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Pandemic has ‘dramatically accelerated’ digital marketing in Saudi Arabia, Facebook executive says

DUBAI: Demand for digital marketing has “accelerated dramatically” due to pandemic and Saudi businesses must target new potential customers online to grow and compete, regional head of retail and e-commerce says from Facebook.

Anna Germanos, retail and e-commerce manager for Facebook in the Middle East and North Africa, said she doesn’t think users are overloaded with ads on the company’s platforms , including Facebook, Messenger and Instagram.

“Today, in digital advertising in general, people have a choice,” Germanos told Arab News. “They have the choice to click on (product) X, stop the video, close the tab.”

Germanos said that while users have the option to scroll through an ad, the only way for businesses in the region to grow is to always be on the lookout for new customers, which Facebook calls “discovery commerce.” “.

“It’s a process powered by machine learning, which matches products with consumers. If they really want to grow their business, they have to tap into new pockets of consumers. They have to introduce this product to new consumers, inspire those consumers and then, with the click of a button, go buy. “

So how do Saudi companies go about it?

Germanos believed that 70% of the success of a marketing campaign was due to content and that only 30% could be attributed to the data and algorithms used to target the right people.

A successful campaign depended on having “enough information about you as a consumer and targeting you whenever it is relevant, with the right message, at the right time,” she added.

One way for Saudi companies to do this is to target specific online communities on social media platforms, and a Facebook survey found that 70% of Saudi respondents were members of an online group.

The study also found that Instagram was best for fashion and food and beverage businesses, while Facebook was best for gaming campaigns.

Targeting specific demographics could also pay off. Facebook reported that Nestlé Middle East created a messenger bot that recommended products to specific users, with sales increasing 2.9 times over the life of the campaign.

One of the new ways that brands can target Saudi consumers and make sure the message works is through augmented reality (AR) technology, which was especially beneficial when shoppers weren’t able to visit stores during the pandemic.

A survey on Facebook found that 88% of Saudis polled said they had used AR features, while 29% of those on Instagram said they used AR to interact with brands on a weekly basis.

One example is the Japanese automaker Infiniti’s launch of the “Virtual Showroom of the Future” last year, which saw it record a 32% year-over-year increase in sales in Canada. Middle East in the second quarter of 2020.

The online platform allowed users to see the exterior and interior of vehicles in 3D, choose different paint colors, listen to the sound of the engine, and place the car in a realistic background to view. what she would look like in front of their house. or office.

One area of ​​digital marketing that always sparks debate is that of influencers and their transparency about the products they promote.

Germanos said Facebook is very strict in this area.

“Influencers are very important – influencer marketing works. When you have a celebrity who endorses a product, she or he has a subscriber base who are influenced by that character and are more likely to try it based on what he or she would recommend.

“In terms of transparency, on our platform, any paid partnership with an influencer is clearly highlighted. So you would see on the post ‘paid partnership with brand X, Y’ and so it’s very clear. There isn’t a single paid partnership that happens on our platform that isn’t highlighted to consumers, so it’s very transparent.

Germanos also advised influencers to be transparent and not to deceive their followers.

“When you see an influencer showing off multiple brands and being very commercial, consumers will eventually know and brands will stop working with non-genuine influencers. It is therefore up to them to keep an authentic image. This is my advice to them.

Like any organization, Facebook regulates its advertising and has guidelines that adhere to the legal and cultural attributes of a country. Ads that do not respect these parameters are blocked by algorithms.

“To give you an example, during the pandemic we had a new policy. We didn’t want the advertisers to exploit the pandemic situation and double down on the advertising, the categories. We therefore banned the advertising of masks. “

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