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Best Ecommerce Payment Gateways for Middle East Countries

In the past years, our teams had the privilege to work with a lot of clients in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, UAE, Lebanon, Kuwait and even Jordan.

We also accomplished many ecommerce or online shopping websites, such as the Jyia Restaurant in KSA, or Tortilla Arabia and Kababji (originally Lebanese) in UAE, and Tmreya (KSA). Many of our clients at start wondered how to integrate a payment gateway into a website and what are the steps? So in this article, I will briefly introduce what a payment gateway is, and some options you will have for your website, and the misconceptions out there. Hopefully by the end, you will see what the best ecommerce payment gateways for the Middle East are out there, and get a main picture of the online shopping requirements.

What is a Payment Gateway?

According to Investopedia, Payment Gateways are a means of authorizing credit cards or other form of electronic payments. They are here to help protect the sensitive payment information by encrypting the data they transmit to merchants and payment processors.

As in the illustration below, you can see the customer first initiates an order at the online store, then the payment gateway is contacted, confirmed and a response is sent back where the payment is processed. The payment is then settled through the bank and funds are transferred to the online store owner (merchant).

best ecommerce payment gateways for the Middle East

Your payment gateway should get and verify the customer billing information, verify the funds for the customer’s order, approve it then allow the store to issue the confirmation, and gets you (store owner) paid.

What do I have to consider for online payments?

Local/International

When you want to setup an online payment for your business website, you should first of all consider whether you want to sell locally or globally. Depending on this, you can choose an international payment gateway such as Stripe or PayPal, or a local one like HyperPay (available for 5 Middle East/North Africa countries initially).

Documentation/API Integration

All online payment gateways have API integration documentation, providing test account for developers to setup the payment system, and do testing before enabling the live account. API stands for Application Programming Interface, but it’s basically a median application between two different platforms. Integration of payment gateways requires skills and expertise of APIs.

Bank Account

Whichever online payment gateway you choose, you should sign up with it and check to see if your bank will accept this. Some banks don’t accept online payment gateways in general so when setting up your business bank account, make a few calls to make sure.

Type of Shopping

Make sure you understand the type of shopping you want in your business website so you can determine the best payment gateway for that. For example, will you have a regular approach? Like B2C? or will you have a multi-vendor website? Or wholesalers (B2B). So all this will determine the type of ecommerce and payment gateway you will need.

Transaction Fees

All payment gateways will ask for a fee for every transaction made, so consider this as the shipping/flat fees in your shopping and product/service pricing. Other type of fees you have consider is if you have deliveries, or if you want to withdraw funds from your bank account.

Payment Gateway Options

If you’re looking for the best ecommerce payment gateway for Middle East countries, take a look at some of the most popular options below:

  • Payfort: Payfort was launched in 2014 in UAE and operating in Saudi Arabia, Egypt. Comelite setup Payfort for Madwave GCC in 2016.
  • Hyperpay: we have setup HyperPay for Tmreya in December 2017. HyperPay is based in Jordan, with offices in KSA and UAE. It was founded in 2010 under the name Gate2play.
  • Paytabs: this one is famous in Saudi Arabia as well, and available for mobile payments too, including recurring, adaptive and alternative payments, and integration with SADAD. Comelite did Paytabs integration for the Marina app based in KSA in 2017.
  • Paypal: PayPal is one of the world’s largest online payment gateways, and supports over 200 countries, and 25 currencies. Payment integration has been done by Comelite teams in numerous projects.
  • Stripe: Stripe is also available globally, for 25 countries. Comelite implemented Stripe for the UR (Universal Restaurant) web and mobile application in 2018 (to be launched soon).
  • 2Checkout: this is another global payment platform with localized payment options but it is available in 87 currencies and 15 languages, with options for extra security as well.

Payment Gateway Misconceptions

One of the misconceptions I have seen in ecommerce projects is that clients think customer can pay directly through their credit card from their web page. Many payment gateways offer the option to pay through credit card (such as PayPal) but to pay directly through credit card will first of all be a breach of your security, then it won’t allow the processing explained above.

Another misconception is to mistaken payment gateways for bank accounts. Payment gateways are simply to facilitate the online payment process and are the middle processor between the merchant website and your bank account. There are other misconceptions you might want to read here.

Wrapping Up

So to close up, you need to consider a number of things for your payment gateway setup on your online store. You can do the preparations and just get in touch with us to help you realize your online business. However, feel free to reach out in case you need consultation from the start.

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8 Ways to Secure your Business Website

In this article we will be discussing the importance of securing your website, to protect it from hackers and cyber criminals. First we will discuss why you might be prone to a cyberattack, why you need to be secure, and then we will discuss the methods to prevent and secure your business website.

Reasons to attack

The main purposes that cyber criminals might attack your website can vary but it might be just to prove their power and your business’s weakness. If your business website has valuable information or monetary value, such as an online shop, they might want to gain power over it to steal information or win your sales for themselves. If your brand has enemies, beware, maybe they are trying to get back to you for revenge. Whatever the reason, you should try to find the holes in your brand and first of all secure your business website.

Why you need Security

When your website is hacked, the first thing you will lose is a reputation and your business revenue. If you have user information in your website, your customers will lose trust in you, as hackers can steal their information too. Also, your domain might become blacklisted, which means it will take a lot of time and energy to clean up. So just how you might protect your physical business office, with CCTV and other types of theft protection, you should act for securing your business website too.

How to Secure

1-      Web Hosting

One of the most important ways to secure your website is to have it based in a secure hosting. In case of WordPress CMSs, we recommend using a WP-Managed hosting like Siteground. For a normal business website, the GrowBig plan is a great place to start. It includes automatic WordPress core updates and plugin updates. Also, the PHP server and MySQL database is also always up-to-date. This plan also offers security scans, as explained in point 7 of the article. Not using a secure hosting is like placing your wallet on the sidewalk for passer-by’s to pick up if they need it. The hosting service provider acts as the main container and security wall of where your website is placed. So no further comments, think twice when you want to purchase your business hosting.

2-      Admin Area

Nowadays technology has advanced so much that you can tell the platform of a website by just installing a plugin like Wappalyzer. So if anyone can tell your website technology through such plugins or through the structure of your website URL, then they can access the backend URL as well. Hackers will know the backend URL of a Joomla website is /administrator as a default, or a WP website will be /wp-admin, or for a Drupal 8 is /user/login. In order to secure your business website, you can change your backend admin area URL to another phrase that cybercriminals can’t guess easily. To take extra measures, you can disable directory and file browsing through your .htaccess file as well.

3-      Passwords

Careful what kind of passwords you use for your backend admin. In order to truly secure your business website, you should use passwords with over 8 characters, and usage of both small and capital letters, and numbers and symbols all combined. You can use online password generators like this one or this one to create strong passwords. Also, note to not use the default “admin” as your username.

4-      Login Attempts

Limit the login attempts of your website backend so if cybercriminals are using the brute force method, they won’t be able to infiltrate. Brute force attacks are a trial and error method to find your username/password by applications used to decode your encrypted data. You can always limit login attempts with plugins like Login LockDown for WP.

5-      Backups

If you have a great hosting like Siteground, as I mentioned in the first point, it will get automatic backups for you and preserve them for up to 30 days. You can always get manual backups from your website using backup plugins like Duplicator or WP-DB-Backup for WordPress CMS. Remember to store your backups in 2 locations, one on the cloud and one locally to reduce any risks.

6-      Use SSL

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. As a default, a web browser uses HTTP to communicate to a web server and show you the information of a website. Now if you are entering data in a form, such as an online shop, or any other kind of information such as logins, contact info, this information is at risk. So, SSL provides a secure channel between these two devices and creates an encrypted protocol on this communication. HTTP on its own will be insecure and subject to eavesdropping attacks as the data being transferred will be plain text between the two endpoints. But SSL secures the information by encrypting it and securing it from interception. You can tell if a website is using SSL if there is HTTPS in the URL, instead of HTTP. Also you will see a padlock on the address bar.

7-      Scanners

If you’re using a WP website or another CMS, there are security scanner plugins, such as the Sucuri Security Scanner which belongs to a global security firm, Sucuri Inc. with specialization in WP Security. This plugin will offer security activity auditing, file integrity monitoring, remote malware scanning, blacklist monitoring, effective security hardening, and much more.

8-      Extra measures with WAF

WAF stands for Web Application Firewall (WAF) which is setting up a firewall to control traffic before the malicious traffic hits your website. A WAF will monitor, filter and block data packets that can cause harm to your website. It can be network-based, host-based or cloud based. Sucuri has a WAF/IPS plan offered here, which can be a layer of extra security on your website, protecting you from evolving threats, DDoS attacks, and other forms of hacking.

Let’s Recap

I hope this article gives you a scope of what you need to do to secure your website. In case you have a WP website, this article is also a great reference to read more. Let us know in case you have any questions or need to secure your business website.

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Case Study: Desert Grove Database MS

A Start

One of our latest work, Desert Grove database management system, based in UAE, was first a start-up idea back in September 2016. The main founder, Mr. Michel Kalai came to our teams, as we had done a few projects with him before. Comelite teams and Project Department worked closely with Mr. Kalai to analyse, guide and prepare the foundations of Desert Grove database management system.

At the start, the client initially needed something flexible, with the ability to build on to it, and at the same time, displaying uniqueness and elegance. As explained in the intro, the Desert Grove story began with a simple idea: enable anyone to create the perfect environment to enrich one’s personal life to the fullest.

As most start-up ideas, our teams combined with the client, had to do define goals, targets, analyse the flows and much more. Finally, after 3 months of planning, going back and forth, the plan was ready.

Getting the Wheels Rolling

The Desert Grove application was based on Laravel, a PHP framework popular for speedy development, simple syntax pattern, database flexibilities and secure mechanisms. Providing a smooth interface for the custom development, Comelite teams took advantage to base the Desert Grove application on this MVC platform, with its function-rich libraries.

Desert Grove Case Study1

Needless to mention, the Comelite teams also prepared the main company logo with authentic design, and the divisions logos, business cards and letterheads.

Get to Know the Purpose

Desert Grove consists of 4 main divisions, Spas and Pool Construction, Landscaping, Design & Consulting, and Retail. Customers coming to the web application have the easy experience of choosing from swim spas, movable floors, marina pools and other services.

Desert Grove Case Study2

Desert Grove Case Study3

The application includes many forms allowing the user to custom apply for their exact request. This might include pool repairs and maintenance, cleaning, or spas and movable floors to the exact dimensions you will need.

The forms, the blogs page, the newsletter as well as all the website pages have been integrated with Hubspot Marketing/Sales platform enabling the company to track and measure visits and interactions from potential clients, in order to improve conversion to sales.

Technical Challenges and Backend

Desert Grove Case Study4The project had a lot of challenging curves, in which each page had its own layout so we had to use a unique system to accommodate the different themes and variables of each page. First we had an HTML/CSS design for each page, but later decided to develop the project on October CMS, based on Laraval. October CMS would allow us this flexibility to give a custom layout per page, as well as to allow the client to make edits in the backend area. Our teams also developed a custom October CMS module for the customer area and project management, allowing the client to create customer accounts, update the project status and more.

The language module was also modified to accommodate the application, as it was a bilingual application.

End Note

It was a pleasure to work with Mr. Kalai on this long-term project and Comelite teams wish the best of luck for the Desert Grove business, and if you need a pool or spa, or services in this industry, make sure to pay a visit to this website!

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9 Steps to Jump Start your Idea

See How You Can Jump Start Your Idea

In our line of work, we have met with many creative people, seeking to jump start their idea. In the world of business, everyone strives to find a unique way of creating a new business line, or maybe a new trend, or any sort of way to reach out to a new market and hit the gold mine. So how can you jump start your idea? Take a look at a few tips below.

1.      Define your goal and target audience

The first thing you need to ask yourself is what is your main purpose and goal for your idea? What makes you different from others before you? Once you define that, you need to detail out your target audience, such as their age group, gender, business sector or walk of life, and most importantly, the region, whether it will be local or global?

2.      Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm

The best way to get everything down to jump start your idea, is to brainstorm all you have. Write it anywhere you are comfortable with, either an excel sheet, google sheet, a google keep note, a physical notebook, anything that will help you expand and build on.

3.      Research similar competitors

Finding people or businesses with similar ideas will help you find your competitors, and also differentiate your idea from others. You can also summarize the advantages and disadvantages of your competitors and build on to them to make your idea better.

4.      Plan out priorities and phases

One of the best way to jump start your idea is to start phasing it out and determining what is the most important. Prioritize your ideas and features. Try to simplify it and start simple and flexible. If you start with a big step for the future, you will miss out on the present. So even a small calculated step will take you move forward.

jump start your idea

5.      Write down all the flows

This part might be hard for you as the idea founder, so you can always hire a tech team to do it for you. But the main point to jump start your idea is to write down every single flow. For example, say I am a founder of an online marketplace for selling services. I have to start writing the flow of where the users first login/signup, to where they pick their role, to where they define their services as a service provider or search for services as a service buyer and so on. It might be 10 flows; it might be 50 or even more. What’s important is that you get it all documented. Think of all the conditions, all the obstacles, and even the very straight forward flows.

jump start your idea

6.      Wireframes, Screens, Pages

When you reach this step, then you have moved forward a giant leap to jump start your idea. Creating wireframes, screens, pages is the step after your flow documentation. A great tool for creating this phase is Draw.io, or others like Balsamiq or JustinMind. Once the wireframes are in place, you can use tools like Invision App to show the flow.

7.      Hosting, Storage

According to your idea and business size, you should think about the method of hosting and storage. For example, will you need a cloud plan? A shared plan? Maybe a dedicated server or a managed VPS will be your solution. In this article you can see different types of hosting explained.

8.      Final Document

Somewhere between steps 4-6, you should start preparing a Requirement Analysis Document, or your documented and technical business plan. Without this documented plan, you won’t be able to jump start your idea. This document should include a clear view of what you will deliver, the exact screens/pages, features/functions, and user scenarios. This document should be so clear that will be the guide and hard copy of the path to take for the development team.

9.      Timing & Testing

Remember to set a timing for your start and go live. You need to consider planning, design, development, and of course quality assurance testing. Think of how to keep it maintained after go live, and how you will link the next phases to your new idea.

End Note

I hope you got a brief idea on how to jump start your idea. In our upcoming project Universal Restaurant, which will go live this month, we’ll later elaborate on the steps taken and how it went live.

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Authentic Web Design: Tmreya

On the final months of 2017, I had the privilege to work with the Tmreya company, main HQ based in KSA. We developed their website, and now developing the app (to be done by next month). Those of you who have been in the Middle East might have heard of it, but the brand itself is authentic and elegant, so we thought of implementing the same authenticity for their website. Now, in this article, I wanted to point out some features of the website and how it’s a great sample for authentic web design.

Definite Brand

One of the things that adds authenticity to Tmreya, is that it has a well-defined brand. A brand doesn’t mean just a logo, it usually consists of an Identity Guideline, including the brands main color codes, typefaces, and a brief explanation of the brands purpose and representation. There are some great examples here if you want to see more. It will include information about the brand proportions, color policy, background, incorrect versions, and other imagery or art graphics. All this info will add value to an authentic web design for our teams.

authentic web design

Beautiful Media used in Authentic Web Design

When you have a product or service, you should be able to show it off. Tmreya does a great of job of doing this. I must confess, when I first saw their YouTube channel I went searching for chocolate! So weather if it’s video or photos, you should know the exact purpose of it and show it off just the right way. For example, in Tmreya Product pages, the photos are simple HQ photos of each product shown all alone on a white background (with great lighting), one of the best practices of ecommerce and product show cases. I must say, without the beautiful photography contributing to authentic web design, the website won’t have half the value it has now.

authentic web design

Ecommerce Features

One thing that makes this website dynamic and fun to get back to, is the ability to order online. The payment systems implemented is COD, in case the customer wants to pay on delivery, as well as HyperPay and Sadad, two very popular payment gateways in the KSA.

As Tmreya has several branches all over KSA alone, our teams also implemented a custom system in the delivery options, meaning that orders will require you to provide your location and nearest branch, thus sending notifications to that branch upon that order. This speeds up their customer service, as well as allows them to control sales as per location as well.

If you make an order, you will also notice that shipping rates, taxes and minimum order rates are configured through the Woocommerce platform, allowing the website owner to make maximum usage of the website features.

Using the reports in the system, they can monitor sales per dates, product count of purchases, refunds, number of orders and more.

Bilingual

This stylish website is also fully bilingual, in which in the Arabic version, it is using the exact typeface of its identity guidelines, The Sans. It’s fully RTL interface can be seen here.

authentic web design

Mobile App

Comelite teams are working to finalize the Tmreya app as well, which will be released next month, using APIs to connect to the current website and reflect it in the app, providing a compact view and mechanism for Tmreya clients to make their chocolate product orders.

Social Media

Tmreya has is also renown for beautiful and mouth-watering imagery in their social media platforms, such Instagram and Twitter, which our teams used to show a feed of it in the footer of the website as well, not to mention one of their latest videos, as they constantly have updated appetising videos.

End Note

Up to now, it has been a pleasure to work on such an authentic web design for Tmreya. We are pleased to welcome all our clients to use it as a sample and even learn from the business methods to improve their brand. It will be an honor to introduce their app once that is released as well.

Let us know in case you need help to improve your brand or want an authentic web design.

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AI Business Benefits: How does it fit you?

In my last article, we learned what AI is simple terms can be. Also, I pointed out to how it is used in our everyday lives and the difference between narrow and general AI. Now we want to see how it can benefit our business world and the AI business benefits.

AI Business Benefits in the Workplace

As we advanced in the tech era, you are used to some things you might see every day that AI is implemented within. However, not many recognize the AI business benefits so I have first pointed out some main advantages:

  • Virtual Assistance
  • Predict insights from business data
  • Automation of repetitive work
  • Enhancement of productivity, more focus on the real work
  • Fraud detecting
  • Notifications and Scheduling
  • Marketing assistance
  • Avoidance of human errors

Virtual Assistance

One of the great AI business benefits is using it as a virtual assistance. This is currently used in the Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana. The benefit of a VA is that you can get a lot of the work done that you might previously have needed a live person for, so you can reduce costs in the payroll and also use the energy of a live employee more efficiently. You can use VAs for other office work like dictation, ordering tasks, calendars and events, to do lists and more.

Prediction Based on Data

One of the main concerns in business today is how we are using all the gathered data in our work. Many businesses seek to hire data scientists and growth hackers to analyse all the information and collected data. AI can help tremendously by processing billions of data in a matter of minutes. For example, it can be used to analyse lead generation reports, sales reports, procurement reports and more. With the help of machine learning and deep learning, it can continuously advance as well. AI uses data as raw material fed into it, to process information and provide valuable summaries, analytics and insights.

AI Business Benefits in Automation

Another significant AI business benefit is how we can use it in automation tasks. For example, we can use it lead flow tasks, in notification automation, in scheduling and much more. As written in this article, some of your daily tasks can be automated, like scheduling invites, managing emails for replies/delete/reviews, booking flights, ordering and help us perform better. For example, in Sales, automation can be done by follow up emails, contact updates, and lead updates.

Fraud Detection

Most business need to secure their information as cyber-attacks rise. Many have been target of cyber-attacks due to flaws or wholes in their business security. Another benefit of AI for business is how it can detect fraud in your business network. Using deep learning techniques, check of time series/sequence, ability to identify networks, check payment transactions and more, AI will help to secure your business.

Marketing Assistance

One of the best samples of AI is how it used as a marketing tool. For example, it can be used as a service chatbot, social media automation like IFTTT or Buffer, used for making checks and balances, and scoring leads, adapting the customer journey, advertising, and more.

Increase in Productivity, Reduction of Errors

The best AI benefit in business though is how it can enhance employee productivity so they can focus on high-value work, instead of tedious repetitive work or administrative work that can be handled by machines. AI VAs or applications don’t get tired, don’t make mistakes, can work without breaks and without payroll. On the bright side, employees in companies can focus on the real value of their work, how to improve customer service, and are the best friends of the HR department.

Wrapping Up

So, to wrap up, you can see some of the AI business benefits and how they can be applied in your business. Of course, the advantages are endless and this article is just a short briefing to get you familiar and open your mind on the possibilities. In the next article, I will explain our AI solution and how you can apply it.

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AI in Simple Terms

Last year, I read in many articles that AI was part of the emerging technologies in the years to come, and interestingly enough, this year, we were witness to a lot of progress in this field. As this is an immense field and I won’t be able to expand it fully, I thought it might be good to explain the fundamentals of AI in simple terms for our readers, and in the later articles, how it will benefit your business and our solution for it.  These days AI has become an ordinary term and used almost everywhere, from Google products, to social media platforms like Facebook, to apps in your smartphone and devices in your home.

So what is AI in simple terms?

AI in very simple terms is the ability of computers to act like humans, as defined in Tech Terms. As in this Salesforce article, it means that non-human entities have human-level intelligence and perform tasks intelligently. There are two general AI versions, the “narrow” or “weak” AI, like the ones you usually deal with such as smart search engines and apps, or the computer chess games you play with, or even speech and image recognition. Narrow AI works within a specific scope, so even though it is referred to as “weak” AI, it does its job pretty well. Actually most of AI you see today is weak/narrow AI and it automates a human activity so it serves us well.

The other type of AI is called “general” AI, which can operate independently of human beings. Up to now you would see general AI in sci-fi movies, but thanks to development in technology and use of Machine Learning, this has become reality now. When we talk of Narrow AI, we’re talking of AI that can’t learn new things or learn from experience. In General AI though, Machine Learning is used so the AI can “enhance” and “learn” and progress. You can read this to learn more of how AI and Machine Learning work.

Example of AI around us

Now that we learned of AI in simple terms, let’s see how is AI used around us. Here are a few examples:

Purchase Predictions: if you have shopped online, you probably have experienced the online platform predicting and suggesting products to you. Based on your favourites, or previous purchases, or selection, most ecommerce platforms like Amazon have AI build within working on predictive analytics algorithms.

Marketing Automation: in your CRM or marketing software, you will experience a lot of automated tasks and predictions and reports based on your data. In Salesforce, Einstein is taking the lead in facilitating all processes in a business.

Online Support: have you seen a chat box in service websites, providing online support? Most chat boxes these days have a chatbot based on AI like our Universal Chat. This will help free resources and save time by programming the most common questions people have when they come to your website.

Personal Assistants: anyone using a smartphone can see Siri, Google Now, Cortana as an intelligent digital personal assistant, and helping you find information with just your voice. You can ask for the nearest restaurant, ask for task reminders, schedule important appointments or just send other commands to your phone.

Music and Movies: ever wondered how Youtube provides you relevant videos of the one you just watched? This is also using AI to “guess” what you will like based on your previous judgements and likes/dislikes. A lot of platforms these days use AI to learn your taste and interest.

Social Media: one of my favourite AI examples is how Pinterest uses AI to learn your interests and get you back on their website. But Pinterest isn’t the only social media platform using AI. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn also are using AI algorithms to learn about you and “sell” customized services for you.

Computer Games: if you have played chess or any other computer games with a Computer opponent, that is using AI as well. It started with video games and Nintendo but now it has reached a higher peak.

Smart Cars: smart cars and self-driving cars are a perfect example of AI, such as Tesla’s autopilot and maybe in the future you will no longer need a driver’s license because self-driving cars will be much safer than humans!

These are just a few but you can find more by just googling or reading online.

Ending Word

So up to here, we learned the basics of AI in simple terms. We learned of narrow and general AI, and samples of AI in our everyday lives. In our next articles, we’ll learn of the benefits of AI in business and how it’s applied.