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Wed 11 Jan 2017 01:15 PM

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Why bricks and mortar is not dead for MidEast retailers

Retailers can maximise the potential of their physical stores by standardising the acceptance of digital payment methods.

Why bricks and mortar is not dead for MidEast retailers
Digital Ozvardar says data security is critical for online payment system.

In a largely cash-based society, where we assume 70 percent of transactions are still done with currency, online retailers have some way to go in building trust.

Cash-on-delivery options can only go a small way towards that and is not conducive to forming better habits. For people to start trusting retailers with their plastic, they have to see the technology at play. So even before jumping to an online presence, brands can make small modifications to their physical spaces and maximise both the consumer experience and their bottom line.

Brands can save on personnel costs by taking billing options to the customer and blurring the lines between the cashier and the sales team. This approach gives the customer more face time with the product and the expert and helps mould your whole team into being able to sell.

By incorporating large screens, tablets and other digital touch points, an in-store experience can easily replicate the online experience, where customers will be able to quickly have an overview of other options/sizes/colours of products.

Middle East customers still like the idea of being able to experience the goods: to see, touch, trial. Seeing how customers interact with products in this new digital-physical setting will provide merchants with real time insight into their preferences and experiences, helping to fine-tune their operation and service levels. The consumers’ order history, purchase preferences and delivery options can also easily and securely be accessed by merchants and consumers to help streamline the entire experience.

Only customer satisfaction will ensure that contactless and mobile options will continue to gain traction and the trust of users. This trust in digital payments is what will start the integration of retailers and payment providers to our daily lives and begin the countless, seamless transactions for lower monetary purchases.

Security and trust are critical to the workings of the payment system, and so is protecting consumer privacy. The entire industry is responsible for ensuring that consumer data is kept safe and the risk of fraud is minimised. As adoption for cashless transactions grow, we expect to see beneficial engagement between consumers and merchants wherever commerce happens and that especially means on mobile devices.

More than half of residents in the MENA region are under the age of 25 — 34 percent of the UAE population falls in this age bracket. This young hyper-connected community is amongst the hungriest consumers of social media and digital content in the world. They are also likely to boost smart payment adoption, such as mobile payments and digital wallets, not only enabling merchants to improve efficiency and customer service, but also protecting technology investments.

With only four years to go until Expo 2020 Dubai, we foresee a huge potential to increase business and commerce in the UAE, attracting large numbers of tourists. The retail sector is investing heavily in infrastructure with several mall openings in the pipeline. Whether physical or online, one thing is for sure: customers will rely increasingly on their phones.

The year 2017 might just be that year where people begin to ditch the physical wallet as merchants begin to standardise acceptance of mobile payments, cards are digitised within mobile wallets and retail incentives are downloaded directly to your device.

Ozgur Ozvardar, Vice President and General Manager, Verifone Middle East & North Africa

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