eCommerce Localization: Break Into The Gulf Region And The Middle East

Are you looking to break into the Middle Eastern eCommerce market? Then we have the ideal place for you to start. The Gulf Region is the most profitable eCommerce slide in the MENA (the Middle East & North Africa) Region. The Gulf Region is included in The MENA Region is showing great promise in many different industries such as video games, and eCommerce is no different. This is why you should start by focusing the eCommerce Localization for the Gulf region.

But, what are the opportunities, and what does the market look like? How can eCommerce be made effective specifically for the Gulf Region? And how can you choose the best translation and localization services? Find out!

eCommerce Market In The Gulf Region

Saudi Arabia And the United Arabic Emirates: Gulf Region Leaders

The Gulf Region includes the countries of Saudi Arabia, the United Arabic Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman. Of these, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the most promising ones by far. The Gulf countries came rather late to the eCommerce party with online business taking a central role after 2010. Since then, eCommerce has been on the fast line accumulating to Amazon’s purchasing of Souq, the largest eCommerce platform in the Arab world, back in 2017.19 The acquisition marked a new phase in the region’s eCommerce growth which, due to the current pandemic, has flourished beyond expectations.

eCommerce is expected to reach close to 20 billion in the Gulf region alone, and Saudi Arabia and the UAE take the lion share. Saudi Arabia holds the largest market in the Gulf region with a revenue of $8.3 billion, and the UAE comes close behind with 7.5 billion. In fact, Saudi Arabia’s already impressive revenue is projected to grow at an annual rate of 6,6 percent, according to Statista.20 And while the eCommerce market has boomed all over the MENA Region, the UAE and Saudi Arabia still maintain their leader positions:

Gulf Today21 gave more context to these figures and reported on a Virtual Meeting between giants in the retail industry. Hozefa Saylawala, Director of Sales for Zebra Technologies, pondered the effects of Covid-19 on the retail industry and stated:

“We have seen a paradigm shift in consumer behavior towards the digital channel. A lot of consumers quickly embraced online shopping that put retailers under tremendous pressure to expand the digital channel.â€

Of course, the pandemic forced the consumers to shop differently and the digital space has seen revolutions across the board. However, this shift is not likely to be a temporary one since consumers have now experienced the ease of online shopping and with that, have learned what it is they need from an online platform.

Online sales in Saudi Arabia and the UAE are not only limited to products, but even extends to government services and education.22 In fact, no less than 38 percent of online sales between 2018 and 2019 in the UAE, were related to governmental procedures. Moreover, in the same year, 9 percent of the online purchases went to professional services.23

Online Shopping In The Gulf Region Goes Mobile 

Smartphone penetration is hitting appealing levels in the Gulf Region. 46 percent of Saudi Arabian residents now own a smartphone,24 resulting in a generous number of 15.5 million people. In the UAE, this number reaches 80.6 percent. As of 2019, in Saudi Arabia Android accounts for 65.6 percent of used Operating Systems. iOS trails behind at 34.12 percent.25 In the UAE, Android dominates the market with 77.34 percent.26

Due to this increase in mobile app engagement, local businesses have been creating apps to take advantage of this boost. The above-mentioned Souq, for example, had launched English and Arabic version back in 2013, even before they were acquired by Amazon. This means that effective mobile app localization is more paramount than ever. Because only when mobile localization and technologies advance in terms of safe payments, engaging shopping experience, and easy navigation, will this high number of smartphone penetration be put to use.

Pro Tip! Are you motivated to get started with mobile app localization, but do you have no idea where to start? Let us help! Have a look at our blog on how mobile app localization can be used as a smart expansion strategy, and learn everything about how to identify the perfect Language Service Provider (LSP) for your project.

Keep A Keen Eye On Social Media, Especially For The UAE

Effect of social media on e-commerce E-shopping behavior is influenced by products/brands reviews from social media platforms. At 99 percent the UAE leads the Gulf region’s social media penetration rate with 9.2 million active users. In Saudi Arabia, this figure is slightly lower, but it is growing steadily and gaining momentum.27 This means that you will be able to boost sales even more when making strategic use of some of the most popular social media platforms in the region, being Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These platforms will especially prove useful in terms of reviews, since it is the main channel for locals to share positive (and negative!) experiences.

eCommerce Localization For The Gulf Region: Arabic Translation Challenges

Alright, so you know what the market looks like. Now, what about the eCommerce content translation? This is where the real challenges enter the picture. Not only is Arabic a highly complex language to translate into, but the actual translation also depends on which country in the Gulf region you are targeting. What’s more, when it comes to eCommerce platforms, your translation strategies will be different depending on which content type you are targeting. Let’s dig in!

Distinctions Between Dialects And Different Writing Tones

The Arabic language’s most challenging linguistic hurdles are related to two things: the spoken versus the written language, and regional dialects.

eCommerce content can take different forms and present itself in different tones of voice depending on the content goals. Translating your content to Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is your best choice since it is commonly understandable across all Arabic-speaking countries, but alone it is still not enough! There are variations in terms of the terminology that has to be considered for each country. Think of it like, flat (British English) and apartment (English US). Want more insights? watch this TikTok Video made by two Arabic speaking ladies. The one on the left-hand side is Egyptian and the other one on the right-hand side is from Saudi Arabia. They both consecutively say the same vocabulary but according to their Arabic dialect.

That being said, the right Arabic localization to your eCommerce content  can pack a creative and emotional punch with consumers. This is why local experts will be set the task of tweaking the content according to local preferences. This is why your ideal linguist will not only be a native, in-country expert, they will also possess years of experience specifically in eCommerce localization for the Gulf Region.

It is not just dialects that need localizing, but graphics, because these too will need to be adapted to the local markets! Think about images, colors, possible cartoons, and so on. In order to get this right, the Desktop Publishing (DTP) Team will commit to getting the images right to the last detail.

Pro Tip! Are you looking to localize your eCommerce platform from Arabic to the different Gulf regions? We can help! Have a look at this case study for a Magento Platform translated for the Gulf Region and find out how we were able to provide quality eCommerce Translation while cutting the project costs in half in order to meet our client’s tight budget!

Which Service Do I Need For Effective eCommerce Localization For The Gulf Region?

eCommerce platforms have different content types from marketing and information content, to product description and user-generated content.  When it comes to your marketing materials and landing pages, localization becomes essential since the buyer will need to feel a true connection with your product. Localization refers to the process of adding cultural potency to translations. This means that, as we mentioned above, local preferences and sensitivities will be taken into account on every level. This is why localization and transcreation are the most advisable services in this case.

Pro Tip! Transcreation or Localization? Which way to go? Have a look at our blog on when to select localization services and when to go for transcreation. Already sure about transcreation? Then have a look at our transcreation best practices!

But, while localization is a sound strategy to follow for your eCommerce landing pages and marketing materials, you may need different strategies for your User-Generated Content and product description. Here, you will benefit more from strategies that focus on quality as well as speed. This is where Machine Translation and Machine Translation Post-Editing can prove to be beneficial. But don’t worry, you will get the whole story if you check out our blog on the 3 main eCommerce translation challenges. To get a general idea, have a look at the handy graph below!

Technical Challenges With Arabic Localization

Arabic is written from right-to-left (RTL) rather than the left-to-right (LTR) format used in English. In this often technically challenging situation, the main roadblocks lie in the visual translations related to app layouts and user-interface.

Even though Arabic is the fastest growing online language, some of the tools were not able to keep up with the sudden growth and will need a bit more time to perfect the application of the rather unique languages. But no worries, there are workarounds! It is up to the localization Engineer to find ways to work around the shortcomings with customized coding.

Multilingual eCommerce Platforms have their own unique translation challenges. You may be wondering which service you should use for the marketing content? And what about the User-Generated Content? Or the Product Descriptions? Have a look at our 3-part video about the 3 main eCommerce Translation Challenges and how to overcome them! Just press play and every video will play automatically!

RTL-Languages aren’t the only technical hurdle you will have to overcome. It might surprise you to know that Arabic content will take up more space than the English, causing a potential minefield of bugs and visual issues when not managed correctly. This could particularly be an issue when localizing your app. On average, Arabic translations take up 25 percent more space, and when translated to English the text can contract between 20 and 25 percent. These are referenced to as text expansion and text contraction.

A qualified LSP will be able to use an optimized Translation (CAT) Tool to specify the maximum characters’ length for each segment so that common Text Expansion errors can be prevented.


Your expansion into the MENA Region, will be most profitable when first commit to eCommerce Localization for the Gulf Region. As an area with high smartphone and internet penetration, this already profitable region is bound to grow in the coming years. And since quality Arabic eCommerce is still few and far between, top quality localization will be your best bet to enter these markets.

At Laoret, we contract native, in-country professionals with years of experience in the eCommerce industry. While our linguists are trained to adapt any content for your target locals, our engineers will solve any technical difficulties Arabic localization could bring with it. Our 24-hour availability and optimized translation tools, ensure that we can handle any project within any budget.

Want to learn more about how we can help you?

Looking for a quality vendor to successfully
translate your eCommerce Content?

We offer you a step by step overview of which tools, resources, and experience your services provider should have and why!

Contact Us