DUBAI: The outlook for Dubai’s growing e-commerce sector is looking bright as consumers in the emirate continue to turn to digital platforms to access services and products, according to retail leaders and experts speaking on the first day of The Retail Summit 2019 in Atlantis, The Palm Dubai.
The inaugural summit is being organised under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in partnership with Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Meydan One.
The high-level event, taking place February 13th-14th, is gathering more than 900 industry leaders and experts from around the world who are representing some of world’s most prominent retail brands. A total of 80 global and regional speakers at the summit are sharing their insights and perspectives on key challenges and opportunities facing retailers, as well as their outlook for the future of the global retail sector.
Addressing delegates at the two-day summit, H.E. Hamad Buamim, President and CEO of Dubai Chamber, noted that the summit offered valuable insights into the realities of the global retail sector and a platform to share knowledge and best practices among prominent industry leaders. H.E. Buamim described Dubai as an ideal destination to host the international event, given its reputation as one of the world’s most sought-after shopping destinations, as well the strong presence of international retail brands that are present in the emirate.
“Wholesale and retail commerce are primary economic engines for Dubai, contributing to nearly 27% of the emirate’s GDP, while e-commerce stands out as a sector with massive potential for growth, poised to expand at a CAGR of 12% in the 2018-2023 period to reach AED 9.7 billion in sales volume by 2023,” H.E. Buamim added, noting that e-commerce startups are a major source of innovation for Dubai, as they are often the early adopters of disruptive technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and 3D printing.
H.E. Buamim went on to highlight the competitive advantages that Dubai offers international retailers, such as the emirate’s strategic geographic location, world-class infrastructure, and business-friendly environment. With more than a third of the world’s population only a four-hour flight away, Dubai remains a preferred shopping destination for tourists from the Indian sub-continent, China, Africa, and Europe, he explained.
For his part, H.E. Majid Saif Al Ghurair, Chairman of Dubai Chamber said: “The Retail Summit 2019 presents a prime opportunity to showcase the potential that Dubai’s retail market offers and attract more investment and international brands to the emirate,” adding that such efforts will help further diversify the economy.
“Hosting The Retail Summit 2019 reflects Dubai’s strengthening reputation as a world-class retail hub. By collaborating with our local and international partners at events like The Retail Summit, we can create a conducive environment that caters to the needs and future growth requirements of global retailers”,” added H.E. Al Ghurair.
Other presentations and panel discussions examined several key trends and factors that are reshaping global retail including growing impact of digital technologies and shifting consumer expectations, the role of advertising and social media as a key ingredient for successful marketing strategies, the rapidly changing shopping culture, and new solutions being adopted by the world’s leading e-commerce players.
e-Commerce: Balancing Customer Expectations with Technology
The session titled “New Retail – Transform & Grow” brought together Chieh Huang, CEO and Co-Founder of Boxed; Bouchra Ezzahraoui, Founder of Aurate; and Cristina Scocchia, CEO at Kiko Milano; to discuss the future of retail around the world in light of developments that have shifted most transactions towards digital platforms. Panellists asserted that the customer experience is still the most important factor impacting sales, and pointed out that customers who are satisfied will seek out products whether they sold online or in-store. Bouchra Ezzahraoui underlined the importance of identifying consumers’ needs and preferences to design products that meet their requirements and inspire brand loyalty, calling for empowering employees and familiarising them with the company’s message. “You want to control your pricing strategy, you want to control your promotional strategy, you want to make sure that the promotions aren’t going to impact negatively the brand you are trying to create,” she asserted.
The session underlined significant developments that have made same-day delivery possible, noting, however, that this feature is only available for retail giants. Smaller retailers must prioritise the quality of their products to win over consumers, who will then be more willing to accept longer wait periods, the panellists explained.
For his part, Chieh Huang noted that delivery services must account for speed and the ability to include multiple shipments – up to 10 – in a single load, which helps consumers save money and doubles sales volume, while Cristina Scocchia emphasised that: “The issue for us is that the way to be successful as a direct consumer brand is to own the data on your customers and focus on that data so that you can give them what they want.”
Panellists at the session titled “Service, Experience, and The Wow Factor: Benchmarking against F&B” asserted that there is a golden opportunity to upgrade the quality of services by offering a personalised experience for each consumer. Such an objective would require a delicate balance between authenticity and modernity. “The customer is key for any company’s success,” they noted, calling on retailers to benefit from the rapid transformations taking place around the world, such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution and artificial intelligence, and emphasising the critical role of social media in engaging consumers with the brand and ensure their loyalty.
The session titled “Powering Online Marketplaces” explored the challenges facing the retail sector in Africa with Chris Folayan, CEO and Founder of Mall For Africa; Jane Canny, Chief Executive: Thanku Digital, Edcon; and Jessica Anuna, Founder and CEO of Klasha. The experts outlined a set of challenges, such as high interest rates, unstable currencies, and low credit card usage in African communities, in addition to obstacles facing delivery services, where the average delivery period between African countries exceeds 20 days.
The panellists then outlined a set of solutions such as diversifying payment methods to include cash on delivery, payment through middlemen in local banks, or payments through mobile phone lines. As for delivery, the proposed solutions including setting up shipment companies headquartered in major cities around the continent to facilitate transfers.
The session titled “Walk the Walk. Get Authentic” brought together Fahad Abdulrahim Kazim, VP of Meydan Malls; Lyndon Cormack, Co-Founder of Herschel Supply Company; and Chris Davis, VP of Global Marketing at New Balance. The panellists underlined the importance of making the right decisions to be able to launch a brand in the current business climate, noting that markdowns and costly advertising campaigns are only the beginning in attracting and retaining consumers, whose attention and loyalty are becoming increasingly difficult to attain.
Meanwhile, the session entitled “Social Media: Make Impact, Not Noise” noted that consumers today are more discerning than ever; they prefer the entire shopping experience to be entertaining and based around communication and interaction with sales employees. The panel was joined by Julie Hamilton, SVP, Chief Customer and Commercial Leadership Officer at Coca-Cola; and Philip Mountford, CEO at Hunkemöller.
Day one also included a panel discussion entitled “Let’s Get Digital” where speakers David Lochhead, Co-Founder of Finlay; Mithun Sundar, Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer at Jabong & Myntra; and Steve Evans, EVP, Owned Brand at Fossil Group; discussed the surge in new technologies that have fundamentally changed the retail landscape – from VR and AR to AI, robotics, and IoT.
The discussion was followed by another session entitled “Are You ‘Down’ With the Kids?” which shed light on the behaviour traits that set millennials apart, such as their preference for online shopping and their tendency for brand loyalty if they feel treated like important clients. The panel was made up of Michael Neuner, VP for UK & Europe at Hakkasan; Rob Smith, CEO and Founder at The Phluid Project; and Ryan Palmer, Co-Founder of London Sock Company. News Desk