DUBAI: Technology will play a crucial role for the recovery of the Gulf’s $275.4-billion retail sector after the COVID-19 pandemic pushed global industries to the wall, experts have said in an online retail event.
Retail sector officials and experts noted a shift in consumer behavior in the region, adding how latest technology and digital transformation are now key to unlocking the market’s potential.
A recent survey conducted by Ernst & Young in May 2020 found that 92 percent of consumers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia have changed their shopping habits – including shifting to online purchase.
“Technology will drive digital initiatives. Good customer experience will come from an innovation mindset, driven using different technology tools,” Piyush Kumar Chowhan, Group Chief Information Officer, Lulu Group International, the largest retailer in the Gulf.
He added data and artificial intelligence could “nurture the growth of the retail sector.”
Studies have shown how the pandemic forced Gulf consumers to adapt to new technology – including to contactless payments and remote shopping through mobile applications.
The Visa CEMEA Impact Tracker has shown a shift to online commerce, with cash transactions being replaced by digital payments. The survey found many consumers in the UAE started shopping online for the first time.
Saudi Arabia’s Bin Dawood Group reported 400 percent jump in app downloads while online sales jumped 200 percent in just a few weeks.
While these new methods become prominent, Youssef Olama, Information Technology Director at Spinneys Egypt, warned of one of its dangers – breach of privacy for consumers.
“Technology is undoubtedly the key to future business growth. Data science will be important to understand market trends and leverage them within the business. But we should avoid tracking customers. Privacy has to be well-defined in terms of data usage,” he said.