Digital Marketing Trends in the Middle East

Close to 8 billion people live on this planet, out of which 60% or close to 4.8 billion are internet users. The internet brings forth immense opportunities for brands and marketers, of which they are reaping the benefits. Even staunch traditionalists are making the switch to digitization. But why?

In a world that thrives on change, the move from traditional to digital marketing on a larger scale was inevitable. Adaptability is a crucial characteristic for businesses that came to the fore when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, bringing new digital marketing trends. With new perspectives and buyer personas created overnight, continuous development of marketing tactics was necessary. 

Reshaping the Marketing Landscape

The last year proved that the scope of a digital marketing strategy was extensive and the reach broader. Audiences were online for more extended periods, with Google searches crossing 90,000 per day. People also changed the way they shopped. As a result, E-commerce sales across the world rose from 19% in February 2020 to 33% in May 2020 – a 24% increase in just three months.

In the Middle East, 147 million or 70% of the total population are internet users. E-commerce was prevalent in this region too. Consumer demand rose during 2020, resulting in a market size of approximately USD 69 billion for the industry. What’s more, the internet also offered a haven for social distancing. 

These changes prompted more and more brands to move online to where their customers were. Thus, with an enormous expansion of e-commerce, the marketing landscape has effectively evolved from traditional to digital.

What’s Trending in the Middle East?

The Middle East has been one of the fastest-growing digital markets in the last year. As a result, marketers are constantly looking for new and exciting ways to attract customers, provide value and generate conversions. Here are some of the online marketing trends to watch out for in the region.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing has been around in the Middle East for a few years. But with 78% of people logging onto social media to check products or services before they make a purchase, influencers will play an important role. The BPG Cohn & Wolfe Influencers Survey revealed that 94% of marketers think influencer marketing is significant for brands in the next couple of years, while 49% are already increasing penetration and sales.

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Short Form Videos

Much has been spoken about videos ruling the world of content marketing online. And it’s only expected to grow in 2021. Videos capture a user’s attention span in a way better than other content formats. In addition, short-form videos will make the experience even better and smoother. Brands are making considerable progress with video strategies, and short-form video will be the content format to explore this year.


Getting in touch with customer service by emailing them or calling them up can be cumbersome. Chatbots act as virtual query resolvers for customers and brands. Often, they’re powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and work 24*7 to resolve queries, share information and provide customized solutions. Also, their ability to mimic live interactions gives marketers a unique opportunity to scale customer solutions. 

Voice Search 

One of the new trends in digital marketing, users were initially reluctant about the efficacy of voice search. But technologies have improved, and virtual assistants – Siri, Google, and Alexa – have grown in popularity. Users are now using voice search to order food, set reminders, get directions, or even check the weather. Everyday lives are getting busier by the hour, but voice search saves time and offers convenience. In it lies an incredible opportunity for marketers to step up their SEO game.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The introduction of AI to digital systems has transformed the way they function. AI can mimic human-like behavior and explore customers’ buying patterns. It can gather large chunks of data from different streams and analyze the information to give sound, practical, and execution results. Moreover, it can do so much more efficiently than human marketers. 

Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR)

AR and VR are not technologies of the future anymore. However, there are several countries already employing them to make the buying experience highly interactive. AR and VR will take videos one step further and let people live them in life-like simulations. From buying furniture, trying out clothes, playing games, and launching new products, AR and VR can have far-reaching applications.

Snack Ads

Snack Ads, one of the latest digital marketing trends, use short format videos, generally not longer than 10 seconds, to put across a brand message. Usually, ads are seen as interruptions. But with snack ads, the user doesn’t miss out on their content for long. The short duration lets the message get across without disrupting the user experience. Because of this reason, snack ads are set to be one of the go-to ad formats. 

Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic buying has decreased advertising budgets and helped avoid wastage of impressions. In doing so, it has attracted several advertisers to its cost-effective operations. Moreover, through automation, marketers can place bids for ads in real-time, making it a highly attractive opportunity. It has already picked up elsewhere globally and is sure to take the Middle East by storm once put into regular practice. 

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Shoppable Posts

Shoppable posts result from two buying behaviors discussed earlier in this article – the rise of online retail and buyers resorting to social media to find inspiration. Shoppable posts will let buyers buy what they’re looking for from the social media posts themselves. Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube can use this post format to make shopping convenient and trouble-free for users. It is one of the marketing trends for 2021 to watch out for.

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Digital Parenting

The significance of the video has already been laid down. And while the format has undoubtedly helped younger audiences, mature audiences in the Middle East are looking up to it, too. More than half of the mothers in the Middle East watch children’s content on YouTube and Facebook. Parents are also resorting to educating themselves about parenting in the times of Covid-19 through online videos.

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Making Digital Marketing Trends a reality for brands

With so many exciting opportunities in the present and future, digital marketing has become one of the fastest-growing industries in the Middle East. It’s slated to take over traditional advertising spends and usher in a new era in marketing. But there’s an essential ingredient to making this recipe a success – a Digital Marketer. And the Middle East needs them in droves.

At upGrad, we introduce young minds to this upcoming field through the Advanced Certificate in Digital Marketing and Communication course, in association with MICA. It doesn’t matter if they’re inexperienced or are existing professionals who want to make the switch to this extraordinary industry. upGrad can help them realize their dream through

  • In-depth understanding of digital marketing practices
  • Extensive and intensive training in existing and upcoming digital marketing trends 2021
  • Guidance and personalized feedback for qualitative growth
  • Networking sessions with peers
  • Sessions from industry experts, and
  • Confidence to take on the digital marketing world

New trends are all set to change the face of marketing. Technologies are evolving and transforming everyday lives through comprehensive and valuable applications. Brands’ relationships with customers today will reshape the consumer buying experience and create long-lasting connections.

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Why is it important to track digital marketing trends in the Middle East?

A significant chunk of the Middle East population are internet users and have a growing e-commerce market. The market size is estimated to be valued at approximately $600 million and is expected to grow in the future. Approximately 39 percent of people preferred buying products online, however, the digital marketing trends and dynamics are quite different from the rest of the world. To be able to tap these opportunities, companies need to lay special emphasis on tracking trends in the Middle East.

What are the digital marketing trends in the Middle East?

The most popular trends in the Middle East include:
Influencer Marketing: Influencer marketing is the practice of using a well-known influencer to promote your product to their followers to improve the reach of your product. According to studies conducted by BPG Cohn and Wolfe in 2017 on stakeholders across different industries, approximately 49 percent of brands work with influencers.
Short Form Videos: Short form videos are a hit among the audience because of their ability to summarize brand messages effectively and capture the attention of audiences.
ChatBots: Chatbots powered by Artificial Intelligence(AI) on a brand's mobile application or website help resolve customer queries 24/7 taking the brand's customer service to the next level.

What are Snack Ads?

Snack Ads are mini videos that help in putting forward a brand message in not more than 10 seconds. They are usually placed between videos, however, their brief nature ensures that the advertisement captures the viewer’s attention in between consuming content.

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