Image Credit: Shutterstock

The UAE e-commerce market is set to enjoy exponential growth over the next decade if the statistics are anything to go by.

Figures published by global market and consumer data providers Statista earlier this year state e-commerce revenues for the UAE expected to reach $10.21bn in 2023, with an annual growth rate of 7.65 per cent for the period 2023-2027, and projected market volumes of $13.71 billion by 2027.

Retailers in the UAE are aware of the projections and excited about the prospects.

E-commerce fulfillment

Sunil Babu Muthu, Head of E-Commerce Business, Brands For Less Group (BFL Group), speaking to GN Focus, says, “The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated online shopping, prompting a significant shift in consumer behaviour, and causing brands to re-evaluate their strategies. BFL Group's partnership with IQ Robotics enhanced international e-commerce fulfillment. With an expanding tech-driven landscape, the UAE's e-commerce market is poised for robust growth, driven by evolving consumer preferences and advanced technologies.

Sunil Babu Muthu

“We see a potential for larger-scale efficiency, this is why BFL Group aims to build a robust local e-commerce presence, leveraging technology for customer satisfaction and loyalty over the next few years.

Brand loyalty, in fact plays a huge part in the success stories of many well established as well as up and coming Made in UAE e-commerce platforms. It’s definitely something OneClickDrive prompts from its valued clientele, thanks in part to the stellar product portfolio it delivers – luxury car and yacht rentals. Mahesh Pagarani, Co-Founder and Sales Director, OneClickDrive believes the brand is more than just a rental marketplace though.

Mahesh Pagarani

Appreciating automotive luxury

“We're true believers in the thrill of driving the newest vehicles,” says Pagarani. “We want to foster the UAE's expanding appreciation for high-end automobiles. We work closely with both regional and international car rental companies to provide our users with a wide selection of the most cutting-edge models available. It's how we keep the UAE a utopia for motorists for the foreseeable future.

“Our listed partners are car aficionados and always ahead in bringing the top of the line car models from distinguished car brands such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, McLaren and more. Talk top-end luxury and discerning lifestyle choices and e-commerce platforms in Dubai and the UAE have managed to read and understand their customer requirements pretty well.

VPerfumes, the go to platform for aficionados of fine fragrances in the country makes a case for customization in approach to building on customer satisfaction and regaining brand loyalty.

Personalised service spells success

Indicating strong growth for the sector in the country, a spokesperson for the brand speaking to GN Focus, says, “The UAE e-commerce sector is anticipated to flourish in the next decade, especially within the perfume industry. Factors like increasing digital penetration, changing consumer habits, and the UAE's global exposure drive this growth.

“At V Perfumes, we're enhancing our online presence, offering personalised experiences via AI, collaborating for exclusive launches, emphasising sustainability, and expanding internationally. Our aim is to lead the e-commerce perfume growth in the UAE and globally, ensuring premium and immersive online shopping experiences for our clientele.” Offering sustainable choices seems to be a recurring theme among online retailers even as the UAE e-commerce sector inspires growth.

Sustainability to shape consumer choices

Dharmin Ved, Founder & CEO of the elevated fashion and lifestyle online platform 6th believes himself fortunate to have witnessed steady growth in the UAE e-commerce sector since the brand’s founding in 2016, and in retaining loyal customers.

Dharmin Ved

Looking ahead to the next decade, Ved is keen to share his read on how the e-commerce market will shape up while discussing future trends. “Increased internet penetration rates and the government’s drive towards digitalisation indicate larger segments of the population will turn to online shopping,” says Ved. He also believes global-local preferences eventually shaping unique fashion offerings as the modern GCC customer base becomes connected globally, seeking international as well as homegrown brands that resonate with their cultural and personal style.

Touching on the sustainability agenda, Ved elaborates: “Sustainability will play a pivotal role in shaping consumer choices. The move towards more eco-friendly and ethically sourced products will gain momentum.” The push to sustainable choices is in part complemented by the push for more technology infusion to streamline client servicing and enhancing the sell among the UAE’s online retailers.

Technology to the rescue

Muthu of the BFL Group reveals the brand having invested more than Dh44 million in e-commerce tech in 2020, when Covid struck. “Our commitment to customer satisfaction extends to innovative technology integration. The automated roaming shuttle, a pioneering initiative in partnership with SSI Schaefer, exemplifies this,” says Muthu. “By streamlining restocking processes and enhancing shelf presentation, the shuttle ensures an optimal in-store experience. A partnership with IQ Robotics also saw 160 robots deployed for faster processing – leveraging cutting-edge technology like robotics not only improves operational efficiency but also reinforces customer loyalty.” The introduction of robotics significantly cut down the restocking turnaround, says Muthu, allowing customers to find new additions every time they shopped at the BFL stores. This in turn has increased the brand’s customer satisfaction and loyalty.

It's an AI revolution

Pagarani of OneClickDrive sees the increasing importance of AI in helping the brand achieve greater customer satisfaction, translating to higher profit margins.

“With the help of AI, we are working on revolutionising the car rental industry. We're looking to integrate AI giants like Meta’s Llama-2 and Open AI’s ChatGPT into our platform. This makes it possible to do searches based on specific criteria, such as a user's penchant for convertibles over SUVs. It is akin to having your own private auto expert.

“In the future, we also hope to have a digital assistant that provides instantaneous, tailored replies, making online conversations seem as natural as having a talk with a buddy over coffee!”

For Ved of 6th, there’s a whole listicle of advantages that he believes technology has afforded the online lifestyle brand in recent months.

“For one, we have a generous return policy, being the only platform in the GCC to offer a 100-day free return and exchange policy. For our UAE customers, we elevate this by enabling returns at our phygital store in Dubai Hills Malls, combining online convenience with in-store tangibility. The brand is also highly localized, harnessing technology to offer localized product ranges, deeply resonating with our diverse GCC audience in the process.” Other benefits 6th has garnered include the following:

● Responsive Customer Service: Leveraging top-tier solutions, we ensure swift and efficient responses to customer queries, positively influencing sales.

● Boxati - Order Tracking: Our proprietary courier aggregator system guarantees a smooth post-purchase experience, fostering repeat purchases.

● Size Prediction Tools: Leveraging data-driven insights, we're developing tools to predict a customer's size, ensuring they select the right fit across brands and categories, thus minimizing returns and enhancing satisfaction.

● Phygital Experience: Our unique store offers digital browsing, immediate trial room preparations, and a seamless try-on experience, exemplifying our innovative approach.

● AI-Enhanced Catalog Management : We're introducing a tool streamlining catalog uploads. It’s AI driven quality control.

All the technology in the world, however is not going to prompt customers to shell out money online if the deals don't come through thick and fast. This is the UAE after all, where seasonal and festive offers are practically a year-long affair. In keeping with the creed, UAE online players are currently going to town with some hard to resist offers on student accessories, with Back to School season fully upon us.

Online campaigns the real deal

“Presently, our Back to School campaign is in the limelight,” says Ved of 6th, adding, “and going beyond the usual, we've partnered with Saudi rapper/musician and comedian, Amy Roko to create an exclusive music video, combining fashion with compelling entertainment, capturing the vibrancy of our brand.”

As the year unfolds, 6th Street is also preparing to unveil its Autumn-Winter collection, ensuring customers stay ahead with the latest trends. A monumental moment for the retail brand will be Super November, reveals Ved, which is the brand’s version of Black Friday. “It's not just another sale, but a collaborative effort where every department at 6thStreet rallies to exceed past milestones and achieve unparalleled success. It's during events like these that we truly push the boundaries of what's achievable in fashion e-commerce, not just offering products but creating memorable experiences.” V Perfumes, on its part is excited about its offerings for the brand’s app users.

“We also provide extra benefits for app users,” says the company spokesperson. “Once a quarter we have an Up To 90 per cent off super sale, and as Super Friday is also approaching, we are well prepared for it.”

For Pagarani at OneClickDrive, there is adventure as well to reel in some of that customer satisfaction, courtesy the brand’s roster of online campaigns.

“OneClickDrive is dedicated to providing its online customers with exceptional service,” says Pagarani. “This year, we've collaborated with premium yacht rental companies to give our guests access to the calm seas of the United Arab Emirates. Our partnerships with other successful companies and influential people help spread the word about our brand's values. While transparency is our ethos, some unexpected developments are on the horizon. The initiatives we're working on are meant to revolutionise the concept of high-end adventure.”

In fact, Pagarani could even be talking for the sector and what it hopes to achieve in the coming months while sharing OneClickDrive's future plans. “We're still breaking new ground, so get ready for some exciting announcements in the near future.”