Secteur d'activité  •  E-commerce

[Replay] Retail - How brands have accelerated e-commerce adoption during the pandemic and local solutions to perpetrate this new retail approach?


  • Ryan Den Rooijen, Chief Data Officer, Chalhoub Group
  • deVere Forster, Chief Operating Officer Dubai CommerCity
  • Ahmed Naim, Business Development Director, Richemont MEIA
  • Moderated by Julie Leblan, Chief Executive Officer - Merit Incentives


View the video


Key Takeaways

2020 has been with the pandemic an accelerator for digital transformation with an exceptional growth of the e-commerce channel. The main challenge was about staying connected with clients and keeping the emotional connection with the customer, especially in this region where there is a big culture of people actually coming into the stores.

Clients’ expectations have accelerated tremendously during the pandemic in terms of service. Clients can now interact with sales people by text, by phone, obviously in store and online. So the objective of 2020 was enhancing distance sales capabilities. The retailers’ goal is to be present for clients on any device, anytime, anywhere.

Aside from technical initiatives that were prioritized with the pandemic response the biggest business transformation was the frontliners who were suddenly embracing e-commerce technologies. Businesses have had to reframe the heart of operations around customers and bring the organization together to focus on customer kpis; It is not only about the best marketplace or the best online tool but it is a complete change of mindset from the corporation side.

The pandemic triggered changes in online shopping behaviors that are likely to have lasting effects. Most product categories saw big changes in e-commerce. The acceleration of online shopping globally underscores the urgency of ensuring all countries can seize the opportunities offered by digitization as the world moves from the pandemic response to recovery.

The retail industry is operating a shift to what we call new retail with two major trends:

  • making the in-store experience unique and personalized
  • making the distance selling process as efficient and seamless as possible with no friction at any point of time.

It's not just about employee motivation, it's about employee engagement and training. How do you make sure that all the touch points in this customer journey are relevant and aligned with the brand positioning? There are two aspects that are really important in this journey of employee engagement:

  • Make sure that everyone across the organization is set up for success in their job by embedding digital competencies, front liners in particulars
  • Ensure that we have the right kind of operational view across the business to check that we're doing omnichannel well. By anyalsing data and feedbacks to identify the elements of friction and how to address them in a proactive fashion.

Every touch point where the customer can reach the brand now needs to be integrated in the retailers’ strategy. Brands and retailers need to adapt their strategy from being good at multi-channel to being great at omnichannel. Technology in store is extremely important to give an immersive and personalized experience to clients who expect more than basic omni-channel features such as click and collect: they expect to be able to:

  • check stock availability ahead of visiting a store so they know the product is available
  • return an online order to a store for instant exchange or refund.
  • order online and pay in a store or what many call reserve and collect.
  • place an order for an out-of-stock sku or a non-ring sku better known as e-ordering.
  • Shop from additional channels like social media platforms such as facebook and instagram or using instant messaging platforms such as whatsapp and messenger: these chat platforms allow for a more personalized shopping experience with interactions with sales people
  • use online tech in-store to deliver solutions such as the smart changing room displaying customer reviews comparing products and scan and buy or sell check cards.

Impact of the local capabilities in such context especially for multinationals: the stronger and the more independent you are from an operational point of view locally the better you perform. The UAE is extremely advanced in terms of business enablers in place which is hugely beneficial for businesses who want to settle here, and reassuring should other crises and pandemics hit us again in future.

Dubai Commerce City is a free zone and therefore offers all of the freezone services. On top of the complete business setup and custom support Dubai Commerce City also offers e-commerce strategy, consulting guidance on e-commerce regulations in the region, end-to-end logistics solutions inclusive of fulfillment centers and last mile delivery, complete e-commerce platform solutions, digital marketing services and other support services including photo studios, content translation, call centers etc.

With Dubai Commerce City businesses can choose to select a full suite of services or just activate the services they require on a pay-as-you-go model. Brands no longer need a local partner or franchisee to represent them in the market and can maximize the returns by selling direct to their customers.

Dubai is really becoming a significant talent destination when it comes to data and digital and the great digital talent ecosystem in France brings plenty of opportunities for businesses.

In this region cross-border e-commerce accounts for over 70 percent of total e-commerce – compared to global figures of around 50-50. Therefore consumers are highly reliant on online stores outside of the uae to do their everyday online shopping. One of the biggest reasons for this is that domestic e-commerce is still very under-represented in the uae. Amazon uk is now delivering to uae customers and offering free deliveries. This is fantastic but on top free delivery and wide range of products customers expect more services which mostly require a local physical presence:  

  • Speed of delivery
  • Flexible payment options (growing trend to offer install payments esp. on high value purchases)
  • Simple and hassle-free returns and refunds process and local customer service
  • They want to be able to click and collect they want to be able to try and buy and they want to be able to exchange or refund an online order in store   

Two pieces of advice to companies who want to implement e-commerce.

  1. Focus on the execution: make sure you execute well your strategy: the operating model is extremely important.
  2. Know your customer: you might have all the right tools and all the great platforms but they have to be addressing a true customer need. The brands need to ask themselves: are they relevant to be an online business. Take cultural sensitivities in mind, and make sure you have a local strategy in place to be able to deliver same day next day. They need to be able to accept and process returns in two or three days.

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