It's evolving - and you need to keep up!
11 Jan 2019
As the line between the real and digital world continues to disappear, its imperative for businesses to build their presence online to meet the changing behavior, spending patterns and needs of the affluent customer. Interest and willingness to purchase products and services online is only increasing; UAE retailers must cater to online and offline needs, whilst simultaneously offering a seamless service to their customers.
With a huge mall culture and traditional social opportunities involving markets and stores, Dubai remains an attractive shopping destination for big spenders from all over the globe. However, investing in a digital presence for your business in this city is a must. The needs of consumers continues to evolve, and online offerings are now just as important as offline.
With high levels of disposable income, highly-developed transport and logistics infrastructures, and with more than 90% of the population having access to the internet, it’s not hard to see why the UAE would be a perfect fit for ecommerce. What’s more, with such a young population, residents are even more open to the concept of online shopping. But the Gulf region is very dissimilar to US and European online markets, where major players like Amazon, Walmart and Ebay dominate online spheres. In fact, UAE retailers seem to have a different strategy, which seems to be working well for them.
Big players in the UAE, true to the nature of the country, are pushing for quality rather than quantity. Instead of trying to create and dominate “online marketplaces”, where everything from fashion to groceries are sold, such as Souk/Amazon, large UAE retailers are scaling their online approach to provide concise and customised offerings for suited customers. Within the market, there are many dynamic forces at play, and to become truly successful, it’s important to understand your customers’ preferences and requirements.
The underpinning structure is to aim to create a dynamic retail landscape, with personalised services, a demand for integrated community and retail spaces and incorporation of new technology such as IoT, AI and AR. Lulu Group International and Majid Al Futtaim Holding, for example, have both invested in “alternate services”, in an attempt to eradicate the distinction between online and offline retail spaces. Both aim to provide integrated “omnichannel offerings”, with seamless service in-store, on the website and even upon delivery.
It’s always important to consider your purchaser: the hyper-connected customer in the UAE, always on the lookout for new purchases. Firstly, to attract such customers, marketing your services and products correctly is imperative. One exciting and sure-fire way to do this in the UAE is to consider social media influencers. Key influencers have millions of followers online, opening your potential market to the masses. The young population in the region have a huge appetite for social media consumption, and hold such influencers in high regards. While they may not be cheap, it’s difficult to ignore the powerful impact social media influencers have on ecommerce.
Second, transparency is key. Your customer must feel at ease, comfortable, and value the shopping experience they have with you. There shouldn’t be any hidden costs, cheeky terms and conditions, or dodgy pictures on the website. The journey from searching for a wanted product or mere browsing, to check-out, order tracking and quick delivery, should be as seamless and enjoyable as possible. Making sure you have the correct items in stock, or a process for notifying the customer when they become available is a must. Otherwise, they could easily take their business elsewhere.
When ecommerce in the region first kicked off, UAE customers were fearful of fraudulent activity on their credit cards; for many, this still stands, so offering cash on delivery is a must for many buyers. As the final step in a seamless customer journey, providing an easy way to return unwanted goods is also needed to build a successful ecommerce business in the UAE. Catering to customer needs, putting them first and having a “no questions asked” policy will definitely earn you the brownie points you need to stand out from the crowd.
The importance of customer centrality is key. We are now experiencing a “Golden Age of the Consumer”, where an increasingly empowered shopper is paired with new, disruptive technologies, causing a fundamental shift in the retail landscape.
Understanding the customer, adopting new game-changing technologies and constantly redefining your future goals is a must in the ecommerce arena. Are you prepared?