Visitors check out payment solutions at the HyperPay stall during Seamless exhibition at Dubai World Trade Centre on Sunday. - Photo by Neeraj Murali
As consumers get increasingly comfortable with shopping online for various goods and services, the demand for online retail in the UAE, and the region, will only continue to grow, experts at Seamless Middle East 2018.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, Stephane Paraiso, MD of Azur Digital, said that the focus has shifted away from whether it is safe to shop online, to shoppers debating on the integrity of the vendor and the omni-channel experience that is offered.
"Online payments are nothing new," he said. "It was a normal process that started with paying for your airline ticket, or booking a hotel stay online. From there, it has evolved to people shopping for both goods and services on portals such as Souq.com. It is not a question about whether or not it is safe to shop and pay online anymore, but rather a question of how much you trust the vendor. With more and more retailers now posting their goods and services on their websites, there is much less of a fear of the grey market."
However, he noted that despite high mobile and Internet penetration rates, several brick and mortar retailers in the region have either neglected e-commerce, or were slow on adapting it in their plans.
"Now, with Amazon being the game changer that is entering the market, they are more worried about losing ground," he revealed. "It is very difficult to compete with a merchant that comes up to your consumers and says that they have everything. Even for vendors that have an online store, but don't show their full range of products online, this is a concern, because when shoppers don't see a product online, they assume that the merchant does not have it. Retailers need to realise that shoppers today do their research before buying a product; this means that they go online to find if a vendor has what they are looking for."
While cash might still be king for many shoppers, companies are taking note of how consumers are increasingly enjoying the benefit of cashless transactions. Towards that end, Mint Middle East (MME) on Sunday signed licensing agreements with Interac Corp, that will help MME to deliver a secure and cost-effective contactless point-of-sale solution in the UAE for domestic debit transactions, as well as offer a broad range of mobile payment solutions.
Abdulrazzaq Al Abdullah, chairman and CEO of Mint Middle East, said that the company's goal is to create a cashless environment by minimising cash-based transactions. This will also support the UAE government's initiative to achieve financial inclusion, and provide the benefits of e-government to citizens, he said. MME will also add to its payment solution, a fully unified omni-channel with instore and e-commerce solution, for all under banked and high-end retailers to give a unique experience in store, online and mobile for both merchants and consumers. The infrastructure is built on a cloud base to expand its services to the global market.
When interacting with consumers today, Diego Abba, CEO of Italist Inc, says that loyalty is key. "The attention span of consumers and the affection that they once had with certain brands has declined massively. If brands do not continuously focus on better interacting with their consumers and ensure meaningful engagement, customers will switch and move on to something else. Loyalty should be the goal from the very beginning. Building a strong team of promoters from the get go means securing and ensuring the power of 'word of mouth' - one of the strongest tools of loyalty."