Technology will prove to be a key differentiator in the success of companies across the UAE’s retail landscape, experts said at the Retail Summit 2022.
Speaking on the first day of the event on Monday, Hamad Buamim, president and CEO of Dubai Chambers, said that there are “huge changes” happening in the industry everywhere, which is creating opportunities for retailers.
“There is a big shift when it comes to customer behaviour today; they have more information and tools at their disposal to make informed decisions,” he told Khaleej Times. “This means that their expectations have also changed. They expect better service, faster service, and cheaper prices. The other angle is that service providers are expected to provide their services no matter where they are set up.”
In a landscape that is increasingly customer-centric and technology-driven, he noted that a key technology that can make or break a business is data analytics.
“Data analytics is a powerful tool that can be used to meet customer needs by looking at their past purchases or their preferences,” Buamim said. “There is an opportunity for businesses to leverage data to drive customer behavior.”
Those who can use such tools in the right way, will be the real winners of the retail industry, he added. “Technology will be the base that will bring new players into the market and, in some cases, out those companies that have been in this industry for a very long time.”
He further explained that these companies were the ones that had dragged that heels thinking that they could continue with their legacy systems without having to invest in new technologies. “They were forced to change very fast since the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated change that was expected to take place over 10 years into three years.”
He also revealed that family-owned businesses that held the monopoly in the industry will be a thing of the past. “Technology has accelerated the changes both within their favour or against them. Technology will also accelerate the real growth of new players that were not even present in the industry before. We think that there will be new players that will enter the market who will flourish moving forward.”
Recent research has found that Dubai’s wholesale and retail sector is a key contributor to its economy, accounting for around 28 per cent of the emirate’s real GDP. According to Euromonitor, in 2020, the UAE retail e-commerce market reached a record value of $3.9 billion, 53 per cent higher than 2019. It is expected that by 2025, the UAE’s retail e-commerce market value will reach $8billion, and grow with a CAGR of 15.4 per cent from 2020 to 2025.
Hosein Moghaddas, consumer and business lead, Deloitte Middle East, noted that because every customer must sit at the heart of any retail business strategy, the retail sector will create business differentiation through digital transformation. “By using technology to deliver personalised, relevant and convenient online and offline shopping experiences, customers will become advocates, if not ambassadors, for retailers and brands.”
Manlio Romanelli, group president and founder of M-Cube, also highlighted how the accelerated fusion of the online world with the physical world is changing the in-store customer journey. Technology becomes the enabling tool for the hyper-personalisation of the shopping experience.
“Among all the solutions, digital signage finds its evolution in the augmented screen – that is one of the most interesting possibility of generating interaction between the screen and the consumer’s smartphone,” Romanelli said. “All this happens mainly thanks to the QR code, a tool rarely used in the past and which has found impetus from its wide use in the pandemic: in this way we move from a ‘one to many’ communication, typical of digital signage, to a ‘one to one’, which is more typical of e-commerce.”
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