Flash sales website to attract consumers with premium brands at ‘discounted’ prices.
E-commerce in the Middle East gains further momentum with MarkaVIP, a home grown private sales website, today announcing its expansion across the region. The company, which has adapted the tried-and-tested flash sales model to suit local consumers and retailers, says its e-tail platform is well placed to boost the adoption of online shopping throughout the Middle East.
The flash sales model, already well established in the U.S. and Europe, works on the forces of time urgency and scarcity. MarkaVIP sources excess or introductory inventory from premium brands worldwide to be sold to its private members within a limited period of time. In return, the customer gets much lower prices than they would normally be offered and opportunities to purchase products they may not otherwise have.
The convenience, value and quality offered by MarkaVIP quickly captured the attention of savvy shoppers across the Middle East when it launched in Jordan and Saudi Arabia in November 2010. Eight months later, the company is rapidly approaching half a million members and attracts between 2,000 and 4,000 new members daily.
Membership to MarkaVIP is by invitation only. Customers must be invited, referred or approved to join the site, presenting suppliers with an exclusive and discerning online audience. Once accepted, MarkaVIP members gain access to deep discounts of between 40 to 70 percent on men and women’s apparel, accessories, children’s items, electronics and home decor. They also have the opportunity to access new-to-region brands that use the site to run introductory launch campaigns as a means of market testing.
Having recently raised USD3 million in funding from high profile U.S, European and Middle Eastern investors, MarkaVIP has expanded to the rest of the GCC countries and Lebanon. It now enjoys seven-figure monthly revenues and is on track to become the fastest growing Middle East e-commerce brand. It already is the fastest growing Middle East brand on Facebook with close to 140,000 fans.
According to Founder and CEO Ahmed Alkhatib, the key to MarkaVIP’s success has been market localisation. Despite the nascent state of e-commerce in the Middle East, he says the untapped potential of the region far outweighs the current barriers to entry.
“There are around 385 million people living in the Middle East and North Africa and 135 million of them are online currently. Internet penetration is expected to grow very quickly over the next few years, so we see a significant opportunity to provide the market with a convenient and secure online shopping platform that also delivers great value,” he said.
Alkhatib, a Jordanian American with over 10 years’ experience in Silicon Valley, has worked on some the world’s most recognised e-commerce brands during their start-up years, including eBay and Amazon. He also built the infrastructure for the largest U.S. customised apparel and products website Zazzle.com.
Combining his heavyweight e-commerce experience with young, tech-savvy local talent, MarkaVIP has circumvented the challenges of low credit card penetration and cross border order fulfilment by setting up logistics hubs in every market where it operates. In addition to overcoming current infrastructure limitations, this hyper-local model enables MarkaVIP to develop offline relationships with its members and suppliers – a move which is not only generating strong repeat business, but is also helping to drive online purchases.
“Our results to date show us there is a real appetite for an online shopping model that works for this region. For us that means localising the flash sales model and e-commerce lifecycle so that we don’t compromise our convenience promise to our members. From the sourcing of our products, to how we market them online, our customer-focused user experience, and having product fulfilment centres in each of our locations – it is all designed to give our members access to great brands at great prices with the best possible delivery times and with no hidden charges or custom duties,” added Alkhatib.
MarkaVIP also plans further regional expansion later in the year.