Since launching in 2012, Namshi.com has grown to become one of the Middle East’s leading online fashion retailers, with customers across the region from Kuwait to Bahrain. Featuring an ever-growing portfolio of over 500 international and local brands, Namshi offers free and fast deliveries in the GCC, 24-hour delivery in the UAE, a 14-day exchange policy and the option of cash on delivery.
Ian Smith, Namshi’s Marketing and Brand Director, is responsible for all the creative direction describes how the company operates: “We are the largest fashion pure play in the Middle East and the majority of our business is in Saudi Arabia followed by the UAE. We sell global and internationally recognised brands, from big sportswear players like Nike and Adidas to British high street brands.” Namshi has, Smith explains, cherry picked the best brands to appeal to its fashion-savvy customer base. In a region in which the majority do not like to use e-commerce sites, Namshi has seen remarkable success. Smith says: “We might be new but we've seen phenomenal growth over those first four years. We’re targeting the 20-something customer and we're really trying to pioneer a lifestyle aspect in the Middle East. A lot of people are still very reluctant to buy online so we're trying to bring together fasion-loving people who are interested and inspired, to build the community of like-minded individuals.”
The reluctance to buy online is the result of several things, including the huge mall culture, as Smith says. “Everyone loves going to the shopping mall. So it's very, very established in that sense and online is still relatively new. So the big barriers are people don't trust it. People don't trust putting their card details online. And also, I think the region was plagued with a lot of fake products being available online. So those are two big barriers.” To overcome these barriers, Namshi accepts cash on delivery for orders (something that any new e-commerce site in the GCC would need to do in order to succeed) but it has also been making the most of what digital technology and social media can offer. Raising awareness of its brand – and the safety of buying from them – as well as creating an audience of fashion fans across social media platforms.
And it’s a strategy that is working. Smith says: “Saudi Arabia has taken to online shopping in a big way. The mall culture isn't there and it’s more difficult for women especially to go to the mall and try things on. Using Namshi, women can shop from the comfort of their own homes. They understand the convenience and the speed of it and they trust it.” Another advantage that Namshi has is that it is a local company. “We're Arabic as well so we're talking in their language. A lot of international retailers ship to Saudi Arabia but they don't talk in Arabic,” says Smith. And using content marketing and digital marketing techniques, Namshi is able to maximise its presence there.
“We're very, very strong from a digital marketing point of view, so we're in the right area to talk to the right people. And we can get the products to the customer from a logistical point of view in a very short space of time, days. Whereas some others take three to four weeks to ship. Clearly competition is going to come and that is a good thing as far as I'm concerned, but that is certainly one of our success stories.” Namshi’s site works exactly the same across the whole of the GCC, while keeping in mind the differing cultures of each country. Smith adds: “I'm very much a believer in localisation, being understanding and respectful of local traditions, but we also want to create one brand and have one voice.”
The majority – around 80 percent - of Namshi’s business comes from mobile devices, which is a huge amount that reflects the age of Namshi’s customers as well as the region’s love of mobile technology. Smith says: “It's so vitally important for us. People here are consuming media on mobile faster than anybody else in the world, especially in Saudi Arabia. It's an interesting dynamic and something we're working hard on to tap into.” When it comes to innovative technology, Namshi’s app was a game changer for the business. Smith says: “From a technology point of view, the big leap forward was actually launching our app, we saw a huge step change in the size of the business when we did that.”
He can’t give away too many secrets of what Namshi has planned in the future but it is constantly thinking about how to raise awareness of the ease and convenience of online shopping. “We're thinking all the time about how we incentivise people to try us, working on deals with partners to raise awareness and put Namshi in places where potential customers haven't seen us before. So we're doing some offline events, including pop-up stalls. To get people engaged in the brand, signed up to our email programme and following us on social media. We aim to build confidence and trust that way. It's not a hard sell. It's how we connect and inspire people who are interested in fashion. We have a huge social following already and we're looking at a few bits of technology that will help to be a bit cleverer with how we use content. For example, we use user-generated content as well by getting our customers to contribute. The Middle East is very fashion forward and we’re trying to be at the forefront of that.”
Read the May 2016 issue of Business Review Middle East magazine