#FutureThatClicks: The ever-evolving retail landscape

April 19, 2024 | By RetailME Bureau

#FutureThatClicks: The ever-evolving retail landscape session, ICS MENA 2024

From innovative platforms to cutting-edge marketing strategies, logistics optimisation and data security, several trends and advancements are shaping the future of online retail.

How are customers’ e-commerce preferences evolving and how are businesses leveraging technology to address these changes to create a point of differentiation to stay ahead of market trends, asked Internet Commerce Summit (ICS) MENA 2024 session moderator Anuvrat Gaurav, Regional Country Director, SellAnyCar.com.

“The urge to rent versus own is a big change that led to the launch of our furniture rental service called MAKAN,” responded Co-founder Othmane Saifaoui. “Technology pieces such as analytics and screening tools are essential for our business to screen our potential clients to gauge if they will be able to pay us for their contract. Technology is also essential to follow the inventory through the entire lifetime of the furniture at the client site as well as at our warehouse.”

“Technology has not just empowered but changed the landscape of every industry and fitness is no different. From 2015 when we started offering fitness & wellness services for corporates until Covid, we did all activities in-person. Post-Covid 80% of our corporates use our services online, which has also increased our geographical reach, and what’s more 200,000 users have embraced our app,” shared Neha Samuel, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer, Fitze.ae – an app that rewards people for their fitness efforts.

At this point, Gaurav posed a question to Priyanka Sengar, Chief Executive Officer, Women First Jobs – an impact-based women-only talent platform – about the importance of inclusivity and diversity in today’s business landscape and unique strategies to empower women across industries.

“At Women First Jobs, our mission is to create awareness about DEI among job seekers and recruiters. The platform is diversified and user friendly for any user to register themselves and our team facilitates the matchmaking process based on talent, interest and opportunities available,” Sengar explained.

Another matchmaking platform is Play:Date, an app that helps parents to build their child’s social circle based on interests. Highlighting the importance of user feedback Founder Shamim Kassibawi said, “When I launched Play:Date, not only was I not a mother, I was actually single, so I had no idea about parenting or what it’s like to run a family. What I knew is that we are the generation of creating relationships online and I wanted to be an early mover. Initially Play:Date was meant to be a child-to-child kind of app run by parents. But we learnt a lot from feedback from parents and switched up the whole interface and structure of the app, messaging and built it to be a family-to-family platform.”

So, what kind of innovative strategies are e-commerce platforms implementing to survive in a highly competitive landscape, Gaurav asked.

Anastasia Kim, Chief Executive Officer of B2C platform WEE Marketplace said, “It’s been more than a year since we launched and our customers – almost 70% being women – proved our uniqueness with their trust. Now we have the supply chain to fulfil 100,000 orders per day and ensure fast and predictable delivery within one hour. We rely heavily on partnerships and technology. For instance, we currently have several logistics partners along with over 100 sellers and technology will help us to rapidly scale up in markets including Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, the Philippines and so on. Moreover, we have a great team supporting our growth.”

Raising a pertinent question, Gairav asked, in terms of technology, what will be the opportunities and challenges in the next few years?

In terms of opportunities for, AI will enable brands to keep up with evolving customer demands. While data privacy is adding a layer of complexity, Saifaoui responded.

So, what is the best way to navigate data privacy while protecting customer data yet personalising products for them?

“In our case, which is actually a platform for both B2B and B2C clients we keep checking and auditing, data, determining how much data can be shown and what must be hidden,” Senger shared.

In summation, Gaurav asked, with increasing SKUs, demand for faster delivery and sustainability becoming a bigger concern among consumer, how can organisations navigate through the landscape bearing profitability in mind?

“It doesn’t always have to be big steps. Organisations can identify specific areas where they can make a difference. In our case, we promote walking challenges encouraging users to not use elevators or escalators. We partner with corporates to incentivise such initiatives,” Samuel concluded.

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