Over 95% of the Middle East’s online population uses social networking sites daily
Middle East has seen a tremendous rise in smartphone penetration rates and social media usage as the total number of Internet users has recently crossed a 100 million mark. Retailers are exploring ways to get more personal with their customers, through online offerings and social media interactions, to gain loyalty. A recent research by HubSpot has shown that 95% of millennials expect brands to have a Facebook presence, and 46% of online customers expect brands to provide customer service on social media. It also suggests that retailers providing social assistance have succeeded in retaining customers and building trust.
This trend has been growing in the region as well, consumers in the region are expecting consistent shopping experience, whether they buy online, in-store, or via a mobile app. They are also increasingly using social networks to communicate with the retailers or brands. Over 95% of the Middle East’s online population uses social networking sites daily, and retail brands cannot afford to ignore the demand for a social presence from their consumers.
“In an era where there are an infinite number of options presented to the consumer for instant purchase, retailers need to give customers a reason to choose them. Trends like ‘click and collect’, ‘mobile pay’, ‘app navigation’, ‘virtual fitting rooms and shopping carts’ are integrating shopping experience for the consumers. On the other hand, being connected to the consumer via social media to provide assistance and rectify complaints, is also important, as 55% of the Middle East’s population is under the age of 30, and most of them are internet savvy,” says Mohamad Jaber, Group Marketing & Communication Manager, Paris Gallery.
He added that enabling consumers to browse through in-store collections, evaluate and purchase a product online and then making it available for them to try in the store, helps the retailer to provide a great shopping experience. “However, for an increasing number of consumers, who are empowered with information that they have gathered from online sources, their visit to the store is less about shopping and more about validating the choice they have already made before entering the store,”
Another promising area for retailer investment is around the Internet of Things (IoT), which seamlessly connect the physical store and online operations. As per a recent study by Gartner, globally over 21 billion IoT devices will be connected for retail operations by 2020.
According to Tarek El Goweiny, CEO, NCC Group, “While e-commerce will not take over traditional retailers anytime soon, brands in the region need to place the consumer at the heart of their online strategy if they want to remain relevant to the next generation. To achieve this, online and bricks-and-mortar need to complement each other. Integration of IoT to the traditional operations is thus essential. The deployment of technologies that seamlessly connect the physical with the virtual, to provide real-time information, will be a necessity in the future.”
Industry experts from retail will be discussing these emerging trends and opportunities at the Smart Stores Expo happening in January. According to Jayaraman Nair, Chairman, VIS Exhibitions and Conferences, organiser of the event, “From an experiential gimmick in the past, having an online presence today has become a standard practice for retail brands. There are many ways that retailers can integrate their offline stores with their online presence. Smart Stores Expo, will open doors for discussions on how retailers can embrace these technologies and present opportunities in the next generation retail operations for the region.”
The event is designed to showcase developments in the retail industry under four broad categories – Smart Store Design, Smart Store Technologies, Smart Store Services and Smart Virtual Stores. Smart Stores Expo 2017, happening on 23 -25 January, at ADNEC (Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company) in Abu Dhabi.
About Smart Stores Expo:
Smart Stores Expo is a must-attend event for retailers, marketers, visual merchandisers, architects, shop fitters who find to find new ideas or suppliers, to benchmark their existing practices or to learn what lies ahead from leading trendsetters.