The customer is always first

When Amazon bought Souq

You can’t step into an elevator anywhere in Dubai, or the Middle East, anymore without overhearing someone’s thoughts on Amazon buying Souq.com. Some speculate that Emaar Malls got there too late, some posit that Amazon was the best acquirer all along, a slew wonder if the valuation was fair, and what it even was in the end, and others discuss the less-than-ideal track record of M&A in general.

The historic acquisition makes Souq one of the handful of tech companies to have achieved an exit, preceded namely by Maktoob to Yahoo! in 2009 and Talabat to Rocket Internet in 2015, so there’s surely a lot to be said. The significance of this industry milestone in MENA has been discussed at length, and notably by Dany Farha and Amir Farha, partners and my colleagues at BECO.

As a communications professional first and foremost, my immediate reaction is to ignore the noise, and focus on what Souq themselves are saying. What I find is handful of congratulatory tweets and responses, a press release announcing the acquisition and what can only be described as a Souq-centric blog post from the company’s founder. It talks of the company’s ability to scale and take advantage of Amazon’s tech, it talks of the significance of this acquisition for the region and even references the company’s customers. However what I find completely lacking is the direct communication with the customers themselves — after all, they are what contributed to the value and subsequent sale.

Hopeful, I look through my emails daily in search of something that says “we’re thinking of you.” I scan my spam folders to make sure I don’t miss it, but I find nothing.

Questions run through my head (as a customer whose data is saved on Souq’s servers, and as a customer who has trusted Souq so far) and I wonder why no one from Souq has taken the time to address them, and get in touch.

Will Souq share my data with Amazon? If so, does it mean the US government might have access to my info? What about my credit card information? My saved addresses? My email? My shopping history? My search history?! Will this give me access to the Amazon marketplace? How will my shipping options be affected? Will it get cheaper, or more expensive? What will happen to the Souq sellers I shop with? Will they be charged additional fees? Will I be charged additional fees? How much is this acquisition going to cost me, as a customer?

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. With few examples to reference, customers are left in the dark; seemingly neglected for all practical purposes. And while I am sure many of the questions I and others may have do not have answers yet, I would still love to be reassured that they are on the company’s agenda, and that the impact the acquisition will have on me is important to Souq.

I find myself composing the email I would have wanted to receive…

Dear customer,

This is an exciting day for all of us at Souq, but more importantly, an exciting day for you! Amazon offering to buy us — and us agreeing to be bought — would have only been possible with your support, your decision to shop with us, and your loyalty. It is also a decision we made with each one of our customers in mind. To bring you better prices, more variety of products, improved delivery times and better customer service, we needed to scale — and fast! With Amazon, we’re able to bring you all of that.

We know you may have a lot of questions right now about how this will affect your account with us and what this may mean for pricing, delivery times and the privacy of your data. Over the coming weeks, my team and I will be sharing updates with you on these topics to clarify what this change means to you.

As CEO of Souq, it is my duty to make sure you are served by Souq in the best possible way. So today I have one request of you: If you have any questions, please email me. While I won’t be able to personally respond to all emails, I promise to read each and every one and make sure that your questions are addressed in our subsequent communications.

If we don’t say it enough, we are saying it once more now: Thank you, from the very bottom of our hearts. We truly could not have done it without you.

Best,

Founder and CEO

Souq — if you want my draft, it’s all yours.

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