- We play a part in supporting economic recovery in the region through “Grow Stronger with Google”.
- We allocated $1.1 million worth of financial grants by Google.org to further our mentorship efforts for businesses and entrepreneurs across the region.
- Customers prefer relevant ads that are delivered in a way that respects their privacy and puts them in control.
- We are focused on helping one-million job seekers, and local businesses grow by the end of 2021 under the ‘Grow Stronger with Google’ program.
Undoubtedly, the covid19 pandemic has impacted almost all aspects of people’s lives, particularly consumer behavior on the internet, which has been primarily affected. People have become more related to the web; now, they are spending more and more time online, digital media consumption is on the rise, and e-commerce has become a more necessary way to make purchases than ever before. The digital world is changing rapidly, and we have to be ready for future changes.
Chief Marketing Officers magazine (CMOs) interviewed Tarek Abdalla, Director of Marketing, Middle East & North Africa at Google, to discuss Google’s marketing goals during the pandemic, the new trends in digital marketing, current/future opportunities and challenges, and many other points that discussed in the following interview.
First of all, could you tell us more about your role?
I lead Consumer, Brand, and Business Marketing teams at Google in the Middle East and North Africa.
From your point of view, what is happening in the digital marketing world right now? What is new? And what are the current/future opportunities and challenges?
While consumer behaviour has become more dynamic and unpredictable, there are three emerging trends and opportunities to keep in mind. First, the pandemic has accelerated existing shifts in behaviors. For example, people are turning more to the web for inspiration related to shopping and cooking, which makes embracing digital acceleration more important than ever before.
Second, consumer decision-making is becoming more complex, which means customers need more help when navigating the purchase journey. This is a huge opportunity for businesses to be helpful and present at the right time. Finally, it’s now time for marketers to focus on building strong first-party data relationships and the necessary expertise to build trust sustainably.
The shifts in consumer behaviour have been accompanied by rising expectations for online privacy, making it essential for brands to build and retain trust. For example, when it comes to online ads, customers prefer relevant ads that are delivered in a way that respects their privacy and puts them in control.
How do Google’s products help marketers keep pace with the digital media consumption shifts during the Covid-19 pandemic?
As consumer behaviours keep changing, we continue to develop tools to support marketers in understanding people’s needs and responding to them more effectively. Marketers can explore trending search keywords or topics from around the world using Google Trends, available in both Arabic and English. They can also “opt-in” to automatically apply performance recommendations in Google Ads to further optimise their campaigns.
This removes many layers of manual work, allowing marketers to act faster, save time, and meet accelerating demands. Additionally, we continue to share the latest industry trends and locally-driven insights on our platform, ‘Think with Google’.
Has the pandemic forced you to change marketing strategies for Google products?
As the pandemic evolved, we launched various product features and programs for users, businesses, and communities. In the past 12 months, we launched multiple features within Google Search to help people find useful information and connect them with safety tips and authoritative information from the World Health Organization (WHO).
We are also responsible for playing our part in supporting economic recovery in the region; this is why we launched Grow Stronger with Google last October. It’s a program that aims to help one million job seekers and local businesses, especially retail and tourism, across the Middle East & North Africa learn digital skills and grow their businesses by the end of 2021.
To which extent do partnerships play a role in reaching your marketing goals in the region?
Because partnerships play a crucial role in the region, we’ve partnered with governments, universities, and private-sector businesses to help more people make the most of what the web has to offer. For example, as part of the “Grow Stronger with Google” program, we worked with local partners such as the Federation of Egyptian Industries in Egypt, Atta Digital in Saudi Arabia, and NAMA Women Advancement Establishment in the UAE to train job seekers and businesses in digital marketing.
What are the future plans for Google in the MENA region in general? And are there any new projects for the Egyptian market in particular?
As we announced recently, we are focused on helping one-million job seekers, and local businesses grow by the end of 2021 under the ‘Grow Stronger with Google’ program and with the help of local and regional partners. We also offer mentorship and training opportunities for entrepreneurs by experts from Google and beyond on digital marketing and strategies.
We allocated USD 1.1 million worth of financial grants by Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, to organizations like Mercy Corps, Arab Tourism Organization, and Youth Business International to further our mentorship efforts for businesses and entrepreneurs across the region.
To help businesses grow online, we launched three new products; Market Finder to help local retailers identify new markets and acquire global customers, Grow My Store to help retailers evaluate and improve their online experiences based on local insights, and finally, allowing retailers to list their products on the Google Shopping tab which helps them connect with customers regardless of whether they advertise with Google or not.
In addition to focusing on economic recovery, we’re also prioritizing online safety for kids and families. YouTube Kids, a family-friendly stand-alone streaming video service that was built with parents and children under 13 in mind, is now available in Egypt and across the region. YouTube Kids has a wide range of parental controls so that parents can customize their children’s viewing experience based on what works best for their family.
It’s also worth noting that we found an increase in search interest around the topic of mental health as we all search for ways to process and adapt to a changing reality. That is why we recently announced that the Google Assistant would start providing emotional wellbeing support in the Arabic language in Egypt and across MENA.
Finally, what is your advice for digital marketers in the region?
To break unconscious bias and consider inclusion in your daily routine. Fair representation in Marketing is especially influential in shaping societal values given the sheer volume of ads we are exposed to each day. You can do this by embedding underrepresented talent in your team and among your partners, so your ideas benefit from a variety of perspectives. Additionally, you can embed inclusion into your strategy, from planning to deploying a brief. By eliminating harmful stereotypes, we have a chance to reach and deepen relationships with both new and existing consumers.