In the post-pandemic landscape of today, the e-commerce sector has forever changed. Within the UAE and MENA region, this industry has seen exponential growth across the board, with new trends and consumer habits having taken root.
With that in mind, we are seeing an influx of both new and old companies entering this space to ride this rising wave, as electronic commerce establishes itself as a staple of modern Arab life.
There is perhaps no better entity to support these companies than Dubai CommerCity, the only free zone in the region that specialises in supporting e-commerce trade. The Dubai CommerCity is strategically located in the middle of the regional trade route in Umm Ramool, beside Dubai International Airport, to enable efficient and timely fulfilment services to its members.
Services and facilities offered
Today, Dubai CommerCity is open to companies engaging in a selection of over 1500 business activities, and offers six different business licences. Moreover, the free zone’s facilities are divided into three main components that are still in development:
Business Cluster: 12 office buildings totalling 240,000sqm of built-up land. 3 buildings completed as of this writing.
Logistics Cluster: Dedicated warehouse storage space of different sizes to suit e-commerce businesses and a shared multi-client warehouse operated by Dubai CommerCity partners with a pay-as-you-go pricing model. The cluster offers end-to-end warehousing services. Social Cluster (for use starting end of September): Home to a variety of diverse food halls, cafés, restaurants, art galleries and open spaces. It also offers display centres for businesses to showcase their products to the general public and multi-purpose halls that can be utilised for conferences, art displays or fashion shows.
In addition to the usual benefits you can expect from any free zone, such as waived and reduced taxes, 100% foreign ownership, and attractive business set-up packages, Dubai CommerCity’s specialised services and facilities make it the ideal support entity for any e-commerce business. Dubai CommerCity is a one-stop shop for any e-commerce venture, as it supports registrants with building their online portal, incorporating payment gateways, managing logistics down to last-mile delivery, handling return items, creating content, and more— resulting in a comprehensive support ecosystem offering any potential service or solution an e-commerce business could possibly need.
“By setting up in Dubai CommerCity, [SMEs and startups] can focus on their core business, rather than scanning the market and searching for companies and entities that can fulfil bits and pieces of their [operating model],” Rashed Abdulkarim Al Mulla, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at Dubai CommerCity, explained in an interview with the Abu Dhabi SME Hub. “They can do everything from one spot here in Dubai CommerCity.”
You can learn more about setting up at Dubai CommerCity here.
Rashed Abdulkarim Al Mulla, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at Dubai CommerCity
Beyond just e-commerce
Given the expanding scope of online commerce and the digital customer experience, this month, Dubai CommerCity announced that it would evolve its focus and brand identity to highlight and support the more expansive digital commerce industry.
Al Mulla explained that this was because the sector has evolved beyond simply e-commerce, but now also involves innovative technologies like artificial intelligence, AR, VR, and the metaverse, which are shaping the modern digital consumer experience. With these technologies in place, online commerce will occur beyond simple online marketplaces like Amazon or eBay, but in metaverse malls and stores, within blockchain games, and beyond.
“The way I see it, the line between the physical commerce side of things and digital commerce side of things is becoming intertwined,” said Al Mulla. “The vision is for this to be a seamless experience, so you’re shifting from traditional to digital, but without really noticing it. So [this shift] becomes very fluid, very dynamic, and the consumer’s experience becomes much richer.”
Establishing the UAE as the regional hub for digital commerce
In recent years, the UAE has already made great strides in establishing itself as a regional hub for digital commerce, with companies like DHL Global Forwarding, Aramex, and noon setting up distribution and fulfilment centres in the country to facilitate trade across the GCC and the Middle East.
Looking back five years ago, Al Mulla noted that nearly 60-70% of e-commerce orders in the country were fulfilled cross-border. Today, Dubai CommerCity’s goal is to transition these transactions to occur domestically, in line with the UAE’s Digital Economy Strategy, which aims to double the contribution of the digital economy to the GDP from 9.7% to 19.4% within the next ten years.
Sector challenges and opportunities
According to Al Mulla, the main challenges that face businesses looking to register at Dubai CommerCity revolve mostly around understanding laws and regulations, the ins and outs of running an e-commerce business, and customs taxation. Fortunately, the free zone’s services and facilities were created with these common problems in mind, so businesses can find the help they need to “hit the ground running.”
As for new opportunities, he believes that the new technologies that rose in prominence during the pandemic, like AR, VR, wearable technology, haptics, and the metaverse, will offer the greatest window for innovation and success.
You can find more information about setting up at Dubai CommerCity here.