More integrated, personalized and intuitive purchasing experiences using omnichannel ecosystems as well as innovative approaches and technologies facilitate consumers to engage more in the buying journey and benefit from it.
The sharp growth of global e-commerce creates various possibilities for companies to generate additional value for their customers. More integrated, personalized and intuitive purchasing experiences using omnichannel ecosystems as well as innovative approaches and technologies facilitate consumers to engage more in the buying journey and benefit from it.
Accelerated by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the booming e-commerce sector in the GCC region continues to thrive. Supported by government initiatives and investments in e-commerce, the development and implementation of innovative models is high on the authorities’ agenda for the coming years. Building e-commerce ecosystems, including laws and regulations, professionals, innovative technologies, and joint partnerships, is of high priority in the region.
Omnichannel is the possibility of making purchases through in-store and online channels while using various devices in a single buying cycle. Companies strive to provide customers with more intuitive and personalized purchasing, allowing them to obtain safer and faster service delivery. Omnichannel ecosystems may be complex, nevertheless, there are some major components that they should contain. D2C approach, the implementation of AR/VR tools to replicate in-store experience online and enable interactive digital experience, AI/ML futures to collect customers’ personal data are among them.
Within a global context, Burberry is an example of a company that has reimagined and enhanced its customers' experience by offering both physical and digital shopping. The company has opened a “social retail” store in Shenzhen, China, where customers can interact with the brand in person and on social media. With the usage of an integrated with online services WeChat mini program, customers are able to unlock exclusive content and personalized experiences while sharing them with their communities. At the same time, Burberry strengthens its customers' journey through multiple engaging AR tools which allow consumers to see an AR version of the product and gain a better understanding about it before purchasing it.
Due to the great convenience, omnichannel has become a required option for companies to stay competitive in the market. Accelerated by the pandemic, e-commerce gains increased popularity among consumers shifting from offline to online shopping in the GCC region.
Despite some traditional retail brands’ concerns related to the increased costs of omnichannel ecosystem adoption, as McKinsey states, ensuring the correct strategy incorporating the right customized, innovative technology is key to a successful omnichannel ecosystem.
“We believe there is room for both brick-and-mortar and online shopping moving forward. Focus must be placed on creating a more seamless and enjoyable shopping experience for the customer – be that online, in-person or omnichannel”.
This statement is advocated by the GCC e-commerce giants. As Maya El Ayach, Growth and Digital Strategy at Noon, mentions the company has already created a digital ground for businesses to expand its online presence across the UAE and Saudi Arabia and increase convenience for their customers.
Considered as a landscape with a digitally native young population aiming for convenient shopping approaches, the GCC region has one of the best mobile infrastructures in the world. According to a Visa report, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are among the leading countries in internet and smartphone penetration across the globe. Increased digital expansion means that the region’s consumers widely use mobile e-commerce with ease.
With the global context in mind, the GCC countries have a high mobile e-commerce adoption rate. According to Hootsuite January 2021 statistics, slightly over half of the UAE population bought something via a smartphone in the past month, while in Saudi Arabia, 65.1% of users made an online purchase with their mobile devices during the same period.
Taking into account the high digital penetration rates, Dubai and the UAE are considered as a hub for the mobile e-commerce continuous rise. This, in turn, provides a solid ground for emerging startups, as well as the development of conversational e-commerce and super apps.
The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly accelerated the digitalization of people’s lifestyles and has created a ground for more inclusive and personalized marketplaces. The creation of the ecosystem that allows small and medium-sized businesses to expand their online presence and be more engaged with their audience is in high demand.
The rise of conversational e-commerce, which means the ability to connect to customers via messaging improves customer experiences considerably.
“We see messaging becoming another growing channel for consumers to receive instore - like consultation as customer service plays a crucial role throughout the customer journey”.
Facebook Managing Director in the MENA region
Many traditional offline retail companies without online presence started to provide products on Facebook and conduct transactions via WhatsApp. Furthermore, Facebook’s top management states that Facebook will expand Facebook Shops to WhatsApp and Messenger. As Facebook MENA Managing Director mentions, such online shopping experience makes customers feel more comfortable as they have support from shop assistants who answer all the consumers’ possible questions similar to in-store consultations.
According to RedSeer, conversational e-commerce is cost-efficient for small businesses to create a digital presence. At the same time, it makes it possible for tech giants to expand their presence in the region through the implementation of AI-based chatbots.
Photo by @geralt
AI and machine learning implementation are among the key trends impacting the e-commerce market globally. Some tech giants’ products such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon Echo represent this type of technology. As statistics shows, voice-activated shopping assistants are very popular among US millennials. According to a CouponFollow’s Millennial Shopping Report 2019, almost half of surveyed US millennials between 22-37 ages used voice assistants while online shopping in January 2019.
The increased shift to online shopping can be driven by the implementation of the right technologies facilitating businesses to provide a more personal and intuitive customer experience.
To better understand and enhance customers’ buying journey, companies analyse consumers' previous purchasing behaviour, demographic and other personal data. It allows businesses to reveal the history of customers’ buyings as well as their preferences to offer personalized product recommendations and increase customers’ satisfaction.
With the rise of omnichannel ecosystems, the analysis of customers’ behaviour can be challenging. At the same time, the implementation of the right strategy which can help enhance customers' digital experience is the key. Innovative technologies such as AR, VA and 3D modeling help customers to virtually “try” products similar to in-store experience.
Photo by @geralt
One of such examples is Stitch fix, an online personal styling service in the US and UK. The ground of the business model is the leveraging of data science tailored to deliver personalized e-commerce retail customers experiences. This approach makes customers enjoy the personal expert assistant and feel happy when using the simple and convenient online service.
While being very highly popular in Asian countries, live commerce is penetrating the US and European markets. Live commerce is e-commerce combined with livestreaming represented on a single platform where customers can watch a live presentation about a product, ask questions, receive recommendations about analogues and then buy the desired one. Live chats with assistants answering customers’questions can help build trust and confidence to shop online and earn consumers loyalty.
Among global internet giants providing livestreaming services is Alibaba which provides shopping streams on its key e-commerce platform, Tmall. The company has launched an annual shopping day on November 11, which is known as a Single Day, during which customers are able to see huge discounts across millions of products.
Photo by @Infinite
Shoppable livestreams can be implemented across various industries, including retail, real estate, fashion, tv and media. Livestreaming can be beneficial for luxury brands as they can compete with well-established online brands. Furthermore, alongside building their online presence while creating their customized livestreaming platforms for shopping, they can also organize live streams to represent exclusive products or conduct special occasions.
Piloted in South Korea and Japan, JMIND’s white-label product, Infinite, helps businesses build their customized platforms for live broadcasting and video content sharing. Companies can attract new audiences and interact with customers through live chats and reactions.
Generated by the booming global e-commerce market, new trends are already transforming the sector. Omnichannel ecosystems coupled with the implementation of the right customized innovative solutions that provide businesses with increased opportunities to improve customers' experience are the key future trends for the GCC region. Alongside these advancements, development programs and investments in e-commerce are high on the government agenda for the near future in the region.
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