Dubai: How brands can leverage technologies to underpin the consumer shopping experience
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Dubai: How brands can leverage technologies to underpin the consumer shopping experience

Dubai: How brands can leverage technologies to underpin the consumer shopping experience

The emirate presents itself as a highly diverse consumer market where brands are busy getting the attention of shoppers

Gulf Business

Dubai outpacing London and New York as the preferred shopping destination is not surprising. Dubai’s overnight visitor spend is humongous – data from the 2019 MasterCard Destination Cities reflects that in 2018, 15.93 million visitors splurged $30.82bn, which is much more than London ($16.47bn with 19.09 million visitors) and New York ($16.43bn with 13.6 million).

When looking at the cities by dollar spent, Dubai topped the list with travellers spending $553 on average a day. But that was pre-Covid times.

In 2020, Covid-19 ravaged economies across the globe but there was a turnaround in Q3 2021 as reflected in the business confidence survey conducted by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. According to the survey, the confidence among Dubai businesses reached its highest level in 10 years, fuelled by the start of the world’s largest event Expo 2020. It also indicated that 44 per cent of consumers plan to spend their spare cash on vacations, 36 per cent on outdoor entertainment, and 33 per cent on new clothes.

Due to the Expo 2020, the tourist arrivals in 2020 were 5.5 million and in 2021 similar numbers are cited, affected by the pandemic according to Dubai Tourism. However, the six-month-long event has already spurred quite a lot of economic activity, increased tourist arrivals thus witnessing a bouncing back of consumer confidence levels.

Dubai presents itself as a highly diverse consumer market where brands are busy getting the attention of those descending upon the emirate from all over the world. The pronounced consumer diversity needs customer engagement on many different channels. Therefore, brands in Dubai have started deploying digital technologies to attract the diverse tourists and residents alike.

Geofencing for floating population

To specifically target the floating population, brands are deploying geofencing, a location-based service. Using GPS, RFID, Wi-Fi, or cellular data, retail enterprises can trigger messages like SMS, email, or in-app/app-based notifications when mobile devices enter, exit, or remain parked in the geographical location. The location notification helps brands reach customers based on their spot, learn if they are near a mall /retail outlet, and understand any location-sensitive discounts. This on-boarding of the consumer is the first step of the shopping experience.

Malls and brands working out digital synergies

With over 70 shopping malls in Dubai and each offering a unique experience, the digital transformation of retail is good news for the malls as it opens new ways to engage consumers throughout their decision journey. Malls promise a social experience and they draw consumers globally, unlike online shopping which the residents use based on their needs and convenience.

According to a 2020 McKinsey report, malls have started leveraging technology to extend their relationships with customers before and after the mall visit. Malls/brands can delve into predictive segmentation as smartphone users leave a lot of breadcrumbs that help understand their consumption behaviour. Are they liking the mall/brand? Are they sensitive to brand pricing? Is the brand app experience good? These are some of the questions brands can get answers to easily with predictive segmentation using the recency, frequency, monetary value (RFM) approach.

Retail brands can find synergies in loyalty programmes, offering customised rewards or targeted advertisements based on real-time intelligence and location-based marketing. Technologies such as face recognition, location-based mobile ads, and beacons are used to identify and establish targeted contact with repeat customers.

Online, offline integration

The faster the brands integrate online and offline channels, the better for retail in an increasingly competitive and challenging scenario. Once the customer has started using the app or website of the mall or the brand, it is easy to analyse and understand when they are active on the website/app. The mall/brand can optimise message frequency and text, based on likes, dislikes, and overall preference of the customer.

In-store experience

With AR-VR (augmented reality–virtual reality), retailers can quickly assist shoppers in their shopping experience, from driving to the correct aisle to recommending what best suits their needs. Lululab, a Korean cosmetics company, launched an AI mixed reality-powered beauty store in Dubai. The unmanned virtual store helps consumers with personalised skincare recommendations via a kiosk that receives a selfie, and based on the facial image determines skin conditions and recommends cosmetics accordingly.

Scan and pay is the way to go

The scan and pay feature on smartphones are adding to the hassle-free consumer journey. Customers can now use their phone camera to scan the picked items and perform the billing instantly, without any interface with the counter assistant. Carrefour has implemented the feature in all its supermarkets across Dubai. This was welcomed by consumers who had to wait in long queues, a journey they did not enjoy much.

Digitalisation is not a trend anymore but an everyday reality. To tap into this vast and diverse consumer market, brands first need to have a customer data platform (CDP) sourced from various touchpoints (point of sale, website visits, browsing history, etc) that gives insights into consumer behaviour. Brands should deploy artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data analytics to understand customer behaviour and send them relevant communication on various channels accordingly.

Indeed, the Middle East, with Dubai leading, is witnessing a paradigm shift in the deployment of AI-powered personalisation in the retail realm, benefitting both the consumers and businesses alike.

Raviteja Dodda is the founder CEO at MoEngage

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