By Shafi Alam, Head of Direct-to-Consumer Business & Corporate Marketing at Samsung Gulf Electronics

Looking at recent trends over the last few years, we know that the line between online and in-store shopping is blurring. A hybrid shopping model has since emerged, integrating physical and digital experiences within the same purchasing journey. 

Brands with an evolved digital strategy can leverage the immense opportunity in the region’s Ramadan-related commerce. According to a report by Redseer Consulting, gift spending will rise by 44 per cent during the holy month 2023, with overall retail spending in the MENA region expected to hit $66 billion during the month. 

At Samsung, we recognised very early that the new age of window shopping is online, and siloed shopping journeys are something from the past – online and offline offerings complement each other to meet consumer preferences.  As a result, we spearheaded new partnerships and investments aiming to bring in an optimised user experience, both in front of the customer and in the background. 

This calculated focus saw our operation register two-fold growth year-on-year since the pandemic began. This success story is attributed to our commitment to providing consumers with a seamless and personalised shopping experience; we developed exclusive reward programmes, value-added services such as doorstep trade-in for mobiles and TVs, easy 24-month instalments with most major UAE banks, and after-sale benefits such as Samsung Care+ and more to meet the individual needs of every customer. 

The evolution of our e-commerce story continues apace. For the first time, our 2023 Ramadan campaign ‘Nowhere better than’ focuses primarily on our online channel, offering consumers exclusivity, convenience, reliability and value.

There has also been a paradigm shift in what customers are buying online. While mobile phones and small gadgets were always popular among online buyers, recent consumer trends show that online shopping is flourishing across categories. Home entertainment, household appliances and gaming devices are the top shopping categories during Ramadan 2023. 

Our insights also indicate that towards the end of Ramadan, consumers tend to consider Eid gifting options, this includes primarily mobile phones, wearables, and tablets. To meet this consumer demand, we have equipped our with curated life-style bundles, tailored to various lifestyle needs, and includes wide selection of Ramadan’s most sought-after products. 

These trends are also apparent in our home appliances product lines, where an increasing number of customers are buying home appliances online. In the case of our latest Bespoke range, our online platform enables customers to easily customise the look of their appliances at home to match their home décor more accurately. 

Though ripe with opportunity, online retail presents inherent risks that may trip ill-prepared brands. First, devoid of the personal interaction of in-store shopping, it’s easy for online shopping to feel cold and impersonal. That is why an evolved consumer experience strategy that makes customers feel valued and create a personal connection is crucial in e-commerce. Providing excellent customer service addresses potential shortcomings; Immediate customer support, responding promptly to customer queries, and going above and beyond to resolve customer issues or concerns are key to delivering that personal touch.

Online buyers often carry out thorough research before making a purchase. They also check reviews and ratings from key opinion leaders, previous customers and verify the seller’s credentials. They also increasingly expect fast and free shipping, easy returns, and personalised recommendations, which adds pressure for online brands to deliver superior customer experiences.

That said, the rise of e-commerce does not mean that the era of physical stores in the Gulf is over. Shopping centres and malls play a crucial cultural and social role in the region. It is a meeting place for friends and families, a kind of modern majlis. In such cases, customers prefer to touch and have a feel of the product in-store and then purchase the product online – showrooming – or conducting research online first and then coming to the store to make the final purchase – webrooming. 

This blending of the two worlds inspired the pop-up experience that is part of our 2023 Ramadan/Eid campaign. Through two pop-up stores in Mirdif City Centre and The Dubai Mall, we have for the first time, created a hybrid experience of online and offline shopping. Visitors can peruse our wide range of products on-site and then order through The products will be delivered to their home at their convenience. 

Ultimately, customers want convenience, more choice, value for money and a more tailored product offering. In today’s age of disruption and hyper-personalisation, from in-store marketing to e-commerce – and everything in between – the customer journey today defines the modern shopping experience.  It is up to us as players in the industry to continuously re-shape, re-write and respond to customer demand in this new era of commerce.