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Shortening the gap between online browsing and putting it on in-store - that's what delivers, within minutes. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: One UAE retailer is thinking beyond ecommerce and omni-channel – and ‘u-commerce’ is the result. opened its first fashion-focussed phy-digital’ store in Dubai last week, and the retailer’s intent is to bridge the gap between online browsing and actually feeling the stock in-store to within minutes. And buy, almost as instantly.

In other words, no waiting around as with pure ecommerce purchases or those done the omni-channel way. The 7,535-square feet concept store at Dubai Hills Mall is fitted with 38 tablets and 7 fitting rooms. “Since is software and not hardware, we can constantly upgrade features to enhance services for customers,” said Dharmin Ved, CEO of the entity, which came into being as ecommerce portal and part of the Apparel Group.

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Women shop using a computer screen, during the opening of a 'phygital' store in Dubai.

We are paving a unique path for enhanced shopping experiences - retail is not about omni-channel experiences as that’s dated. Now, it’s unified commerce.” Or u-commerce.

- Dharmin Ved, CEO of 6th Street

What this allows is for the shopper to browse online and select the product through a tab, and within a few minutes get to handle the choice, try it on and buy. For shoppers used to making decisions on the go, u-commerce is their answer.

Browse and buy, in an instant if that’s what you want. At the new store, it’s about instant choices. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

The customer’s experience does not start at or end at the store. That is, if during the store visit you have not made a decision, then transfer the product to the cart on the app to continue shopping anytime and anywhere.

Via the app, shoppers have access to live shopping features happening at the store, where the stylist will help guide on style. And customers visiting the store can get a firsthand view of styling.

“We brought through multiple features integrated into one platform,” said Ved.

There is an influencers’ feature on the app where they talk about their own styling. Later on, will bring that feature in-store where a shopper can speak to influencers directly to help them out.

At the phygital store, there is seven times more inventory than at a regular shop, from brands such as Birkenstock, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Levi’s and others.

There will be 10 fashion advisors on the floor to assist through the unique shopping experience. There will be none of the long shipping times, limited inventories in-store, or waiting at check-out lines.

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Shoppers browse at at Dubai Hills mall. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

“This store will be a revenue generator for the brand, as customers will come and browse, look and buy the product straight, and it creates a significant trust factor, which is vital for any online shopping platform,” said Ved. “The customer gets the advantage of online shopping and can visit and talk face-to-face with an advisor, come to exchange or return the product.”

Shoppers at the store will browse through the tablet to find the product and try it on them, for example, a dress/t-shirt trail at the automated fitting rooms where an interactive screen allows customers to exchange sizes, request assistance and select purchases.

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"We are now tapping into conversations with customers that go offline as well, connecting with them to shop with us at stores,” said Dharmin Ved. “That’s why we are going offline, creating a Wow experience for them."

"We took physical locations and put a digital mindset to it, and where we have constant improvement and upgrades happening within the concept. We also have a roadmap for new features to introduce in our store and app to interact with customers in a unified manner at the same time, rather than in separation."