Some gaps and potentials evident in the first local report on digital marketing in Egypt

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In a world where digital transformation is a clear route being taken by governments, organizations and individuals, digital marketing becomes a critical strategy through which products, services and even ideas reach their potential consumer base. Yet, in Egypt, digital marketing is a discipline on which data and knowledge is still growing. In an effort to create a baseline to understand the trends and gaps in digital marketing in Egypt, BOOST recently released its first report on ‘The State of Digital Marketing in Egypt 2020’, surveying 312 business leaders across nine industries.

Business Forward speaks to Sherif Makhlouf, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of BOOST, and adjunct professor of Digital strategy at the American University in Cairo (AUC).

The report strikingly shows that the level of satisfaction with marketing efforts is on average 3.2 out of 5 among the surveyed business leaders, with 20 percent of them rating their marketing efforts as less than 2 out of 5.

“This relates to a combination of factors, primarily not being able to reap results of the marketing campaigns they are doing,” says Makhlouf, referring to the underlying motive behind the issuing of the report, which is the fact that digital marketing efforts in Egypt are to a large extent not data-driven. “The local data needs to be collected and brought upfront; we hope this report will grow into an index that shows how the market is evolving.”

“The money would be allocated if companies saw a rewarding ROI [return on investment] to their marketing efforts,” elaborates Makhlouf, pointing to the fact that part of the dissatisfaction is attributed to limited digital marketing know-how and capacity within organizations to implement the ideas and campaigns they aspire to.

He also adds that sometimes organizations would compare their performance to others that are perhaps operating in different contexts and markets. Even international social media benchmark reports “have to be taken with a grain of salt,” points out Makhlouf. Different markets have different customer behavior patterns affecting conversion rates on digital media. “For example the average conversion rate internationally might be 2 percent, whereas in Egypt it is only a fraction of that due to different customer confidence [levels] and awareness and a different level of functionality of digital platforms.”

Quite expected is that Facebook came out as the platform to which most digital marketing budgets go, with 64 percent of surveyed leaders saying this was their number one channel. What was not expected though, was that only 36 percent included Google in their marketing toolbox, whereas according to Makhlouf it ranks in the top three marketing tools worldwide.

In fact, LinkedIn is used more in Egypt than Google, with 20 percent of surveyed leaders selecting it as the most invested-in channel, and 33 percent reporting that it generated the best leads for their businesses. “This is probably the case because of the success of LinkedIn with Business to Business (B2B) leads due to its nature. LinkedIn provides eccentric profiling, with people posting their entire resumés, whereas on Facebook the profiling is less accurate on whether this lead is qualified to make a business decision or not. This helps a lot with targeting and generating leads,” explains Makhlouf.

COVID-19 and the consequent lockdowns have left an effect on the digital marketing landscape as well, with 40 percent of the surveyed leaders predicting that Tiktok- a social media platform that has gained much popularity during the past year- is going to be the fastest growing channel in Egypt in 2021.

“Platforms like Tiktok have made the production of videos more accessible and increasingly consumed products on social media especially with better and cheaper streaming power,” observes Makhlouf. “Recording, editing, sound, VO, backgrounds and inserts are all available at a touch of a button.” He also explains how videos have become essential to stand out in the digital world for their unmatched power to engage and persuade. This reflects in the report, with 78 percent of the surveyed leaders intending to increase their investment in video production.

Another characteristic of digital marketing in Egypt that Makhlouf points out is the limited use of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), a best practices tool for marketers, with only half of the surveyed organizations adopting it. CRM allows for better nurture marketing, retaining a relationship and follow-up mechanism with prospective and actual customers. It is an essential practice for more sophisticated marketing and understanding of buying behavior. At the same time, 60 percent of those doing online lead generation report that they cannot specify the cost per lead. Makhlouf comments that many marketers do not use tracking tools to monitor where their leads are coming from and rely more on qualitative factors and focusing on online visibility rather than optimization.

While these results suggest a gap in digital marketing know-how, the fact that a majority believe that their marketing efforts can be better, reflects that it is a growing priority. 60 percent of organizations that are currently outsourcing their digital marketing functions are moving towards bringing those functions in-house. “This allows for a closer connection between marketing and the core of the business; both will speak the same language and hence will be able to test and adjust digital marketing approaches in a faster way,” says Makhlouf, “This report shows that more CEOs want to see this connection between digital marketing and results for the core of the business.”

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