Smart Stores and Retail Landscape

BENOI NAIR|July 31, 2018

The Middle East loves to shop and there’s no second opinion about it. Visiting Malls, Outlets and Brand showrooms is an integral culture here, and online retail is still trying to catch on. However, it’s not far behind because UAE is trying to redefine the shopping experience for its consumers with upcoming smart stores. 

The cosmic change in the retail sector, provoked by recent trends and technology have impacted the buying behaviour of consumers, with the younger population living in the cities paving way for smart stores. The digital age has opened a world of opportunities for retailers, with equal challenges respective of their performance and reputation virtually. One of the best examples of this is ‘Online Shopping’, which has enabled even smallest of the operators to tap the global market and reach buyers.

One of the many fascinating facts about the Middle East is that it has one of the fastest growing populations in the world and relatively the youngest. Middle Eastern population is set to reach 500 Million by the year 2100, with half of them being under 24 years of age.

Retail Scene in the Middle East

Contrary to the popular belief, the rise in the popularity of online shopping has had a strong influence on physical stores as well. This sudden rise in the online shopping phenomenon has somehow motivated traditional stores to reinvent themselves and provide customers with a new version of shopping and entertainment. However, there are some stores who are paying the price for not being flexible and as a result, they are dealing with low footfall, price issues with online counterparts lowering the profit margins to attract more customers.   


What’s the future?

Smart Store Qualities to expect in future:

Personalization – A new version of customer relationship management is penetrating the smart shopping model wherein retailers are trying to make shopping personal for the consumers. With customers’ consent, smart stores will be able to gain insight into a consumers shopping behaviour to offer customized suggestions on products and promotions. Using Near Field Communication technology, the accumulated consumer data will be saved in devices managed by store staff who in turn can address the consumer by his or her name, thereby adding a pinch of customization in the shopping experience. 

Imagine walking into a store that already has information about your preferences and likings, addresses you by your name. They already know what you like and will be able to offer fantastic deals depending on your location and your likings.

All about creating CREATIVE spaces

Retailers along with the technology have to work on combining creativity with designing their storefronts because the everyday environment has a tremendous effect on the way the consumer interacts with the merchandise. Establishing a creative storefront is not limited to aspects like lighting, music, textures and aroma that are capable of bringing people from the busy shopping mall feel to the comfort of your unique retail store experience. The key to encouraging better spending is to create a store layout that is both convenient and inspiring to the average shopper.

After layout, cometh the creation of an appropriate atmosphere that will further support the products, aligning with the desires of the consumers.   


The future lies in…

 Smart Stores with Interactive Mirrors and Smart Payment gateways

The future will see fruitful partnerships between technology and retail names. One such example is ‘Marie Claire’, which collaborated with MasterCard to set up a make-shift store with impressive features like smart mirrors. Smart Mirrors are capable of recommending additional accessories that will complement the outfit consumers try in front of them, and even suggest beauty products for the skin.

E-commerce experience within the store will allow the consumers to make the payment of their purchase by simply waving their phones in front of the mirror, which will integrate technologies such as Apple Pay or Android Pay. Fashion brands such as Ralph Lauren and Rebecca Minkoff are also trying their level best to amalgamate high-end artificial intelligence into their stores to entice the customers.


Shelves with Sensors


A store concept which Amazon rolled out by the name of ‘Amazon Go’. Customers don’t have to deal with long and irritating queues and all they have to do is – Pick up the stuff you need, put it in your shopping basket and leave while your Amazon account is charged automatically. The secret to this flawless shopping experience lies in the sensors that are placed on the shelves and the shopping basket that is integrated into the Amazon accounts of the customer. A brand like ‘Sunglass Hut’ is following the lead as well.


Robot guides or Assistants

Have you heard about the home improvement brand ‘Lowe’s’? Lowe’s is one of the first names to experiment with Robot assistants who have the capability of scanning the shelves for inventory and even greet customers in more than one language. The greetings or the messages from the robot will be customized as per the age and gender of the customer.

This is a fantastic example of a futuristic retail store that is considering investment in smart technology, which again will offer a unique experience to its customers.


Augmented Reality (AR) for decision-making

Selected retailers now are offering ‘Augmented Reality’ technology that helps you visualize how your purchase will look/appear in real life, thereby boosting your decision-making ability and fastening the purchase process. For instance, smart stores will embed AR technology to give you a real-life feel of how a particular piece of furniture in the store, will look in your home. The technology will enable you to play with different set-ups, shades and models of the furniture and will give you a preview of how the furniture will look in real life set-up.


Grocery Shopping from your car


How about buying groceries with someone else picking the products and moving around with the trolley for you? This is what we call the smart shopping experience, wherein the consumer only has to worry about ‘what to buy?’. As an experiment in smart store shopping, Retail Pioneer ‘Union Coop’ in Dubai created a unique experience for its consumers in its ‘Umm Suqeim branch’.

Union Coop wishes to put an end to the tedious waiting ritual, which is common in supermarkets by rolling out the smart shopper valet service. This feature allows a consumer to take the products of choice and walk straight to their vehicles and pay from the comfort of their seats. The valet assisting the customer carries a mobile Bar Code Reader, printer and Credit card machine with him, which enables him to pick the products of customer’s choice, scan them and bill them at consumer’s will. The Umm Suqeim branch is known as the SMART BRANCH of Union Coop. 


The real sphere is changing drastically, and the brands that are flexible enough to change with the market will win the modern generation of consumers. The future seems exciting.

For info on Smart Stores Expo to be held in Dubai, Click HERE!


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Website last updated on 22-04-2024 01:28:00 AM

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