By: Rajesh Kumar, CEO – GCC & SEA, FNP, the leading gifting brand across the Middle east and SEA

It’s no secret that since the outbreak of COVID-19, the world has become increasingly dependent on digital technologies.

The way we conduct business and go about our day-to-day lives has changed dramatically, and the pandemic has accelerated the ‘digital revolution’.

We have already seen an increase in e-commerce services and more and more retail owners are realising that, in order to keep up with today’s rapidly developing business world, adopting new technologies is absolutely crucial.

Roadmaps continually need to adjust to new shopping habits. For instance, during the global lockdown, people became accustomed to ordering whatever they wanted online and having it delivered within hours. This led to developing its own 60-minute delivery service across the UAE.

Below, I go into more details about why the success of the retail sector is reliant on our willingness to embrace emerging technologies.

E-commerce in the UAE 

The UAE’s e-commerce market is the fastest growing in the world and it is expected to rise to $9.2bn by 2026. 

This substantial growth in the online retail market is partly due to consumer’s growing trust in digital payment services. According to several market surveys, online sales for businesses are generally higher than in-store purchases and this trend is expected to continue over the coming years.

In addition, figures from the Africa and Middle East B2C Ecommerce Market Report 2022 – 2026 predict that cross-border e-commerce is likely to support the growth of the UAE’s B2C e-commerce industry over the next three to four years.

The study shows that consumers in UAE purchase extensively from the USA, China, and India, and that we are seeing a growing demand for a wide range of products at lower prices.

Adapting global trends to fit local needs

In the gifting industry, we have seen an increase in demand for digital gifting options. This fits with the world’s new need for immersive, experiential and emotional gifts, rather than materialistic items.

Leveraging findings from customer data platforms (CDP) is another way for a business to improve their services and products and form a better connection with customers. 

However, there is no one size fits all approach to creating a successful e-commerce strategy. 

It is therefore essential to understand the differences between local and global online shopping habits.

For instance, businesses must consider how popular online shopping is in each market, the assortment and pricing of the range, and how customers can be led through the various stages of the purchasing journey. 

We must also be aware of how online retailers are portrayed in different markets and the socio-economic market situation of each country. In some markets, it’s predominantly more affluent consumers who have access to online shopping, while in others, online shopping is the norm and therefore a more mass-market approach is appropriate.

Integrating technology with business objectives

Businesses with web and mobile presences can benefit from technology in multiple ways. 

For example, many successful digital businesses have used customer data platforms to effectively place their products in front of relevant customers in attractive and enticing ways. 

This can also be seen in the gifting business. Harnessing data allows us to position the most popular and relevant products on the top of the page and create a more seamless and easy shopping experience for the customer. 

It also allows companies to enhance the product selection experience by accurately predicting the suitability of a gift for an occasion and the recipient.   

Meanwhile, artificial Intelligence (AI) is another of the most prominent features in the new ‘digital era’. 

This versatile technology can be leveraged to offer personalised recommendations and services to customers. We are now seeing increasing numbers of companies investing heavily in AI and integrating it into their future plans. 

The takeaway …

It’s time to accept that digital technologies are here to stay, and we also need to learn how to adapt and evolve along with them.  

The retail sector must focus on creating new digital platforms that allow access to new markets, present new products and services, and encourage more innovative business models.

It’s important that we are ready and willing to take risks and embrace transformative digital technologies that allow us to capitalise on new opportunities, counter threats and present better experiences and services for customers.

Today, the most successful retail businesses are the ones that keep a close eye on new technologies and consider how they can be integrated into their own services and offerings.