How UX Design can add value to the growth of SMEs in MENA

Posted on  11 April, 2022


After emerging as the world’s powerhouse with its abundance in petroleum,  the Middle-East region is rapidly catching up in various other industries as well. According to Forbes, banking and financial services are at the top of the list, followed by real estate and the telecom sector. There are a multitude of small and mid-size enterprises(SMEs), which form a major chunk of the MENA region’s economy. In Dubai alone, SMEs make up nearly 95 percent of all companies, employing 42 percent of the workforce and contributing around 40 percent to Dubai’s GDP.  The initiatives taken by MENA-OECD(Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) focuses on internal growth by strengthening links between priority stakeholders, exchange of good practices, and capacity building. It also takes into account the region’s diversity by providing targeted support to individual countries.

SME Sector in Mena

A total of over 1 billion has been invested in start-ups in the MENA region in 2020 alone. This huge investment can be justified only by the success of the company at all fronts. For example, Boxit is a growing start-up in the MENA region which focuses on self storage service, providing customers with easy to use options.  It focussed on the genre of people using it, the service they will need and experience they will undergo. The focus on digitized user experience is adding to its growth.


A digitalized SME has the capability of reaching a larger universe of customers and suppliers quickly, safely, as well as efficiently. Digitalization has served as a bridge between the old and the new normal in a society still reeling from the consequences of the pandemic that swept the globe in 2020 and 2021. Meetings moved online, e-commerce replaced retail, and payments were made contactless, all of which helped to keep the business models afloat. Simultaneously, it introduced the globe to new business models, which have since been embraced by everyone. All human and environmental issues are addressed through a digital presence, but what is the driving force behind businesses? The solution lies in focusing on consumer experience: creating a smooth digital environment that attracts more customers.

When designing for digital transformation, the strategy should be such that it delivers the impression of giving personalized attention while also being comprehensive enough for enterprises to handle. The traditional way of doing business has changed with a significant penetration from technology and digitization. Marketing and selling have blended into one continuous flow, which starts with initiating digital presence, for any product to succeed. Who’d have guessed that Netflix, which started off as a DVD rental business, would go on to become one of the most popular online streaming platforms? They have expanded because of their vast collection of online content, while being region specific. Content for countries in the MENA region will vary from that of the USA.  Netflix, with their growth trajectory, have inspired plenty of additional SMEs to fall into line and enter the market. Various companies have understood the benefits of pivoting, thus becoming unstoppable. They diversify by gaining a better understanding of their consumer demographics, resulting in growth and disruption. 

Business Growth

As mentioned above, a road to success for any business consists of five important elements, and one of them is User Experience. A good UX not only adds value to the service but also strives to increase the customer base, along with :

1.  Increasing customer retentionAs per a survey by Capgemini, 8 out of 10 users are willing to pay more for a good experience. A well-designed platform not only makes the customer’s life simpler but also consciously directs them into using the particular service over and over again. There were cab services before UBER, but it quickly rose to the top because of its user-friendly features, consumer safety, and driver safety.

2. Increasing brand awareness– Branding and user experience, according to industry experts, go hand in hand. When customers are satisfied with a product or service, they become brand advocates. 

brand awareness

3. Reducing development cost and time – Development time is reduced by 30-50% if there is the involvement of  UX design in the process. Often UX design is the first to be removed when it comes down to cost-cutting, without realizing the implication of this step in the later stages. UX involves research of the product, market trends as well as user behavior, to name a few. Once a product is created, it may prove to be a complete failure if it does not fulfill the goal for which it was created. Alterations and adjustments at the end of the process involve additional time and money, and can moreover cause business disruptions.

4. Helping companies grow from SME’s to dominant market players: According to the SME report of 2019, Dubai SMEs have grown increasingly inventive over the years, keeping up with the pace of industry trends and technological advancements affecting the areas in which they operate. In this regard, let’s take a look at some of the regional SMEs who now have global recognition :

Aramco is the largest oil company in the world. The company is situated in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and is officially known as Saudi Arabian Oil Company. Saudi Aramco, the world’s third-largest business by market valuation, is one of the five firms in the trillion-dollar club, according to a study. But what makes this statistic even more incredible is that the firm only went public in December 2019, less than two years ago. It offers a fantastic user experience, which aids in the website’s branding, making it more informative and relevant, and allowing for easy navigability across various verticals on their website. Their realistic designs set them a class apart and help convey their messaging as the biggest oil-giant in the world.  According to reports,  Aramco has announced a $1 billion investment in blockchain technology, and with the diversification model, it won’t be a surprise if they soon become the world’s best company!

Almarai Company is the nation’s largest food and beverage production and distribution company, as well as a leader in the cattle ranching and farming industries. It is the number one FMCG brand in the MENA area and the market leader in all of its categories in the GCC. For more than 40 years, Almarai Company has provided healthy and nutritious products to consumers of all ages. Customers have a fantastic user experience with them since they can choose exactly what product they want based on its constituents, appeal and nutritional value, all through their website digitally. They have strived for perfection by providing a comprehensive in-store experience on their website, and as a result, have been performing so well in the market.

Majid Al Futtaim is a Dubai-based Emirati holding company that owns and operates 13 hotels and 29 shopping malls around the Middle East and North Africa, including Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates and Cairo’s Mall of Egypt. ‘Halla Food,’ their first hybrid digital food hall, is a showcase of their promise to provide customers with a seamless user experience by delivering continually growing, cutting-edge technology. With this growth trajectory, they’re now recognized globally. 

Research, needs, market, branding, marketing, and even delivering an end-to-end journey of a product depending on its consumers,  are all part of user experience design. A product is only profitable and appealing when it is customized to match the requirements of a given target audience. The needs of a product/service intended for the MENA region, for example, will differ significantly from those of other regions. The design principles followed will be different. The interaction will be dominated by differences in language, culture, and tradition. The design will encourage right-to-left Arabic reading; it will also ensure that the graphics and color complexity will be more associated with the local culture, thus eliciting specific needed emotions, and icons will have to be designed with local comprehension in mind. The rules and restrictions that social media networks like Facebook and Twitter obey differ by area.

The content that is displayed will differ depending on the preferences of the audience. The psychology of different human minds forms an integral aspect of user experience design. A UX designer’s task is to gradually introduce customers to a new product, while also encouraging them to use it more frequently.

UX designer

Lollypop Design Studio’s design expertise comes into play here. We know how to add value to a business through UX design, having worked with a variety of national and international customers. We make sure to fully assist with the launch as well as scaling up of enterprises using our efficient three-step UX design process of discovery, design, and build. Let’s further understand this with our client Trukkin, based out of the Middle-east.  Launched in 2017 in the UAE and KSA region, today it has operations in 10+ countries. It has achieved a number of significant milestones in its journey,  from local to global. To expand the business, Lollypop developed a digital experience using various UX design tools that would allow shippers and carriers to conveniently manage needs, obtain quotes, and sign up for their service. To know more about our process, check the project here.

User experience design is unquestionably the beginning stage in developing a product or service, but at the same time, UX design is also a continuing process that will provide the intended outcome, eventually. It is ideal to engage a UX designer from the start of the process to save time, and money and also witness a concrete final outcome.

Stage of UX

Businesses earn bonus points for getting it right the first time. A smart design will reduce a firm’s CAPEX and OPEX by improving its operational efficiency, consumer trust, revenue generation, customer satisfaction, and client retention among other things.

A smart Design

People around us have been constantly developing new tools, products, and services to make our lives simpler.  We’ve also adjusted to them and evolved as we progressed. Today, organizations must focus on customer experience in order to succeed. To keep up with the ever-changing market trends, user experience should be an integral part of every business. Creating UX maturity models can assist to bridge the gap between businesses and their customers. Companies should set a personal goal of becoming more user-driven, in order to become successful. So if companies wish to grow in the Middle East and have an edge over competitors, investing in UX design as a service will be the best decision taken for the business – something that can be learned from the other flourishing ones.