The internet is performing an ever-growing role in marketing and brand communication for some of the UAE's largest companies, a new survey has shown.
The websites of three major brands – Emirates airline, etisalat and Emaar – had been visited by more than two-thirds of those quizzed.
Emirates led the way, with almost 93 per cent of those surveyed saying they visited and used the carrier's site.
Al Jazeera trailed behind with only 46 per cent having logged on to its website.
This result of the online survey conducted on the AME Info business news website underscores the massive ongoing global advertising and sponsorship campaigns that the Dubai-based airline has undertaken to ensure that the brand remains at the forefront of public awareness.
The Emirates site came top in the performance and satisfaction category, with 93.1 per cent of those that had used it saying it met their expectations of an international brand in the digital environment and only six per cent saying that it did not. Luxury hospitality company Jumeirah, Etihad Airways and property developer Emaar also scored highly, receiving 79.7 per cent, 76 per cent and 71.3 per cent approval ratings, respectively.
Nakheel, the developer behind the Palm and The World offshore projects, narrowly came fifth with a 69.3 per cent approval rating.
The survey highlights the need for regional organisations to enhance their internet services and accessibility in order to be placed on a par with global standards.
"We phrased the question specifically to have the local websites compared to expectations of international brands because that is exactly where these brands exist in the borderless digital environment," says Dan Healy, CEO of market research company Real Opinions, which undertook the survey.
"Organisations should not be content with just being better than their main competitor in this region, they should look at the bigger picture should they truly wish to be recognised as an international brand in this evolving environment."
The remaining three companies featured in the survey all failed to hit two-thirds user approval. Etisalat, which has expanded into new global markets across the region in recent years, came top of the final three with 62.2 per cent, while Al Jazeera managed 60.9 per cent. Telecoms operator du received 50.1 per cent.
The figures take into account averages derived from respondents who had actively visited the websites.
When questioned about what aspects of a business website were most crucial, five categories of attributes were marked by more than 80 per cent of respondents as "very important". These were ease of navigation, product information, website and transaction security, up-to-date information and reliability of delivery. Only half of those polled felt that the overall design and look were "very important", while only 34 per cent placed the same value on feedback from other customers.
With an increasing number of customers having first contact with companies over the internet, the survey highlights the need for regional brands of all sizes to actively pursue digital best practices.
"The internet is unique as users are literally leaning forward to participate in the medium. The most important element website designers need to ensure is to provide information visitors are looking for and to help them find it easily. It's all about usability," said Healy.
"Research has shown there is a window of literally seconds before visitors leave your site if they can't find what they want. As well as building a reputation for accessibility, security and reliability, companies must ensure that their services have been well enough marketed to ensure that customers are aware of them as a first port of call."