Rewriting the rules of retail

16 June 2021
With a growing number of young shoppers interested in spending time trialling new products, or “showrooming”, the concept of retail as a service is becoming more popular

The retail sector has been pushed into overdrive, as brick-and-mortar stores have been forced to close and consumers are being encouraged to shop online during the pandemic. 

Today, traditional retailers already burdened with challenges will need to shift their strategy and adopt new, innovative technologies to keep up with the pace at which e-commerce sites are scaling up.

Reimagining the in-store experience

To be able to survive and thrive, retailers will have to integrate diverse channels such as websites, physical stores, kiosks, direct mail, call centres, social media and mobile devices into a single, seamless, omnichannel experience to interact with their customers.

Retail as a service

Retail as a service (RaaS) gives retailers the power to build enhanced customer experiences just as quickly as customers can imagine new ways of interacting with brands. With a focus on consumer experience, the RaaS model bridges the gap between traditional and online retail, putting consumer experience and the desire to discover firmly at the heart of its concept.

In essence, a consumer can first try out a product and then either buy it in-store or choose to order online.

Stores such as the recently opened b8ta in Dubai Mall demonstrate the successful execution of the RaaS platform. It acts as a lifeline for retailers that need to reshape their business with agility, innovative technology and well-thought-out experiences.

Major driving forces include scalability and reliability, which pave the way to a frictionless customer journey. This also provides control at every touchpoint of the customer journey, delivering competitive differentiation.

18 July 2019: Visitors to the b8ta store in Hudson Yards mall in New York (sourced via Shutterstock). The software-powered retailer b8ta functions as a marketplace for high-tech and luxury brands that want to test their products among customers on a rented shelf space.

To survive the new normal and stay relevant, retailers need to introduce additional services or improve existing ones. The recent shift in the consumer landscape has put pressure on retailers to evolve in order to survive.

With a heavy focus on RaaS, hybrid retailers are now relying on experiential strategies including providing differentiated offerings, trained and friendly staff and an exceptional customer experience.

In addition, the introduction of RaaS has enabled brands to continue experimenting with visual merchandising, making new brands and products available to consumers.

One trend over the past 12 months has been the increased strain placed on couriers as online shopping and click-and-collect services nearly tripled in demand. Supply-chain challenges might even be here to stay, but regulating the back-end with proper forecasting using data and insights can help retailers to capitalise on every sales opportunity.

This, in turn, can help to streamline supply-chain management, from inventory to delivery.

In addition, clear insights from analytics that focus on website impressions and traffic, leads and sales conversions, can provide retailers with real-time updates to eliminate any friction points that could lead to customer dissatisfaction. Relying on retail analytics and hard data can help retailers make smart business decisions that generate higher profits and better customer satisfaction, and deliver a more interactive store overall.

With a heavy focus on RaaS, hybrid retailers are now relying on experiential strategies including providing differentiated offerings, trained and friendly staff and an exceptional customer experience.

By staying up-to-date with real-time inventory updates, retailers can improve the customer experience and boost customer loyalty, and can better understand which items are most popular.

The pace of change in the e-commerce industry is showing no signs of slowing down and the concept of RaaS is here to stay.

The next generation in retail will include the delivery of an all-round RaaS solution, providing unique customer experiences on demand.

The b8ta concept, for example, blends the offline and online customer experiences, bridging the gap between traditional and online retail and making it a popular concept for international brands looking to enter the GCC market.

As shopping preferences continue to evolve and take into account new consumer preferences, retailers will also need to evolve in order to cater to their potential buyers and their regular customers.

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