x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

LivingSocial to launch online store in US after UAE success

Living Social has launched an online e-commerce store in the United States, having first successfully trialled it across the UAE last year.

The LivingSocial offices in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photo
The LivingSocial offices in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photo

LivingSocial has launched an online e-commerce store in the United States having successfully trialled the concept across the UAE last year.

The LivingSocial Shop will sell, at discounted prices, an eclectic mix of products that will usually incorporate a specific theme, such as beachwear or back-to-school merchandise.

The concept was trialled and soft-launched in the Emirates over the past 10 months. It is a subtle move away from the traditional model of group-buying websites offering discounted services and experiences on a daily-deal basis to people buying together.

"The US launched very recently and we were the first market to do it," said Russ Morgan, the marketing manager for the Middle East at LivingSocial.

"Generally, LivingSocial members are fairly affluent, they are educated, they have the resources and desire to explore new things and they also have a need to explore new products."

E-commerce is becoming increasingly competitive in the Middle East as daily-deals websites go head to head with other online retailers such as Souq.com, EmiratesAvenue.com and IC4UAE.com, an online store from Carrefour.

Online shoppers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt spent US$1.01bn (Dh3.71bn) on internet retail sites last year and are expected to more than double that to $2.09bn by 2016, according to the research firm Euromonitor International.

LivingSocial joins Groupon in branching out to offer products to email subscribers after the bigger American company began offering Groupon Goods last year, delivering products to customers' doors.

In the UAE, the daily-deals websites were quick to offer products, such as spas, restaurants and hotel deals, at a discount rather than just services.

Like LivingSocial Middle East, Cobone and Groupon Middle East began offering products last year as the websites aim to become broader e-commerce websites.

"You do not necessarily have to go to the store to look at these products because we are sending out regular emails to customers," said Mr Morgan.

LivingSocial Middle East tries to offer discounted products that fit into one of three categories; leading brands; luxury and jewellery; and "completely different" goods.

Currently, the company is selling a range of branded fragrances, Dolce & Gabbana jewellery and an abdominal belt designed to turn fat into muscle.

"[The approach] is similar to how our deal platform works and we are continually adding variety," said Mr Morgan.

Cobone, which has been selling products for about a year, has gone a step further and is now categorising different goods on its site. It includes sections such as fashion, electronics, mall and "mum and kids".

"Our goal is to be one of the biggest e-commerce models in the region," said Paul Kenny, the chief executive of Cobone.

"The premise is that you will get the best price on Cobone and we are trying to increase the product categories on the site."

rjones@thenational.ae