How to start an online business in Kuwait

By Randy Ali Ecommerce No Comments on How to start an online business in Kuwait

Quick introduction:
I’ve been selling online since 2001. At a time when there was only email and phone, online commerce is my passion and intrigue. From promoting paper pulp to sports supplements, I’ve sold almost everything. I started my first ecommerce site in 2004 and its still selling today. Check out www.worldseafooddirectory.com This was my first venture…and you never forget your first!

Kuwait has become an e-commerce magnet. With several high profile successes and acquisitions, a mass proliferation of websites, apps and platforms wanting to be the next target of a buyout. But that has also led several 1 and 2 star apps on both the iOS™ and Playstore™. Why? Because the wrong platform was chosen from the very start. And a lot of people have jumped on the e-commerce bandwagon with little experience and, sometimes, no background in online business in Kuwait.

Creating your online business or ecommerce venture in Kuwait can be really profitable if done right from the start.

In this long post, I’ll go over the essential points you would need to know in order to start and run a successful eCommerce Business in Kuwait.

Moreover, I will use the following terms interchangeably:
online business in Kuwait
ecommerce in Kuwait
online store in Kuwait
online shop in Kuwait
ecommerce website in Kuwait
They basically mean the same thing. So don’t be confused.

You need 3 things to start your online business / ecommerce website in Kuwait:
The rights products or service
The ecommerce platform or software
Payment gateway

 

1). The right product or Service for your ecommerce store in Kuwait

Ok..I hate seafood. But that didn’t stop me from creating the World Seafood Directory in 2004 and positioning it as the #1 seafood directory on the internet. My last order was on June 2, 2018.

The point of this? While a lot of people will tell you its best to create a business you love and want. And you know…that is true to an extent. But before love comes profitability. You want your online business to be successful. So if you identify a market niche or category that you believe is going to be successful, do it

a). How do you know if a product or service is going to be successful?
Simple. Research it.

Use Google Adwords™ and Google Trends™ to see if the product or service you are trying to sell is in demand. A high volume – low competition search is usually the golden combination, but hard to find. If you do identify a high volume search phrase, check in Google Trends if the demand is increasing or decreasing. This will give you a very good idea on long term sustainability.

Also, check the keyword suggest tool in Yahoo! And Google to get more ideas about what people are looking for.

Lastly, ubersuggest.com is also a good additional resource to have to get an in-depth idea of what people are searching for. However, this tool lacks a geographical filter.

Now, if you decide to create an online store Kuwait based on what you love and cherish, and if it’s a highly searched term…you got lucky! If you are an artist or a fashion designer, an ecommerce business in Kuwait can be highly profitable.

Research tools:
adwords.google.com
trends.google.com
Google search suggest

b). Research your competition.
You don’t want to enter a dog fight. No matter how cool or hip your product, you are bound to run into competition. Research them first. Do not become a copy cat or “me too” company offering similar products or services at almost similar prices. See what the competition is doing and set yourself apart.

Again, Google Adwords keyword planner, Yahoo keyword suggest and Google trends are excellent (and free) tools for you to spy on your competition. Also, you should take your competition website and feed them into sites such as GTMetrix and Google Page Speed to see how their SEO fares. This will give you a good idea on their in-house marketing strategies.

For example, the keyword “cheap tickets” was searched for over 370,000 times a month in Kuwait. Obviously, it’s a good idea to start a travel services related website in Kuwait. But with over 400 travel agencies, you will run into stiff competition. However, if your ecommerce website and digital marketing is on point, you will find success. Guaranteed.

2). Write a business plan

I cannot stress this enough. Writing a business plan in Kuwait is something of a rarity. An extreme luxury…but it may make or break your business.

Nothing too fancy. You don’t need to call upon your expert friend or some expensive software to write your business plan for your ecommerce store. Take a piece of paper and put your main ideas down such as:

  • What you will be selling in your ecommerce store
  • The size of your market in Kuwait (or they country you plan to sell in)
  • How will you reach them (email marketing, Google display network, social media etc.)
  • A very good estimate on your monthly marketing spend
  • Your estimate CCA (cost of customer acquisition)
  • Shipping / logistics if you plan on shipping physical products

In my experience and opinion, putting down as many points on paper makes your focus sharper. You will have a better idea of what needs to be done and who needs to do what. If you are a one man show, you will need at least 6 months to start your ecommerce store in Kuwait. Yes, and that’s a conservative estimate.

Having a partner helps by leaps and bounds. Division of labour. Expertise. Resources. Get like minded people on board. People as hungry and driven as you are.

3). The domain name

Start with a good domain name. Something that is:
– preferably one word and one syllable
– easy to remember
– carries more than one meaning
– perhaps a keyword of your business

You will select your domain name from www.godaddy.com or Network Solutions. Should cost anywhere in the range of US$ 10 – 30. Not more

Case in point: www.wa7ash.com

This is one of my ecommerce ventures. The name cost me a total of US$ 11 and it means “The Beast” in English. However, the meaning in Arabic implies someone who is tough, or slang for bodybuilder. And it’s a one word, two syllable word. Very convenient.

When creating your ecommerce store or website in Kuwait, make sure you put in enough research in the domain name. Furthermore, always go for the .com extension, and then follow with the .org, .net and .co

An important point to note that in Kuwait, .kw extensions will be available from August onwards, so if you are a website or ecommerce store in Kuwait, that is something you should really consider.

4). Plan your ecommerce store on paper.

Take an A3 sheet of paper and plan the layout of your store. Don’t be shy to use a template of theme or some site that is famous. Do it and don’t care.

Your layout should take care of the following:
– the design of your header, body and footer

  • Your social media network
  • overall style and colour of your ecommerce store
  • the page speed time
  • SEO in the background

Now here is where most ecommerce stores will fail:
GTMetrix.com
Google Page Speed

You see, the above two scans are missions critical to your online shop. If you get a poor grade, that means your developer did a lousy job from the get go. When you build your site, take care of everything these two scans tell you. Minify CSS, use browser caching, serve images exactly as measured, etc. Take care of every little detail. A lot of ecommerce stores look great, but they perform poorly.

Don’t let this happen to you.

5). Get a payment gateway

Your ecommerce store is ecommerce because of your ability to collect payments online and deliver goods and services in exchange. In Kuwait, the dominant payment gateway is, of course, KNET that allows you to collect payment via the debit card issued by some 15 banks in Kuwait in addition to Visa and Mastercard.

Other payment gateways in Kuwait that can process credit cards in Kuwaiti dinars you should consider are:
2Checkout.com
Skrill.com (but you need a company presence in the EU)
Stripe.com (need a US or company presence in select EU markets)

If your ecommerce is a marketplace, KNET or Skrill.com is your only option if you want to collect payments in Kuwaiti dinars. But like I mentioned before, you need a European presence to register an account with skrill.com.

6). Your e-commerce platform

This is the most important part. As an online / ecommerce entrepreneur, you need a solid framework that can grow into something really big and profitable. With so many options out there, a first time online seller will be overwhelmed. Magento or Shopify? Why is Prestashop all the rage these days? And then, you might have also heard of WooCommerce! Pff!!! So many options…so many decisions.

But this is the Brothers 7 blog…and that means you get expert advice on the best platform to use. Woohoo!

a). Magento
The heavy duty ecommerce platform. Expensive, heavy and slow. Even if you do use the free community license, hosting Magento only works on NGinx engine and you can expect to pay at least KD, 100 a month on hosting and maintenance alone. The enterprise license starts at KD. 30,000…so insanely forget it.

b). Shopify
Great for small stores selling out of USA and Europe. While they have some excellent templates, the plugins are limited and not what you would like if you want a decent size ecommerce store in Kuwait

c). Prestashop
A relatively new player and boasts fast load times, simple to use interface. But again, its limited in options and design layout. Yes, you can use Prestashop in Kuwait and connect it with KNET. Hosting is relatively cheap too…but if you are building an ecommerce store in Kuwait or anywhere else, make sure your load times are fast.

d). WooCommerce
An excellent platform all around. While heavy, if you optimize it carefully, you will get blazing fast load times, inexpensive hosting and the most number of plugins and options than all the other platforms combined. This is a winner in my opinion and you should use Woocommerce for all ecommerce stores.

Additional Info

You want your online store to last. To generate income, grow and become a household name. But most stores vanish to many reasons.

First, the owner of the business thinks that as soon as he or she creates your ecommerce stores, sales will start pouring in. Wrong. Creating you store is just the first part. Then comes optimization, perfection, content development and marketing. And believe me, this is expensive.

Second, logistics. Most people do not have shipping and logistics figured out. They think, “well, lets get orders and then we will get to shipping.”  You have just invented the formula to kill your store. Shipping is key to customer satisfaction. Don’t leave that part for last. Never.

Then comes marketing spend. Like any business, you need to invest in marketing. SEO, Google Display, social media marketing, email marketing etc. You need to identify where your customers are found and reach them. And investment in digital marketing is a must for any ecommerce store. Do not, please for the sake of your own business, skim on this part of the business.

Lastly, make sure your market size is big. Do not sell paper cups online to people in Kuwait. Nobody cares. Identify a market size that is big enough to make a 5% conversion profitable. Do not enter a niche that is really small. Use common sense.

In my next post, I will talk about search engine optimization (SEO) for ecommerce and what you can do to get your online store to the top of Google search rankings.

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