The way we understood retail is changing rapidly, according to experts, over 80% customers in the region indulge in digital activity before or after their purchase and browse product information on various channels including the social media before making a buying decision. Trends like online shopping, shop and ship, click and pick will continue to offer SMEs a huge opportunity in the regional retail sector in the coming years.

Smart Stores Expo 2017A roundtable on ‘Omnichannel – How Ready Are We’ discussed the opportunities and challenges faced in the region for the growth of omnichannel retail, and brought together the executive leadership of leading retail solution providers including Co-founder & CEO of Business DNA Tarek El Goweiny, Managing Director of RedBox Digital David Fuller, Channel Sales Manager of NCR Manoj Mishra and was moderated by the Director of Retail Pro, Rammohan Nair.

“In omnichannel retail, the customer’s journey is persistent across all the systems, be it on the web, mobile or instore. It allows the consumer to buy, collect and pay at their convenience, as well as allows the retailer to recognize the customer’ buying habits and preferences. For many in the region, e-commerce is a new thing, there is huge chance for existing store networks and new entrants to reach the right customer using new trends like ‘click and collect’. Retailers in the region are poised to benefit from omnichannel solutions, but they need to integrate both online and instore systems to ensure the smooth flow of both data and products, which is critical for a successful and sustainable omnichannel environment,” said David Fuller of RedBox Digital.

David further added that there is a huge advantage for already existing network stores, as they can offer click and collect at their local location as per customer choice, however, solutions will evolve in coming years and SMEs will rise to fill the service gap offering better solutions to strengthen the last mile logistics.

Commenting on the concept of anytime anywhere retail Manoj Mishra from NCR, said, “The various surveys have found that 84% of customers go online before, during or after a purchase, and there is a 40% more sales conversion chance if a customer checks a product online before purchasing. Another interesting fact is that that 75% of consumers rely on information provided by other users on social media, this also influences their buying decision and brand loyalties.”

He added that the retailers in the region are struggling to provide the kind of omnichannel experience today’s consumer demands, as most of them operate on old hardware and software system. Instore technologies like self-scanning and kiosks will see growth in the region. NCR has wide Portfolio of solutions that allows you users to shop, self-scan, pay and collect from selected locations. “To serve the demanding consumer better retailers in the region should look at IT as a capital, rather than additional costs for their business,” Mishra said.

Bringing in the cultural aspect, Tarek El Goweinyof Business DNA, said, “Dominance by online shopping is not yet possible in the region. Consumers continue to rely on bricks and motor stores for purchasing rather than online, especially grocery items. However, social media is influencing the decision making process in a big way. The retailers should understand that customer experiences are at the center of an omnichannel retail system. The regional retail brands have been traditionally focusing on business physical infrastructure rather than on Information Technology and business intelligence. But the key is to analyze, understand consumer behavior, and to adapt accordingly.”

Concluding the discussions Rammoham Nair from Retail Pro, said, “Omnichannel retail will see an exponential growth in the region in coming years, however, the ‘brick and mortar’ stores too will grow. The multitude of buying channels available to consumers will encourage stores to find new ways to deliver by offering automated solutions like click-and-collect andmore efficient door-delivery mechanism which will enhance the customer experience.”

He added that Expo2020 will be a turning point  for both e-commerce and in-store smart solutions in theretail sector as UAE remains one of the top retail markets in the world.

The roundtable, held at Towers Rotana recently, was the first in the series of roundtables planned as a part of the inaugural Smart Stores Expo, which will be held from 23-25th January 2017, at ADNEC (Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company).