Disrupt or die? No chance: Experts say e-commerce will not collapse luxury industry

Panelists sat down to discuss the effects of digitalization on the premium goods industry at Arab Luxury World in Dubai.
Updated 23 May 2017

Disrupt or die? No chance: Experts say e-commerce will not collapse luxury industry

DUBAI: Would you buy a luxury product worth thousands online? It is a question that panelists at the Arab Luxury World forum in Dubai sat down to discuss on Monday as the fourth iteration of the annual event kicked off.
The forum is set to run from Monday and Tuesday and features an agenda of speeches and panel discussions by more than 70 speakers under the theme “Digital Disruption and Emotional Engagement.”
In the world of luxury goods, the panelists agreed that digital shopping will not soon replace brick-and-mortar retail as many consumers still wish to get a real feel of the high-end product they are buying, however, all panelists emphasized the need for luxury brands to communicate effectively with consumers online.
In a session moderated by Anand Vengurlekar, chief communications officer at INSEAD Business School, experts from the luxury industry discussed the effect that digitization was having on the market.
However, panelist Samer Bohsali, a partner at the Strategy& consulting firm, was quick to assure the audience that digital avenues would not disrupt the luxury industry in same way Uber had for the transport industry, for example.
“The old model of digital was disrupt or die. With what Netflix has done to Blockbuster, what Uber has done to the taxi industry, you would think that the next victim is the fashion business,” he told the audience, before adding: “Digital will not disrupt luxury the same way.”
Why? Because, according to Bohsali, “the luxury industry has relied, for centuries, on the aura of exclusivity and sensory experiences that are very difficult to replicate on a mobile device.”
However, Bohsali did note that the digital sphere has made customers more aware about the products they wish to buy.
“Digital has transformed the habits of your users and your consumers, you’ve got a new generation online that can compare the price of a bag in Beijing and Paris and know they are not getting a fair deal in Beijing,” he said.
Category Director for Fashion at noon.com, a Middle East-focused online shopping portal, Jose Antonio Grajales, agreed that the digital world was transforming the luxury industry, rather than disrupting it.
“For me, the disruption is not a complete metamorphosis of the industry, it is more of an evolution of the way we consume,” he said.
According to Grajales, much of the world’s luxury sales happen in just 10 cities, something he says digital platforms can help to change.
“As sellers of luxury products, we have failed at getting that product to customers in other places… Because of e-commerce and digitalization, we are able to get those products into the hands of consumers more easily.
“Luxury is unique because you like to touch it, you like to feel it and you like to experience it but you aren’t always in a place which makes those nice things easily accessible,” he said, explaining the power of e-commerce in widening the reach of luxury brands.
“Technology should enable us to serve a customer better, wherever you are you should be able to access that luxury experience and that luxury product.”
But what advice did the panelists have for luxury brands seeking to leverage the digital world?
“Be prepared to fail,” Bohsali said.
“The fashion industry hasn’t cracked it. The classic model that has worked is a store — the in-store experience works — but the future could be a combination of using a mobile device and coming to a store.
“It’s an experiment, the industry is still experimenting.”
The panel also included Graziela Martins, vice president of the merchant business at American Express Middle East and North Africa and Emre Karaer, general manager at Volvo Cars MENA.


Automechanika Riyadh opens, featuring leading global suppliers

Updated 25 February 2020

Automechanika Riyadh opens, featuring leading global suppliers

  • Saudi auto deals grew 40 percent last year with influx of female buyers

RIYADH: Leading names in the global auto services industry are out in force at Automechanika Riyadh — which opened on Monday at Al Faisaliah Hotel — vying to increase their share of a growing market expected to reach a value of $10.15 billion by 2023.

Automechanika Riyadh is the regional arm of the world’s largest trade fair, congress and event organizer, Messe Frankfurt, which has licensed the Automechanika brand to event organizer Al Harithy Company for Exhibitions (ACE) Group.

Mansour Abdullah Al-Shathri, vice chairman of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce, inaugurated the trade event, which will run from Feb. 24-26.

It was revealed that Saudi auto deals grew approximately 40 percent last year, with female buyers accounting for between 10-15 percent of sales after the landmark decision to allow women to drive in the Kingdom for the first time.  

“International suppliers are stepping up their marketing for the resurgence in Saudi’s market, and this impacts the entire supply chain,” said Mahmut Gazi Bilikozen, show director for Automechanika Riyadh.

“While there is growth potential in the market, it is becoming a more competitive landscape and one which will also have to contend with evolving customer preferences. The conditions are ripe for new business relationships for those wishing to succeed in this transformative environment,” he added.

Zahoor Siddique, vice president of ACE, said: “Future vehicles will become more complex and challenging for the aftermarket industry. It is therefore imperative for manufacturers, local garages, technicians and mechanics to upskill and remain above the curve. 

 “Automechanika Riyadh is one such platform that can enable us to share and learn what the industry needs to unleash its potential.”

Two major US players — disc pad producer Giant Manufacturing and United Motors Mopar, the Kingdom’s sole distributor of Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Fiat cars — forecast a bullish market over the next few years.

Giant’s vice president, Eli Youssian, said he believed car sales in the Kingdom would grow by 9 percent annually until 2025, while United Motors District CEO Hassan Elshamarani expected another three million female drivers to be on the Kingdom’s roads by the end of the year.

Both Giant and United Motors launched new products at the show, with the former rolling out its new German-engineered Euro Premium Metallic Disc brake pads, and the latter introducing its Magneti Marelli spare parts.

The high potential of the new-look Saudi automotive landscape has also struck a major chord with South Korean suppliers.

The show’s Korean pavilion is hosting new-to-market entrants and existing suppliers all looking for business partners. With products from wiper blades to filters and air-conditioning parts to brake pads, the Korean contingent was positive about the Kingdom’s prospects.

One exhibitor, D Only Automotive, is looking to ring fence 10 percent of the Saudi brake market. “With more vehicles on the road, demand for brakes will increase, (so) we believe this is possible,” said President Jeon JaeWon.

Global research and analytics firm Aranca — Automechanika’s knowledge partner — has forecast that Saudi Arabia’s automotive spare parts and service market will grow at approximately 6 percent over the next five years to reach a value of $10.15 billion by 2023.

“The spare parts and service market for passenger cars alone is expected to eclipse $6.9 billion by 2023,” said Vishal Sanghavi, Aranca’s automotive practice head.