Future of retail promises tailored experience

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Saudi Gazette

The future trends of shopping all come down to one thing: a customized experience.

While e-commerce is gradually creeping up, physical shops see lesser traffic.

Shoppers online prefer the Internet for ease of searching, variety of items available, trustworthiness, and ability to find unique products, Deloitte reported last year.

E-commerce in Saudi Arabia is growing and is estimated to increase from $7.7 million in 2017 to $10.9 million by 2020, according to Statista.

However, the future of retail does not mean the disappearance of stores. Several experiences around the world have come up with innovative concepts to consumers.

In Singapore, a new retail concept popped up in an office building that aims to create a friendly environment for work-life balance. At Downtown Gallery designed by OUE Limited, employees can spend their free hours in recreation. Apart from a boutique gym, cooking classes, a terrace garden, there is also an open space for shopping. However, there are no shop fronts but kiosques and a beauty bar appearing like a vending machine.

The beauty bar has a touch screen for buyers to choose cosmetic products and interact with a digital seller.

Time is an important factor for busy people, says Jessica Lim, assistant vice president of leasing at OUE Ltd real estate developer.

“We’re used to doing everything online,” she said. “People don’t need to come to a shopping center to buy a pair of shoes or clothes, they go online. We’re looking beyond just transaction so we’re bringing a concept that meets the need of the lifestyle.”

Eliminating shop fronts is intentional. Between shops are buffers with restaurants, recreational activities, and wellbeing areas. “It’s to rest the eyes from consumerism,” said Lim.

Other innovations coming to retail are augmented reality and virtual reality technologies. In September 2017, Mastercard and Swarovski launched a virtual reality (VR) shopping app for the Atelier Swarovski home décor line, a collection of functional and decorative crystal home accessories designed in collaboration with world-renowned architects and designers. The app immerses consumers in a tastefully decorated home where they can browse and purchase the pieces with Masterpass, Mastercard’s digital payment service.

Mastercard also introduced this year chatbots for merchants using Facebook Messenger, allowing small businesses in Africa and Asia to accept electronic payments in places where cash is dominantly used.


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