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E-retailers may soon be a part of the events organised by Dubai Festival and Retail Establishment (DFRE) such as the Dubai Summer Surprises. While that is a work in progress, shoppers in the UAE are still able to benefit from various technologies being brought into shopping malls. Whether it is shopping on the go or using your location to alert you to nearby deals, retailers have opted to use mobile technology to service shoppers even better, egged on by their voracious appetite for data. The mobile is emerging as a leading tool for decision-making and for shopping. Laurent Wakim, Regional Director, PayPal Middle East & North Africa, says, “The mobile experience is changing – mobile sites and applications are designed around ease of use, accessibility and convenience. This allows merchants to innovate ways to reach their customers in a safer and more secure way, making m-commerce a viable option.”

Online retail was once seen as a threat to brick-and-mortar stores, with retailers complaining it was little more than a glorified trial room. The practice of customers trying stuff at shops before going in search of cheaper deals online was called showrooming, However, a new report from Business Insider’s BI Intelligence finds that reverse showrooming is now common. In the US, 69 per cent of people indulged in reverse showrooming while 46 per cent admitted to showrooming, stated the report.

Reverse showrooming
Wakim says that retailers are able to use mobility to provide consumers with the best of both worlds. “Physical retailers are now embracing reverse showrooming, a concept that allows innovation in providing customers with comprehensive catalogues on the move with in-store incentives such as geotagging and integration with social media.”

 Major stakeholders across the board have understood the impact mobiles have on shopping. Sachin Bountra, Head, Emerging Products & Innovation, Visa Middle East, tells GN Focus, “According to Google’s Our Mobile Planet report from the first quarter of 2013, smartphone penetration rates in the UAE are among the highest in the world at 73.8 per cent. During their leisure time, smartphone users in this region spend a considerable amount of time in shopping malls, providing significant opportunities for merchants to expand their existing businesses through digital and mobile channels.”

It starts with the basics, which include providing free Wi-Fi in malls. And the trend of Bring Your Own Device [BYOD] takes it to the next level. Tareque Choudhury, Head of Security at British Telecom, says, “A majority of malls are offering basic internet access, or free Wi-Fi. They are ensuring that Wi-Fi internet is safe and secure, the websites consumers browse are safe, and malicious ones are blocked.”

While retailers use analytics to pinpoint consumer behaviour from data collected through loyalty programmes, malls themselves are becoming technologically savvy. Choudhury says, “It is about innovation. We’re speaking to a lot of malls about BYOD infrastructure as a service. At one of the bigger malls in Dubai they are able to use analytics to show the behaviour and traffic of visitors.”

Samy, an app launched  by Igniva Technologies earlier this year, lets merchants market promotions to consumers via their mobile. The app integrates all the important retail touch points such as point of sale (POS), gift cards, mobile offers and loyalty programmes into a single, synchronised mobile platform for merchants. Participating sellers can have a storefront within the downloadable app, which virtually acts as a mobile mall. Businesses can customise the content and frequency of messaging to their customers.

 Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates have their own apps. Both are an asset to those who have difficulty remembering where they parked. Dubai Mall’s app uses GPS to pinpoint your location on a 3D map and categorises information on stores that are running promotions.

Software company HPS is currently working on a self-checkout solution that would enable customers to scan products they wish to buy in a store and pay for them without using the POS in the store.

E-retailers want in
The use of mobile for shopping is consistently growing across the board. Online retailer JadoPado reports that average session lengths on its mobile section have increased, as have their transactions.

Omar Kassim, Founder, JadoPado, tells GN Focus, “We have seen a 44.64 per cent jump in the average session length from mobile and, more importantly, a jump in transactions from mobile by 35.27 per cent and a very large jump in revenue from mobile by 66.18 per cent versus the same period last year.”

While merchants have already incorporated mobile in their strategies, expect to see online retailers jump on the festival bandwagon. Kassim says, “At the moment both events [Dubai Shopping Festival and Dubai Summer Surprises] are targeted at retail. A bunch of e-commerce players, including ourselves, have entered into a discussion with DFRE to see if we can put together an e-commerce-related event in the near future. We’d like to take part if there is an impact in terms of driving customers online. At the moment, both events target retail. With a few tweaks, e-commerce could become a part of the festival mix in the near future.”