The shopping experience should be seamless, experts say
Many retailers still fall short of providing a memorable online shopping experience that will help them retain the loyalty of shoppers.
Despite being known as a haven for shopping enthusiasts, the experience of shopping online in the UAE still leaves a lot to be desired.
Analysts have noted that the while shoppers are continuously raving about the offline shopping culture in the UAE, many retailers still fall short of providing a memorable online shopping experience that will help them better connect with, and retain, the loyalty of shoppers.
Dirk Henke, MD of Eastern Europe & MEA region at Criteo, explained that the offline experience in the UAE is globally considered as exceptional due to the country's wide-spanning shopping malls offering not only a variety of products, but also serving as leisure and lifestyle venues. While significant progress has been made in relation to e-Commerce in the region, there are also massive opportunities for growth. Some elements that are not working in favor of the e-Commerce industry are logistics, low product catalogs, long delivery times, and in some cases, lower quality in comparison to US and Western Europe counterparts.
"The big challenge for marketers and retailers is connecting what's happening in-store with what's happening online to create a unified, seamless experience," he said. "In order to align the online/offline experience, a seamless customer relationship management (CRM) experience is imperative."
One of the ways to do this is through customer journey analytics that start with tracking users and optimising customer experience across devices. Criteo's latest research on the 'State of Cross Device Commerce' found that 52 per cent of online retail transactions in the GCC now involve two or more devices. Key mobile growth data for Q4, 2016 highlighted that 34 per cent of all online purchases in the GCC were completed on mobile.
Therefore, retailers and marketers that are not equipped to follow their customers as they switch from desktop to smartphone and tablet only get a one-dimensional view of the customer journey. Gartner predicts that by 2020, smart personalisation engines used to recognise customer intent will enable digital businesses to increase their profits by up to 15 per cent.
"It's important to know who your customers are, and recognising the same user online and offline. If a brand is unable to do this, it will have a hard time in addressing the specific user with the most relevant messages," said Henke.
Simon Cooper, head of Centrepoint, spoke about providing a seamless omni-channel experience to shoppers, and how that has aided the brand's success in the region. "We are integrating our systems, processes and pricing parity in such a manner that the customer has the great choice to shop online at home or office or at the store. Our four brands - Babyshop, Splash, Shoe Mart & Lifestyle - are facilitating the endless aisle experience with their kiosks in store, where customers who do not find the right colour or size can now order online. With 'Click and Collect' feature success, we now have a great opportunity to service customers across the online and offline channels."
"From an industry perspective, retailers have the obligation to provide this seamless opportunity as the customers choose to shop across channels," he advised.