Updated: Jun 9
Online retail is hot right now.
Are you up-to-speed on:
In this episode we sit down with Shahzad Bhatti, Founder & CEO of The Co-Dubai, to discuss:
Trends in retail post COVID-19 (online and offline)
Software solutions that enable e-commerce
The importance of seamless delivery and the role of aggregators
Creating customer experiences to gain a competitive edge
Payment processing options for retailers (payment gateways and POS machines)
Trends within retail payments
Shahzad Bhatti is the Founder & CEO of The Co-Dubai, which is the first co-working space in Dubai certified by Dubai SME. At The Co-Dubai, Shahzad also operates a retail accelerator (launched in August 2019) as a part of its education programs for entrepreneurs from ideation stage onwards. The program is 12 months long and currently has a cohort of 20 startups. The Co also operates an F&B kitchen incubator in London.
COVID-19 has forced local retail entrepreneurs to focus on online sales channels (e.g. e-commerce) as opposed to at malls (e.g. pop-up or full retail outlets). Shahzad recommends WordPress and WooCommerce for aspiring retail entrepreneurs to build their online web stores. A popular alternative is Shopify. Moreover, during COVID-19, Facebook launched Shops for retailers and DoorDash launched Storefronts for restaurants.
Delivery aggregators (e.g. Deliveroo, Zomato, Uber Eats) charge high fees, but restaurateurs can rationalize that as a part of their marketing budget. However, free/ self-managed aggregators (e.g. ChatFood) are now disrupting the market. The same can be applied to other marketplaces/ aggregator platforms across other industries (e.g. Airbnb).
Fast delivery and responsive customer service centers can make or break an online shopping experience. This can be easier for startups, as opposed to conglomerates, to implement due to agility towards technology adoption without having to integrate legacy systems.
"I'm still waiting for my order and it's been 3 months. Whenever I call customer services... nothing is resolved. It's a minimal amount but that experience has turned off ordering online."
Brick-and-mortar will not die completely in the Middle East due to the infrastructure investment to make them accessible. However, retailers can invest further in creating customer experiences and clienteling to attract customers over competitors, particularly for luxury brands. Facial recognition technology (e.g. Facenote) can help retailers strategically personalize aspects of customer experience, beyond the novelty factor, bearing in mind the related privacy concerns of retailers housing the data.
Bank account opening for micro-businesses is a lengthy process in the United Arab Emirates, thereby affecting the ease at which retail startups can transact digitally. To start, getting a payment gateway is cumbersome due to the lengthy sign-up processes currently put in place by banks who operate locally. Point-of-sale (POS) machines are just as cumbersome to obtain. However, Tap is making it easier for startups to process payments on their website or customers' phones (the latter facilitated through shareable links).
Recent innovations in payments include the facilitation of easy installment plans (e.g. through PostPay in the Middle East), which retailers can embed within their e-commerce platforms. Some facilitators of easy installment plans are providing their own POS machines to execute the service at the point of purchase in-store. It is in retailers’ benefit to support this trend, as it encourages customers’ to increase their basket size.
Cash has been demonized recently as they’re carriers of COVID-19, and so retailers have been pushing for contactless methods of payments. MasterCard has launched a feature that facilitates contactless card payments using augmented reality.