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For Retail To Thrive, Online And Offline Retailers Must Learn From One Another

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Time: July 22, 2018

The BinDawood Group’s Danube App recently won the Retail Technology award at the Middle East’s Seamless Awards, with the CEO of Danube Online, Majed M Al Tahan, shortlisted for the Middle East’s Digital Leader of the Year award. Ahmad AR BinDawood, CEO of DanubeCo. Ltd. and BinDawood Stores shares some insights on the group’s phenomenal success in bringing Danube online and his thoughts on the future of retail.

The retail landscape is undergoing rapid change. It has always been one of the first industries to be affected by economic fluctuations or political turbulence, but when you add to that the myriad of other factors impacting the sector today—chief among them being technology—traditional retailers and disruptors start speculating about and often fearing the future.

For starters, the retail industry is and will continue to be alive and well for the foreseeable future. A recent study by Deloitte predicted that “consumers will spend confidently throughout 2018.” In fact, the research highlights that the sector is expected to see a growth of 3.2% to 3.8% this year. This projected growth is for the global retail industry, which includes brick-and-mortar and online formats. The competition and the wide range of choices in channels and formats is also expected to continue, according to the study. The customer has always been king—and despite the changes the sector is undergoing, retail has remained and will likely always be the customer’s kingdom.

In their kingdom, customers call the shots. Empowered by technology, customers have an abundance of options that allow them to purchase whatever they want or need, whenever they want it, regardless of their hectic schedules and lives. Thanks to better-than-ever connectivity, the Middle East is no different. How Middle East customers are shopping is undoubtedly influenced by their contemporaries in the U.S. and Europe. Retailers who know and care about the industry and want to ensure its long-term health, understand that there’s no point challenging what the customer wants; this is universal.

It’s Neither Brick Nor Click
As one of the biggest retailers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we’ve placed our customers at the forefront of our priorities for more than 30 years. Over 30 years, customers’ preferences evolve. As technology allows us to offer new choices to customers and consumers embrace ecommerce, we can trace one trend that occurs despite what transformations or growth the industry experiences;retailers who resist evolution, risk being left behind.

Looking at the facts and figures at hand, it is evident that this is not a zero-sum game. Retailers across platforms have an opportunity to elevate the sector together. We know that customers want it all: the convenience of ecommerce, the personal experience of traditional shopping, and everything in between. To remain relevant vis-à-vis this reality, we realized that, in order to meet the expectations of our customers, we had to be where they were: everywhere. To succeed, we made adjustments quickly. We kept doing what worked, tweaked what could be done better, and developed what we didn’t have. In a retail nutshell, the future is brick-and-click.

The pillars to make a customer happy and return— pillars that no disruption will change—are quality, value for money and a positive customer experience. For over three decades, our customers have been loyal to the premium quality and world-class caliber of our customer experience, regardless of the BinDawood or Danube branch they walk into. Our performance metric has always been the voice of the customer, either by direct feedback or word-of-mouth; it’s what we’ve used all these years to drive our continuous improvement.

We know retail, and with the right tech partner we excelled at developing the right tools, onboarding the right talent and implementing the right processes to replicate the outstanding experience that our customers expect from us in-stores, online, with the Danube e-commerce platform and Danube App. This was our ethos in bringing our brand online and it is the best strategy for bringing established brands online successfully.

Interestingly, on the flip side, an observation of successful e-commerce brands is how they will bring that face-to-face interaction with the customer to life by sponsoring community events or rolling out pop-up shops in areas that target their key demographic. Providing an opportunity for customers to engage in-person with your brand is a vital marketing tactic for online retailers and one where they can learn from bricks and mortar store retailers.

The point is whether you are an offline retailer who chooses to go fully online or hybrid, or an online retailer with no plans to have a physical store, innovation and experience should be seen as complementary, as neither can replace the other, and in order to thrive and be sustainable in the long run, businesses can’t prioritize one over the other.

This article was first published in Forbes Middle East

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