Bricks and Mortar Retail in UAE will Survive Only with Digital Customer Experience Revolution


A digital customer experience revolution will rejuvenate bricks-and-mortar retailing, but stores must start on the back foot

In-store retailing has been under rising pressure from increased costs of doing business, as well as the growth of online shopping. Yet, bricks-and-mortar sales still accounts for the majority of retail spend. As per a recent report, according to a new publication from Hamburg-based, the E-Commerce market in the Middle East and Africa has the potential to grow at small double-digit rates in the next five years, led by countries such as the UAE and driven by improving Internet penetration, rising ownership of mobile devices and payment cards. However, despite substantial growth in the Middle East over the past couple of years the region is still behind a number of other emerging economies in the ecommerce stakes due to factors such as delivery challenges, a preference for face-to-face, lack of choice due to limited range of online products and services, no price differential as compared to as compared to in-store purchases, consumer privacy concerns, prevalence of cash on delivery and others.

The retail model of the future will be a radically different experience from today, largely driven by the changing shopping demands of the younger hyper-connected consumer. Bricks-and-mortar retailing will remain to be a very significant part in retail, however the lines between channels will erode at the benefit of both the customer and the business. Advances in technology will significantly improve the relationships between retailers and customers, much the way analytics is already doing to online shopping.

Real opportunity lies in responding to this change, focusing on delivering a truly integrated and seamless omni-channel experience. The future of retail is an exciting one, and over the next few years we expect to see a number of key developments taking place in stores around the globe:

The emergence of the smart personal shopper

Online retail will continue to exist for customers who want to buy a specific product and have it delivered to their home. But those who enter a store do so to learn, to view and feel items and to speak to a person. As the physical environment of a store changes, communication barriers between customers and employees such as counters will be removed, enabling staff to provide a more personalised experience.

Mobile technology will revolutionise the sales process and experience. Tomorrow’s retail staff will be unleashed from the sale counter, and given the equipment to connect with customers across the entire store, offering a more consultative approach. In fashion retail for example, assistants will be able to show customers a range of outfits and styles a particular item could work with.

With a real time view of stock and availability, they will be far more capable of closing sales, only recommending items that are both in stock and in size, whilst offering further choice and reducing wait time for shoppers.


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