E-Commerce in Egypt – The Tipping Point: Episode 1

Episode 1: Identifying the stakeholders & controlling forces

Being at the heart of the E-Commerce scene in Egypt and while working on the preparations for robusta’s upcoming E-Commerce Summit 2018 (contact me if you’re interested in participation) I can’t help but keep asking myself what’s left till the market reaches its tipping point in Egypt. Inspite of having one of the highest social media penetration rates in the world with more than 33 million users on Facebook alone massive increase starting 2011 and between 2014 to 2017,  E-Commerce in Egypt hasn’t reached anywhere near the global E-Commerce growth rates for the obvious reasons like, for starters, the fact that the Egyptian customer is still hanging on having to see and feel the product they’re buying to make sure it’s good and being afraid to use their credit cards online and fearing their goods won’t be shipped (aka Egyptians have trust issues).

Being half engineer and half consultant, I couldn’t help but tackle this from a merely analytical perspective and run a quick mostly qualitative assessment of both the market stakeholders and controlling forces through a series of upcoming blog posts in an attempt to at least present the problem and try to find practical solutions and get you, the customer, the business owner, the rising entrepreneur, the big brand and anyone who believes, like me and everyone at robusta, that there’s a great future and opportunities yet to be snatched in the business of E-Commerce in Egypt, to weigh on this matter and give each other pieces of our mind, turning this from the thoughts of one individual to a discussion among those who are concerned and who knows what else. For starters, Identifying the stakeholders is mostly straight forward; however, identifying the controlling forces can get a little bit tricky.

Out of our experience at robusta for the past 4 years with several E-Commerce implementations, some of which are true models for successful case studies, I believe the most critical mix to look at of stakeholders and forces would be:

  1. Supply: that would be the retailers and product providers. Think B.TECH.
  2. Demand: that would be the end consumers. That’s everyone of us, the end users.
  3. Mediators: in some cases there’s a marketplace acting as a mediator bridging the supply & demand. Think Souq, Jumia, Edfa3ly, etc..
  4. Technology: that comes at the core and probably the key contributor to E-Commerce over the traditional brick-and-mortar retail and distribution.
  5. Logistics: though a key pillar of traditional retail, E-Commerce adds an additional layer of complexity to optimize on cost and meet customers’ expectations.
  6. Customer Service: in a global world that truly brings international E-Commerce players as close to local consumers as local players, customers expectations have truly hit the roof
  7. Marketing: between the classical 4Ps and the need to go almost fully digital, marketing becomes one of the key barriers to new entrants to the market to realize the full potential of the market
  8. People: most analysis would overlook the role of knowledgeable workers, management capacities and small business owners setting and E-Commerce strategies and respective implementations.

In the following series, I will look at each of the aforementioned and attempt to do an assessment of the current status of each in an attempt to look at the missing jigsaw pieces and anticipate the moment in time where they all click and unleash a huge potential of an economy on its own that can be a critical driver for economic development as it does not only develop the retail business but obviously creates lots of jobs on the logistics, customer service and significantly contributes to the development of the technology and financial sectors.

Would love to get thoughts on this as I plan to break it down into a series of detailed analysis of each of the aforementioned and I’m quite flexible to adjust for a more inclusive perspective that’s hopefully one step forwards towards the market tipping point.

I believe other perspectives looking at the topic could also be quite enlightening, one of which would be the study of the evolution in other more developed markets and the different phases it has gone through until it reached maturity.

5 Design Tips for a Successful Black Friday Campaign

It’s that time of the year again and Black Friday is upon us. The sales are everywhere; there’s something new everywhere; deals here and deals there; but what makes customers buy off of one website over the other? We’ve gathered our fair share of easy tips to help your e-commerce platform maintain a successful Black Friday campaign.

Stay true to the brand
Avoid visual clutter by using simple designed ad banners with clear call to action. The designs should stick to the brand identity which makes the user related more to the website.



Help your users get to what they want
Listing all products in the sale next to each other is overwhelming. Use categories to help the users navigate to the right section of the website, as well providing filters to narrow down the range of products displayed.

After clicking on the black friday banner, the page displayed include products featured as deals of the day, hottest deals and a list of categories which have deals.
After clicking on the Black Friday banner, the page displayed include products featured as deals of the day, hottest deals and a list of categories which have deals.

Make your discount percentages pop
Offers and discounts are great driver for the shoppers to take the decision to purchase a product (link). Discounts are the core of Black Friday campaign. Featuring those discounts visually and in percentage has a great impact on the experience.


Tell the users the what they will really pay before they click “checkout”
61% of users abandon their cart and the checkout process when they realize that extra fees are too high. Deceiving the users by using a website wide banners promoting free shipping which isn’t the case when they proceed to the actual checkout, leaves a bad impression.

Macy’s promotes free shipping in the header and in the product page but when the user tries to checkout, they add shipping fees anyways.
Macy’s promotes free shipping in the header and in the product page but when the user tries to checkout, they add shipping fees anyways.

Get to know your users better
Black Friday is a great opportunity to observe your users behaviour and their shopping patterns through analytics and usability studies. Note down what negatively affects the experience, handle it and iterate. Read more into how to do a low budget usability analysis of an e-commerce website.

These are just simple design tips that you just can’t overlook; however, an awesome and successful Black Friday campaign (or any sale for the matter) doesn’t only stop at these, without proper marketing, a secure website that actually works, great effort exerted by your customer support team and the right partners to get your goods to the customer, you don’t stand a chance in this highly dynamic season.

UX in E-Commerce: Web vs Mobile (Pt.2)

In part one of this post, we reviewed the differences between a desktop web and mobile design throughout an e-commerce website. We reviewed some of the important pages including: home, category, product and cart page.

In this post, we continue the journey through another four key screens.

Search (5/8)

Search functionality is one of the most crucial features that should not be only included in the e-commerce website but also implemented in the most efficient way. The usability of this functionality doesn’t only lie in the interface of the search bar but also in how smart the search is.

Web view:



Amazon search got it right. Just from generic keyword like “Laptop”, it offers suggestions related to everything a laptop needs as well as the ability to search in a specific category.

Mobile view:


Emphasizing on how important the search is, amazon mobile design uses the entire width of the screen to display the search bar as well as being thump friendly. The suggestion list height doesn’t extend more than the space above the keyboard.

Search Result (6/8)

Next step, after having a smart search, is having a usable search result page. That includes a clean display of products, sorting, filtering and different display options if needed.

Web view:


At first glance, Amazon design may seem noisy but you can easily comprehend how the page is designed in blocks and each block serves a specific functionality.

  • Block 1: Showing number of results found, the keyword I used in the search, sorting and display options
  • Block 2: Filters
  • Block 3: Search result. This is the most important block and that’s why it takes the most space.
  • Block 4 & 5: show ads, promotions or sponsored content.

Mobile view:



Amazon mobile design is very clean and organized. It starts out with a message that includes the keyword used in the search, followed by the search result count, link to filters and the result products. Sorting and filtering options are included in another screen due to the variety of options.

Checkout (7/8)

Implementing a usable checkout process decreases abandonment rate and guarantees a solid conversion. However, the process is lengthy and requires too many information, especially from first-time users. We will not go into details of the process but rather look at it from a bird’s-eye view and how it looks like on web versus mobile design.

Web view:06-checkout-web107-checkout-web2

A common practice in design a checkout is to include the following:

  • Remove all elements that aren’t related to the checkout process like website header, that includes search bar, categories and any extra links.
  • Include a progress bar indicating the number of steps, current and completed steps.
  • Emphasize on the security of the process.
  • Provide support for the customers, in the form of live chat or help line.
  • Call to action buttons are the most prominent visual element.

In B&H checkout design, the desktop size can afford to include all the following practices in the same screen as well as order summary always present of the right side of the page.

Mobile view:



B&H mobile checkout disregards almost all the practices followed in the desktop design due to the limited space. However, it depends on how the process should flow smoothly where users can only focus on one task at a time and that is what they can currently see from the long one-page checkout.

Post-checkout & Account (8/8)

As important as the checkout process it, the follow up process is also crucial. If the follow up is frustrating, so will be the customer and will avoid any future transactions on the website. This includes creating a new account on the website as well as the page displayed after a successful checkout; the thank you page.

Web view:



B&H promotes their users to identify themselves before checking out. It provides different options including guest checkout and social media login. Following a successful checkout, user receives an invoice with their order details as well as the ability to track that order. It also promotes guest checkout to create an account by only providing a password.

Mobile view:


B&H mobile design is almost identical to the web design but accommodates to the small screen. This is due to the importance of every elements used in the web design.

Lessons Learned

The most obvious obstacle when designing for a mobile screen is the limited space available. This limitation drives designers to either compromise some content and accommodate to it. This can only be achieved by defining a hierarchy of importance to the content and which should be the most accessible in order to have a usable mobile experience. This indicates that each platform has its design needs and capacity which can be limiting but that doesn’t mean usability should be compromised.

A Better Way for Obtaining Best Sellers in Magento

Best Sellers, New Arrivals, and Promotions are three cornerstones of any ecommerce solution; they add great value for both customers and store owners.

Best sellers offer customers quick view over the products that other customers buy the most, which adds to the customer’s confidence when deciding to make a purchase and makes it easier for the customer to choose between alternatives.

The method of calculating best sellers is pretty straightforward; you count how many times has each product been sold and order the result by summed-up quantity ordered; then you’ve got yourself a best-sellers widget or products slider that should most probably be placed on the homepage.

In development mode, and on staging server as well, everything is working as you expected, until you move to production and the store owners decide to launch huge campaign that will drive thousands of visitors to the homepage; everything falls apart then, as each request makes Magento recalculate the best sellers and then load every product to show the product’s card.

Caching to the rescue, you tell yourself, and it helps relieve the stress off your database and your store comes back online. You could then make a change and try to refresh the cache while the visitors are hammering the homepage with requests looking for your store’s best selling products and that is exactly when you realize that even those split seconds of recreating the cache can become minutes of downtime as the requests keep hitting Magento while it is recreating the cache are all cache-miss that hammer the database directly until Magento gets it act together and starts serving content from the cache again.

Now let’s back off a moment, Magento has some powerful reports, one of which is, guess what, “Best Selling Products”! So why don’t we check how does Magento generate such report without bringing online stores to their knees, meanwhile, applying one of the most known software engineering principles in the process, which is DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) while we’re at it. Okay?!

Magento doesn’t generate this report on the fly or, to be specific, it doesn’t calculate best sellers on the fly; however, it makes use of it’s own cron jobs to aggregate best selling products every day and save them in a database table for later use. This allows Magento to directly hit this pre-calculated table of best sellers and just do the work of getting every product’s attributes, while sacrificing the ability to get fresh and up-to-date list of best sellers, which is not that crucial in most cases.

So let’s stand on the shoulders of giants and make use of that pre-calculated, automatically-aggregated table of best sellers we say, and instead of calculating the best selling products for every request, just query this table for the period you wish and then fetch the attributes you want to view for each product.

As a rule of thumb in Magento development, make sure to invest some time checking if the feature you want to develop/implement is already implemented in a way or another in Magento; this will save you so much time and effort on the long run and will also, most probably, give you a better idea for doing things. Have you encountered a similar problem while using Magento? Tell us what you did in the comments.