The future of retail is at home - and it's immersive
Virtual reality would make customers feel more confident in buying and making decisions faster.
Dubai - Incorporating technologies such as VR has been on the agenda for many retail stores in the UAE
The mall of the future might just be an online space which delivers on its promise of convenience, immersive interaction with your favourite brands, and offers a completely personalised experience tailored to your needs, experts say.
Aiming to bring this reality one step closer to shoppers in the UAE is Mall.Global, a $500 million concept. Sofya Shamuzova, CEO of Mall.Global, spoke to Khaleej Times about the global online shopping platform and the future of retail in the region.
"We want shoppers to access the convenience of shopping online, but with the experience of being right in the middle of the shopping mall," she said. "The objective is not to deter people from going to shopping malls, but to enhance the experience of the growing population of online shoppers."
Mall.Global will be incorporating immersive technologies and operational practices such as virtual reality, on-ground augmented reality cues, micro-influencer reviews, artificial intelligence and machine learning, cross-platform loyalty and multi-cryptocurrency acceptance. Shamuzova described it as a 'true hybrid' model that will solve many of the issues plaguing the online retail industry currently. The platform is due to go live by 2020 with over 2,500 brand stores and sequential launches across the GCC, India, North Africa, Europe, CIS, and China. It will undergo testing with live customer sets early next year.
Asked about the competition from the other online retail giants, she said: "We are keeping a very close eye on the competition and learning from their mistakes and shortfalls. We will distinguish ourselves by the brands that will be offering their products on the platform. Right now, we have over 500 brands that have signed on, ranging from high-end brands to those in the affordable segment. We have a number of investors that I can't disclose the names of right now, but we will be announcing more information soon."
Incorporating technologies such as VR has been on the agenda for many retail stores in the UAE. Last year, Ikea partnered with Takeleap, a Dubai-based technology agency specialising to develop a VR shopping pop-up concept throughout the Middle East. Visitors to the pop-ups could create their own virtual living room by placing Ikea products in the scene using VR technologies to facilitate the home furnishing experience.
Salman Yusuf, managing director at Takeleap, noted that the short-term success of the implementation was the 20 per cent increase in the footfall to the store in the first two weeks.
"VR is so far the best option to furnish your home in real scale and see how it looks. By this technology, customers feel more confident in buying and making decisions faster. We cannot say that it is the technology of the future, because it is changing the shopping experience today."
Etisalat technology also highlighted several concepts, at the most recent Gitex Technology Week exhibition, that would make an impact on the retail sector. One of these was retail blockchain that allows customers to track each and every item that they purchase. Shoppers are able to tell where their product came from, where it was packaged, if it is organic, and whether it was produced sustainably or not.
Another technology that is already being deployed in several outlets across the world are smart mirrors that use AR to show customers what they would look like in different types of clothing.