A very interesting dynamic developed during the last two years in the interaction between digital and physical environments, creating a new landscape in retail. There is no doubt shoppers are keen to get back into stores post lockdown, but they want to also keep all the advantages that technology has to offer. Abdulla Alhammadi, Regional Business Lead for Snap Inc. in KSA walked us through this new reality of the retail landscape at the 2022 RLC MENA Summit that took place in Riyadh.
The new brick and mortar model
As Mr. Alhammadi mentioned people have missed social shopping and the human connection. For that reason, they started interacting more online about what they want to buy. Yet, consumers also want to feel products; 3 in 5 shoppers in Saudi indicated inability to try products as a key frustration of online shopping.
On the other hand, shoppers are now used to the convenience and personalization that online channels offer through technology and they will be looking for those elements when they go back to the physical stores. There will be a need for the brick-and-mortar stores to successfully integrate the online shopping conveniences and opportunities into their stores.
The continued growth in online and ecommerce
In Saudi most of the consumers preferred cash as a means of payment, but because of COVID, contactless payments and digital payments were kind of forced on everybody. According to Mr. Alhammadi, there was as 75% growth in these payments overnight. There was also an increasing growth in online and this is expected to be the case over the coming few years.
Shoppers are now used to the convenience and personalization that online channels offer through technology and they will be looking for those elements when they go back to the physical stores.
The rise of the mobile connected consumer
He continued by adding that the role of mobile within the retail journey is going to grow even further whether it is online or offline. It will be a tool for fast tracking the shopper’s journey, but it will also keep the shopper entertained and engaged. The mobile phone is used by many online shoppers as a means to shop. It is easy and everyone has it accessible at a moment’s notice.
The opportunity of augmented reality
There is an opportunity for retailers when it comes to augmented reality, a tool that is driving utility and is also proving financial value. This trend will only accelerate over the coming years as Mr. Alhammadi highlighted. The value of augmented reality is not only with consumers, as last year, the value of items that were returned, only through online shopping, was 2.6 billion Saudi riyals.
This is where AR comes to play. Consumers can virtually try on the items they wish to purchase and get a more specific idea on how it looks on them. This will help them have a more positive shopping experience and the brands better identify the needs and wants of their customers.