In recent years, the MENA (Middle East, North Africa) region has quickly become one of the fastest growing online marketplaces. Led by the UAE, there has been 45% growth in the B2C e-commerce market in 2012, up $5 billion from 2011 to $15billion. Furthermore, with Internet penetration in regions such as Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE above 70%, this once huge opportunity gap is now being filled by online retailers looking to capitalise on the rapidly growing online market.

However, with this online expansion, derives increased competition for retailers and more choice for the consumer, making ad copy a key component in persuading a target market to choose one retailer over another. Over the last 12 months, Latitude have been running extensive ad copy testing on our retail clients in MENA, and this blog will relay some of our learning’s from both the search and display networks.


Similarly to the UK, the GDN converts users at a much lower conversion rate to Search, but still drives quality conversion volume. Used as both a branding tool as well as a conversion driver, the GDN drove the majority of click volume in June at 87%, from which 54% of total conversions were driven.

From this data, we were able to gather the following learning’s from the 4 highest volume regions – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan and Lebanon: –


  • Consumers within the UAE react well to both text and display ads on the GDN, with CTR’s 137% higher for image ads but conversion rates over 8% lower than text ads.
  • Higher CPC’s for text ads and therefore generating a higher CPA.

Saudi Arabia

  • Text ads failed to convert one user, with image ads converting 26.82% lower than the UAE.
  • CPC’s remain constant between the two ad types but are 38.8% cheaper than that of the UAE, showing less competition.



  • Image ads converted at a similar rate to Saudi Arabia, whereas text ads failed to convert.
  • Again, CPC’s for image ads remained constant with Saudi Arabia, with an average text ad click costing 40% more.


  • Again, text ads failed to convert with image ads having the lowest conversion rate against the 3 other territories.
  • Image ad CPC’s are the lowest out of the 4 territories, averaging 50% cheaper than the UAE.
  • Image ad CTR is higher than any other territory.

For cheaper activity, focus on the territories with less competition, where other online retailers have yet to expand into such as Jordan, Lebanon, as well as the smaller nations such as Qatar and Kuwait. Furthermore, it is clear that image ads generate higher conversion volumes, at a cheaper CPC, and therefore the focus should be to develop image creative that will entice the user to convert. Like any other GDN campaign, testing is the key to finding the right ad.


As mentioned in the previous section, higher volumes of clicks can be driven through the GDN; however, Latitude have found that conversion rates generated through Search are, on average, 453% higher than that of the display network. Nevertheless, in order to generate these types of conversion rates, Latitude tested various ad copy factors. Like the GDN, different regions delivered different results: –


  • Extended headlines generated the higher CTR’s, through the use of the display URL in the headline. This enabled a higher number of characters to be pulled in, with words from description line 1 and 2 pulled into the headline, giving a better user experience.
    • UAE, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia all generated higher CTRs using extended headlines.
  • Jordan, Bahrain and Lebanon users all responded better to headlines that did not extend and therefore contained both the URL and brand name, giving the aesthetics of a conventional paid search ad.

Description lines

  • Latitude found that using the keywords ‘cheap’ and ‘discount’ were the strongest power words to use vs. ‘save’ and ‘low cost’, with substantial uplifts in both CTR’s and conversion rates across all territories.
  • One set of copy used plain English, which gets straight to the point rather than being cluttered with too much information or jargon.
    • Users in the UAE, Oman, Lebanon, Jordan and Kuwait favoured this copy.
    • Despite Arabic being the official languages of these regions, English is widely spoken and understood. For example, the UAE has a large expatriate community as well as strong global business links. Oman and Kuwait both have strong ties with the UK and USA.
    • Ad copy that is favoured when conveying numbers suggests that the user is more conscious about the details.
      • Saudi Arabia responded better to ad copy with discounted numbers (see below).
      • ‘85% off’ is universal in any language – save money on RRP price.
      • People within this region reacted strongest to this copy and are more money-conscious than users within the other MENA territories, with average spend per shopper in Saudi Arabia at $175 vs. $315 in Oman, $523 in Kuwait and $480 in the UAE.

Display URLs

  • Display URLs were unanimously stronger across all territories that were not customised, with both CTR and conversion rates stronger.

Latitude gathered the above results over a long period time; however, this does not mean that other retailers in the MENA region will achieve identical outcomes. Each territory reacts differently to the copy that is put in front of them, but other external factors such as brand recognition and reputation will come into play. Therefore, in order to be able to successfully target and convert this audience, Latitude recommends to continually test ad copy, particularly in this region, where the online market is still in its infancy.


The Global Evolution of Digital Commerce and MENA Commerce (IORMA, 2013)