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With 97 percent smartphone penetration, Saudi Arabia has all the right ingredients for an e-commerce boom.

The proliferation of smartphones is one of the critical factors for the success of online shopping as it works in two ways: customers enjoy the ease of shopping on their phones, and retailers can use technology platforms in real time to engage productively with their customers.

The Kingdom, where mobile broadband internet subscriptions are exceptionally high and brimming over with smartphones, has all the right ingredients for an e-commerce boom.

A Boston Consulting Group report pointed out that 60 percent of Saudi customers discovered new sellers through social networks in 2020. In 2021, the Kingdom was the 27th largest market for e-commerce, with a revenue of $7.7 billion, placing it ahead of Belgium and just behind Norway.

A report by Statista Digital Market Outlook says the five top categories for online shopping in the Kingdom are fashion, electronics and media, food and personal care, toys, hobby and do-it-yourself kits, and furniture and appliances.

Globally and in the Kingdom, there has been a massive shift to online shopping in the last two years. Along with safety and convenience, there is increased consumer awareness and empowerment as shoppers now know what they want, where they will get it and the best price at which they will get it.

Retail brands are also sitting on a treasure trove of customer data that they can leverage to gain insights into how consumers interact with their brands across several touchpoints and which of these interactions are positive and which are not.

Several platforms help companies use artificial intelligence and data analytics to predict consumer behavior, leading to better response time in demand-supply and building stronger customer relationships. Consumer brands can leverage real-time data to comprehend consumer paths and decision-making. Brands that turn data into actionable insights are most likely to win the customer’s loyalty.

Being omnichannel and seamless

Although users flit between channels, they expect brands to be omnipresent and send unified messages. Therefore, retailers have no choice but to adopt the omnichannel marketing approach. They cannot afford to be lax about this, as this is one of the best ways to provide customers with a consistent and personalized experience.

Globally and in the kingdom, there is a massive shift towards online interaction and brands are looking to drive their customer engagement through various online channels.

Raviteja Dodda

Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are moving to omnichannel hybrid formats to offer the convenience of online shopping and retain their offline presence to ease initial customer apprehensions and overcome hurdles to adoption.

This hybrid model can help retailers tap into the market and win customers only if they offer a seamless experience that blends the best of both online and offline experiences. It means they must engage with consumers digitally before they arrive at the store to close a purchase. For example, to give a seamless experience, the retailer can enable the customer to order online and opt for a store pickup.

Segment and target

When customers use smartphones to shop, they leave behind a trail of information retailers can use to understand shopping behavior. This trail answers essential retail questions like what customers like about the brand and their app experiences.

Retailers can also categorize customers into various segments based on their shopping behaviors — likely or unlikely to revisit a store or app, be repeat visitors, spend double or show positive shopping intent. There are several instances of retailers using AI-based technology to transform their businesses.

For instance, Speedi, a leading grocery e-commerce platform, turned its poor open rates with campaigns into successful ones by deploying a comprehensive, tailored customer interaction strategy. This move effectively helped boost retention and drive daily active users. Similarly, Alghanim Group’s Xcite boosted revenue and increased lifetime value with a personalized omnichannel engagement strategy to tackle cart abandonments, out-of-stock and wish list additions.

Fashion retailer Brands for Less, also expanding in Saudi Arabia, used AI-led advanced segmentation to target users based on past purchase behavior to win back dormant customers.

Lifestyle retailer Azadea group, which operates in 13 Middle Eastern and African countries, including Saudi Arabia, improved purchases and conversion by using AI-based smart triggers and dynamic personalization campaigns for cart abandonment, cross-sell and low stock campaigns.

So, with the right tools, brands can create custom segments based on these patterns, which are accurate and effective.

Locate and target

Shopping apps and websites can help retailers locate their shoppers with location notifications. Location analytics also equip retailers and marketers with information on how consumers in a particular geographical area engage with a brand, online as well as offline and helps retailers identify the geographical areas that need different marketing efforts.

Optimize communication

Retailers use robust AI technology to optimize their communication with customers. For example, once customers start using the brand’s app or website, it is easy to analyze and understand when they are active on the platform, what products they like and what categories they prefer. This data is helpful for both established and emerging brands to target their customers with meaningful campaigns.

Personalize and target

Studying and understanding the nuances of the customer’s purchase behavior gives a head-start to brands on their journey toward being customer-centric. This process involves creating an omnichannel marketing campaign that is deeply personalized.

Home appliances brand Alsaif Gallery plans to leverage an AI platform to drive engagement and increase retention by providing a hyper-personalized experience to each of its customers. Similarly, the online car marketplace Syarah, which had many drop-offs, changed the scenario with an AI-powered platform that helped them identify potential buyers and engage them based on their preferences. As a result, it kept users active until the purchases were made.

Technology platforms have also made it possible to personalize a larger buying community with diverse cultures and needs. Data is the new medium that helps brands see through customers’ minds and deliver content and promotional material suitable to them. It can be implemented with the right customer engagement platform.

So, what sets successful brands apart from ordinary ones are the actions they take in the process of becoming customer-centric.

To give buyers a customer-centric experience, retailers must build an insights-led engagement with customers, no matter the retail mode. And there is no better way to achieve this than with relevant customer data, creating customized content and investing in a platform that can process the data and reap profits from it.

Raviteja Dodda is the CEO and co-founder of MoEngage.