Where does the consumer start shopping?

Aug 23, 2019Blog, Int. Appearances

The onlife consumer has high hopes for the retailers they purchase from. Retailers need to step up their game, if they are to meet the expectations of their customers. They can no longer get away with the website being a digital store window, they need to tap into all the options tech has to offer them. How about an app the consumer can use for personalised offers, how about using VR/AR to allow customers to try on outfits at home using their smartphone camera, how about instore beacons that track customer behaviour? Big data, artificial intelligence and other technological advances are turning retail upside down. The question is not if the consumer is ready for it, the question is: can the retailer make it happen?

Customer journey redux

Thanks to ecommerce and retail platforms like Amazon, who basically invented sales promotions like “Black Friday”, the world has changed. In the MENA region, smart retail entrepreneurs have copied some of these ideas and come up with “White Friday” promotions. Similarly, regional online retail giants like noon have taken the lead in special discount codes for Eid (Eid Al Fitr). Such promotions were always part of the customer journey. Now, the technology allows retailers to use the data to see what customers do as they go through the orientation phase before selecting a purchase.

Customer journey redux

According to the Bain & Company report, consumers are heavily influenced by their online activities. Middle East and North Africa customers are digitally savvy, with the majority of their purchasing journey spent online, regardless of where they buy.
For example, some 48% of UAE/Egypt/KSA consumers get ideas online, compared to only 27% in the UK. Shoppers in the UK do end up buying online more frequently (47% compared to 12% in MENA). Another interesting fact is that around 20% of MENA shoppers watch videos for brands and products before buying(only 7% do so in the UK). In other words: video is huge, video is a must. Retailers who are unaware of this kind of consumer behaviour are missing out on key opportunities.
Similarly, the type of device a consumer uses matters greatly. MENA consumers are mobile first: smartphones are the preferred method for online search and shopping. This means retailers need to be sure their webstore interface is responsive and meets the standards of savvy digital consumers. Retailers in the MENA region can take the advice of Jack Ma, of the Chinese Alibaba, when they are considering what onlife means for them. It is the ultimate strategy of Alibaba to transform retail based on an integration of online, offline, logistics and data. “We want to create a new economy where the online world is integrated with the physical world,” Ma explains. “We’re building an economic entity — a virtual economy on the Internet.” Now that’s an idea any retailer should want to get behind.

As a preparation for my upcoming trip to the OEC2019 | Sept 16th & 17th | Muscat- Oman |, I wrote a series of blogs were I shed a light on the evolving process of onlification in the Middle East. This is the third and final blog in a series of three. You can read the previous Oman blog here: A huge village, a small world




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