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Thu 10 Sep 2020 11:38 AM

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How one Abu Dhabi shopping mall is planning a retail revolution

Reem Mall to become the world's first fully enabled offline-to-online high tech shopping centre

How one Abu Dhabi shopping mall is planning a retail revolution

Shopping at Reem Mall could soon be completed from the comfort of your own home and delivered right to your doorstep, similar to Amazon, Noon.com and other online retailers.

Reem Mall in Abu Dhabi is set to become the world’s first fully enabled offline-to-online high-tech shopping centre as the e-commerce industry continues to grow across the region.

Amid the current coronavirus crisis and various lockdown and curfew measures implemented to stem its spread, the ambitious plans for the $1.2 billion mega mall will “reinvent the shopping centre experience for both retailer and customer”.

A launch date is to be confirmed, according to Milat Sayra Berirmen, digital innovation director for Reem Mall.

There are currently around 450 stores, including 85 F&B outlets, in the mall, with plans to sign every one of them up to the new mega omni-channel ecosystem, which will be connected to an integrated e-commerce logistics hub and an aggregated customer app.

Berirmen told Arabian Business: “At the nucleus of the programme is actually the single notion that a shopping mall needs to transform from the traditional mall to an over-arching entity connecting the consumer with the retailer.

“Outside the mall it’s 21st century, inside the mall, it’s 20th century.”

Customers can take a trip to the mall, as they normally would, and browse around various stores. However, instead of making several purchases and carrying shopping bags around, they can buy from the app and the product will be delivered to a digital locker, as part of a logistics hub created. It can then be picked up at the end of the visit.

Alternatively, shopping at Reem Mall could soon be completed from the comfort of your own home and delivered right to your doorstep, similar to Amazon, Noon.com and other online retailers.

Berirmen said: “Unlike the rest of the players within the region, not only the UAE, I can safely say with confidence that Reem Mall is not only a real estate investment; Reem Mall is a technology investment, it’s a logistics investment; and it’s a real estate investment.

“Specifically with the female demographic, good luck having a shopping spree of two hours, walking on high heel shoes and pushing a stroller. You have the appetite to shop, but after time you just say ‘I give up’.

“That is why we created a specific workflow, where we call this ‘arms-free shopping’. Where we truly enable the consumer to drop the shopping at the point of the retailer and we utilise the logistics hub to go, pick that item, store it in a pigeon box, and at the end of your shopping, it can be delivered to a digital locker or to your home.”

According to specially commissioned research with IPSOS, the GCC retail market is expected to grow to $308 billion by 2023, while the UAE remains the retail hub of the region, with sales growth of 5.1 percent year-on-year.

Over the past five years, individual retailers and larger multi-brand franchise groups have moved from viewing online as a separate business unit with a different objective to a unified strategic extension of their existing brick and mortar work.

A study by Visa, Dubai Police and Dubai Economy earlier this year revealed 68 percent of respondents surveyed across the UAE had shopped less at physical stores since the coronavirus outbreak began while 49 percent were shopping online more.

“I love playing the ‘would you rather’ game. From the sense of the traditional shopping mall perspective, would you rather that the consumer goes to every single retailer with a different user-name and a different password, with a credit card transaction from every retailer, and then go contact click-and-collect and let’s assume most have that after the Covid impact?” said Berirmen.

“Or would you rather have access to a mall-based marketplace, one user-name, one password, one credit card – you order it and then basically the mall logistics service goes to that retailer, picks those products up, puts them in a digital locker where that’s synchronised with the customer account, and the product can be picked out?”

Consumers will also be guided towards particular promotions through the app, based on their previous shopping habits.

“Consumers want to be guided. You go to Amazon or Noon, you actually are met with a system that reasons, it understands who you are and it responds its offerings and even the structure of the web page, based on your needs and wants. But yet again, when you look at it from a shopping mall, there is still tremendous friction there,” said Berirmen.

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