online shopping stock
Retailer sources say that with the World Cup viewing providing intense competition in the evenings, the discounts and offers have to grab shopper attention instantly. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: UAE shoppers are getting another chance to tap 50-80 per cent discounts as the Black Friday sales open, and launch the all-important end-of-year sales. This time though, online marketplaces and their offers will have to compete for attention from consumers who will likely be glued to watching the FIFA World Cup matches in the evenings (and discussing the results and making forecasts in the pre-match parts of the day).

Even the Black Friday deals are geared towards the World Cup, with noon adding a free-to-play football prediction feature - Golazo - to its app. And consumers will get their rewards too, in the form of cashbacks.

Retailer sources say that with the World Cup viewing providing intense competition in the evenings, the discounts and offers have to grab shopper attention instantly. Because once viewers get hooked onto the matches, diverting their attention will not come easy.

Plus, categories such as TVs, smartphones and tablets will have already seen shoppers go in for new purchases or major upgrades, starting from the summer itself and getting another spike in demand during this month’s 11.11 sales promotions.

“Popular Black Friday categories such as fashion, accessories and home appliances may see a lag between people wanting to buy and actually doing so,” said a retailer. Fashion merchandise is seeing 20-30 per cent off, while perfumes - the other popular buys during the season - too are getting 30 per cent off on average.

As is now common, ecommerce channels and brick-and-mortar operators are hoping to convince shoppers to get started with 0 per cent interest BNPL (buy now, pay later) backed offers.

“We’re working with local partners to add more BNPL options to our platform to increase conversion rates and purchase value for noon sellers and businesses in all the markets we serve - UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt,” said Neha Choudhary, Digital Strategy and Growth at noon, which is running its Yellow Friday until November 27.

Consumer spending has not been impacted in the region as the broader economy remains resilient. We have seen purchasing volumes grow by 34 per cent from July to October with existing retailers. This is likely more pronounced as customers continue to shift more of their purchases away from interest-bearing credit transactions to consumer-friendly payment options.

- Spokesperson at BNPL platform Tabby

No sign of ‘extreme caution’

So far, there isn’t much sign of shoppers in the UAE putting off their spending on non-essentials, brought on by all the interest rate hikes witnessed through the year and continuing into the next, based on what the US Federal Reserve has been saying.

All through next month, UAE residents have not slowed down on planning their holiday breaks ahead of the New Year. Car dealerships talk about another strong month in the works, as more 2023 model year options arrive. And if one asks F&B businesses as to what they forecast, the collective response is about a ‘record-setting December’.

Will shoppers need ‘free delivery’?

Online shoppers, though, will look to improve their chances with zero delivery costs in a nod to the times. As for online retailers, a divided opinion one gets to hear.

noon’s Neha says that free shipping will be ‘determined by the shopping season strategy of each retailer’. “It’s our craziest November yet, and we’re working hard to provide our customers with the best bargain and shopping experience possible through our platform,” she added.

Aside from the zero shipping charges aspect, we’re focusing on introducing new features to our platform that will make shopping even easier and drive customers to

- Neha Choudhary, Digital Strategy and Growth at noon

Sandeep Ganediwalla, Regional Partner at Reducer Consulting, is of a different opinion. “We do not see delivery charges reduced during this period as that is typically an acquisition tool. Players use the loyalty programs to give such discounts rather than give free delivery to all.

“Discounts are brand/product specific. Generally, we expect similar levels of discounts as last year on smartphones. Depending on the strategy - acquisition of customer/inventory disposal - brands will set their discount (range).”

Loyalty and rewards

Amazon for one is rewarding its Prime members with ‘up to 70 per cent more savings’. They will also get a one-day head start on the White Friday offers, which run until November 28.

Listening to customers and what they care about, we have also collaborated with a wide range of banking partners to offer more flexible payment options through 0 per cent instalment plans and instant bank discounts for bigger savings.

- Stefano Martinelli, GCC Retail Director, Amazon

If shoppers can be distracted enough from the World Cup to place orders online or do the buying at a store, retailers would have met their goals with this year’s Black Friday.

Giving the omni feel

UAE retailers are fine-tuning their omnichannel strategy for this Black Friday season as more shoppers get comfortable with order and delivery pick up using a mix of online and offline.

“At Eros, we have a strategy of extending Black Friday deals on both online as well as our physical stores, which gives the flexibility, comfort and assurance to our customers to drop into one of our many stores or shop online for the best deals,” said Mohammed Badri, Director at Eros Group.

“Given that we are in the business of selling electronics and appliances, most of our customers do want to see, touch and feel the products and get a first-hand information from our experts in our stores. We do use Black Friday as a massive opportunity to drive more traffic into our stores and ensure good conversion to sales.”

Scent of a good deal

Fragrances will be one of the intensely fought over categories this Black Friday as retailers and brands see more of this category being bought through online channels.

“We estimate that at least 10 per cent of fragrance sales are happening online now in Saudi Arabia,” said Darine El Sabbagh, Managing Director of Golden Scent. “We believe that by 2030 we are headed to nearly 20 per cent ecommerce penetration in fragrance sales.

Given the well known global supply chain challenges and rising cost of raw materials and inflation, many international brands increased their prices on certain items by 5-15 per cent. Local brands, however, still aim to remain competitive.

- Darine El Sabbagh, Managing Director at Golden Scent