b8ta, a unique software-powered retailer with its mission to build a ‘Retail-as-a-Service’ platform for brands, has announced its strategic collaboration with noon.com, Middle East’s leading digital marketplace, to bring innovative and unique brands to customers in the region. The collaboration is designed to enable brands to reach out to a wider audience. Ramit Harisinghani, General Manager – MENA, b8ta.ae, explains the changes in the retail sector in the UAE.
The partnership between b8ta and noon.com is aimed at successfully launching new products by innovative brands and is in line with strengthening the e-commerce market and to meet the fast-growing demand among the most digitally-savvy and brand conscious shoppers in the region. The strategic collaboration between b8ta and noon.com is designed to provide innovative and curated products a launch-pad, with an optimal marketing strategy, and enable them to reach out to a wider audience that may or may not be familiar with the brand’s presence and aesthetic. Noon.com, the region’s home-grown e-commerce platform, will also provide competitive prices, exclusive member deals, timely fulfilment and logistics services, ensuring fast and reliable delivery for outstanding customer experience.
Ramit Harisinghani, General Manager – MENA, b8ta.ae, said: “COVID-19 has changed consumer buying behaviour and shopping patterns. For a brand to win in the retail sector, providing an immersive experience is of utmost importance. With 76% of UAE shoppers doing their purchases via online marketplaces, our recent collaboration with noon.com underlines our commitment to bring customers unbiased access to the most cutting edge technology and allow them to discover new brands and products first-hand. We are confident that this quality partnership will bring enormous benefits to our customers and in bolstering the growth of the e-commerce market.”
Maya El Ayach, Growth & Digital Strategy, noon, said: “Noon was created to give people in the Middle East a local digital champion, a platform through which businesses can expand their offering to online. Over the past year adoption of e-commerce in the region accelerated, trust has increased and overall reliance on a more digital lifestyle grew. This has created an opportunity for businesses to grow using tools like noon’s to reach even more customers. Noon is focused on driving growth and digital innovation in the region.”
According to a joint study by Dubai Economy and Visa, the UAE is currently the most advanced e-commerce market in the Middle East and North Africa, revealing an estimated annual growth of 23% between 2018 and 2022. With the outbreak of COVID-19, the number of residents to jump on the online shopping bandwagon has increased, and this trend is unlikely to subside as 92% respondents from a PwC GCIS COVID-19 Pulse survey said they are likely to continue purchasing online after the pandemic is over.
Launched in the UAE as a joint venture with the Chalhoub Group, the leading partner for luxury across the Middle East, b8ta is the first brick-and-mortar retailer that bridges the gap between traditional and online retail, placing consumer experience and the desire to discover firmly at the heart of its concept.
Ramit Harisinghani, General Manager – MENA, b8ta, talks to Intelliegent SME.tech about the changes in the retail sector in the UAE.
What is the future of the retail sector in the UAE post COVID-19? How does your concept blend into it?
The massive outbreak of Coronavirus sparked disruption across industries and sectors, and retail industry was no exception. As countries were battling and implementing measures to control the spread of virus, retailers were scrambling to adapt; preparing for the longer-term implications and remediate the shorter-term shocks.
The good news is UAE is viewed as one of the most opportunistic luxury goods market in the Middle East region and innovative brands see this country as the key long-term entry market. The consumers also have cultivated a healthy appetite for luxury in their lives. People are enjoying much more material comfort in comparison to previous generations, resulting in a trend of a cultural shift for personal fulfilment and aspiration through experience.
Goldstein Market Intelligence analyst forecast the UAE luxury goods market to expand at a CAGR of 7.1% during the forecast period 2017-2030. Moreover, the market is projected to reach US7.8 billion by 2030 owing to rapid urbanisation and development of shopping centres and malls in order to expand their tourism industry and the government aims to develop UAE as one of the biggest shopping destinations across the globe.
Our brand, b8ta, launched in the UAE as a joint venture with Chalhoub Group at the start of 2020 with one physical store in the Dubai Mall. As the year progressed, we quickly introduced measures to act as a hybrid retailer in providing the ultimate next-gen retail experience to our customers.
With the strategy in place, towards the end of the third quarter of 2020, we launched our overarching programme called Launch with b8ta – a launch platform for international brands to enter the Middle East with full support around launching in b8ta’s own online/offline channels, partner network, full logistics and registration support and driving marketing content on digital platform to name a few. While we offer unique experience to customers with never seen in the region products, brands that team up with b8ta also benefit from a smart market entry strategy where they don’t need to burn a lot of cash entering the new market by themselves; instead, we take care of all things for them providing smart market analytics for further brand expansion. For customers, b8ta is the only hybrid retailer in the region that is actively working on bringing unique brands from around the world to the UAE, to the most digital-savvy and brand conscious shoppers in the region.
Is the demand for e-commerce is still high as before in the UAE?
The Middle East is one of the fastest growing e-commerce markets across the globe. The market was worth US$8.3 billion in 2017 and is expected to more than triple by 2022 to reach US$28.5 billion, according to a new research by Bain and Company and Google. Moreover, the Coronavirus pandemic is helping to usher in a new era of e-commerce, accelerating trend lines that had already become apparent. Moreover, the pandemic has exposed many consumers to e-commerce for the first time and that will likely fuel increased growth in the coming years.
Is there a big shift from traditional stores towards online options?
The retail industry undergoes a disruption every few years. Like most disruptions, digital retail technology had a shaky start but with the outbreak of the pandemic it gained immense exposure and remained a preferred way of shopping. Globally, digital retailing is probably headed toward 15% to 20% of total sales, though the proportion will vary significantly by sector.
In the near future, to survive and thrive, retailers will have to integrate diverse channels such as websites, physical stores, kiosks, direct mail and catalogues, call centres, social media, mobile devices and more into a single seamless omnichannel experience to interact with their customers.
Such an integration was very important for us, thus b8ta concept is about blended offline and online experience for customers. The model bridges the gap between traditional and online retail, putting consumer experience and the desire to discover firmly at the heart of its concept, so they can first try and play, then either buy them in-store or choose to order online. For brands, b8ta is strongly positioned to offer meaningful analytics to measure online and offline metrics, all rounded Retail-as-a-Service solution, direct clienteling offline and online via a seamless integrated virtual appointment solution as well as a WhatsApp catalogue and digital commerce solution.
What is required and expected from traditional stores to be able to keep up and compete with e-stores and online shopping platforms?
Innovation is key. Retailers have to adapt their business model to cater to non-linear buyers. Customers today are armed with smart devices, addicted to social networking sites and are ready to share their experiences with the rest of their tribe who can easily be influenced based on the reviews shared online.
Unless the traditional brick and mortar retail stores don’t adapt to the non-linear buying behaviour, they are likely to be swept away.
Additionally, traditional stores should train their salespersons to be authentic consultants and offer flexi-pay options to meet customers’ requirements, as e-tailers can find it difficult to compete on these parameters.
Do you have any plans for new investments/expansion (new branches in Abu Dhabi, for example)?
Yes, we are opening a new retail outlet at Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi by end of Q1. Plans are in place for an expansion in the GCC starting with the KSA this year.