With shopping on the web at an all-time high, e-commerce entrepreneurs in the UAE must adapt to circumstances wrought by the pandemic
E-commerce was already growing at a steady rate, but with billions of people holed up in their homes due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is soaring globally. Consumers are going to web retailers for groceries, cleaning products, fashion pieces, cosmetics, home décor, fitness equipment, and other products.
Retailers have adapted to the new reality, and these changes will transform consumer expectations of online delivery and returns, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
It has been a mix of good and bad. Customers are looking for affordability a lot more. We have seen a drop in food orders and an increase in grocery orders.
Retailers in the UAE are also seeing a significant impact on their online business. “It has been a mix of good and bad,” says Tomaso Rodriguez, CEO of Talabat. “Customers are looking for affordability a lot more. We have seen a drop in food orders and an increase in grocery orders.”
In terms of food deliveries, Ramadan has brought some much-needed relief for restaurants. “We introduced the pre-order option to enable customers to order food in advance of suhour and iftar,” says Rodriguez. “However, we are not near the “old normal” order levels.”
We listed new products, increased our stock levels and did a lot of optimisation in our logistics.
For online supermarket Early Bird, sales increased by 75 per cent from February to March and the number of articles in the shopping cart more than doubled. “We listed new products, increased our stock levels and did a lot of optimisation in our logistics,” says Cornelius Durm, Managing Partner, Early Bird.
Popular shoe and accessories store Steve Madden will be launching its own site this month in the UAE. “Reaching out to the customers digitally has been the key focus,” says Satish Patil, Senior Brand Manager, Steve Madden. “We are doing everything from e-catalogue sales to going the extra mile to deliver the last mile.”
We are doing everything from e-catalogue sales to going the extra mile to deliver the last mile.
Muby Astruc, owner of When Shabby Meets Chic, the UAE’s first online store for chalk paint and furniture art, says the lockdown has sent the country into a DIY overdrive. “We are all looking for ways to stay creative and occupied, while adding value to our lives and spaces. When cash is tight, it is a lot cheaper to spend Dh126 on a tin of paint than the hundreds/thousands on a new piece of furniture,” Astruc says.
James Thomas, co-owner of Kathryn Jones Hand Blended Serums, a Dubai-based skincare company, admitted that “we have seen a steady increase in the number of enquiries, which would suggest consumers have more time to consider online purchases.”
We have been giving free demos on Zoom to anyone who needs it; free tutorials on our facebook forum (The UAE Furniture Artisans Forum), and 24-hour phone access to answer any questions.
The economically-challenging pandemic also provides an opportunity for innovation.
“As a food delivery platform, people rely on us to safely deliver food, groceries and medicines, and restaurants need us to keep their business going, says Rodriguez. “We have been incentivising our customers to support local businesses by introducing location-based free deliveries.”
Durm is positive the current situation might change consumer behaviour in the long term. “We see a change to more sustainable products as people realise the amount of waste they generate while being at home.”
Patil says “online sales are trending towards athleisure, comfort lines, flat shoes, kids products and Ramadan-specific products”.
Shabby Meets Chic has seen the sale of its Frenchic Al Fresco — chalk and mineral paint — range go through the roof.
This paint can not only be used indoors, but also on garden furniture, sheds, bathrooms, kitchens, tiles, floors, and all without having to sand, prime or seal. “We have been giving free demos on Zoom to anyone who needs it; free tutorials on our facebook forum (The UAE Furniture Artisans Forum), and 24-hour phone access to answer any questions.
In the cosmetics sector, there is definitely growing momentum and demand for clean and ethically-sourced skincare products, says Thomas, although this is a general market trend and not specifically related to online sales.
“We regularly incentivise sales by including a free serum when a customer’s cart reaches a certain value, however this month, on behalf of each customer making a purchase we are also donating a KJ Serums product to front-line workers in the UAE who are fighting the Coronavirus.”