on the internet before reception is an uncommon. A certain lack of trust exists in these countries regarding online payments. That is the case for both customers and companies. However, prepaid cards like the “e-dinar” are a thing in Tunisia. Thanks to these cards, it is possible for citizens to pay on the internet, without any risk.

Besides trust issues towards online payments, not everybody in North Africa possesses a credit card. Nevertheless, Algerians and Tunisians must own an international credit card to buy goods in foreign countries. Thus, when moving into these countries, offering payments on delivery and the e-dinar will enable your businesses to be more successful.

6. Laws

To avoid problems regarding your company’s implantation on the Maghreb E-commerce market, you need to follow some laws. When you implant your company, you have to make sure that laws don’t form a barrier to your development or even your arrival. In Algeria for example, there is a law prohibiting the purchase of goods from a foreign country. However, companies can buy foreign products under the condition that products are consumed in the country. With those facts in mind, you should consider a B2B partnership with a supplier for example.
Finally, in order to sell foreign products directly to the citizens, your company must be implanted on the Algerian ground.

In Tunisia, internet sellers are regulated concerning their products’ descriptions. All the information has to be clear and understandable for the customers.

To conform with these laws, you need to register your business to the authorities and inquire about local laws. As a matter of fact, some laws about implantation of a new business differ from a country to another.

7. Logistics

Comparing Maghreb E-commerce market to more developed ones, it can be noted that its development’s delay is due to the fact that only half of the population has access to the internet (57 percent in Morocco; 46 percent in Tunisia). Moreover, internet and logistics infrastructure are also still in development.

In Morocco, for example, customers have to wait a long time before the delivery of their purchases. Warehouses are located only in big Moroccan cities, elongating the delivery time for those who don’t. This situation is explainable by the fact that 54 percent of the internet users live in Casablanca. It puts the city in the n°1 spot regarding warehouse implantation, you might want to consider this city when you implant your company in the country.

Wrap up on the Maghreb E-commerce market

To conclude it can be said that if you want to implant on the Maghreb E-commerce market, you need to make a difference with your brand. Your prospects need relate to your brand and its values. Viral communication and clever use of social media can help you build a strong branding.

Like every foreign implantation, you need to study different legal barriers before launching your company. The countries laws will definitely need to be studied and respected. There are other barriers you might run into, but analysing all the possible difficulties will help you create a great strategy that can help you establish your e-commerce in the Maghreb market.

The research for this post was powered by students of the Ecole de Management de Normandie:

 Juliette Auberdiac, Océane Terrasse, Feifei Liu, Natalia Kyc, Alban De Legge 

as part of EMN's Business Challenge.