Top five trends shaping KSA retail industry

Saudis visit the International Coffee and Chocolate Exhibition held at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center in the capital Riyadh on December 4, 2017. (AFP)

  • Artificial intelligence can identify consumer preferences with great accuracy


RIYADH: The Kingdom has a vast, young, tech-savvy population that is shifting behavior in Saudi Arabia, according to Ahmed Reda, MENA consumer industry leader for Ernst and Young (EY).

EY worked with more than 200 business leaders, futurists and industry experts through its FutureConsumer.Now program (FCN) to map the buying habits of consumers. “We asked questions such as how will consumers shop, eat, stay healthy, live, use technology, play, work and move in the future?” Reda said.

Here are some of the key trends powering the shift in consumer behavior and the retail industry in the GCC’s largest consumer base.

Data analytics and AI transforming traditional retail models: The new breed of GCC consumer expects a highly personalized experience. This will be even more critical as brand loyalty declines among GCC consumers. As analytics tools become increasingly sophisticated, the value of personalized data will grow. Artificial intelligence can identify consumer preferences with great accuracy.

Brands need to implement omnichannel strategies: In markets such as Saudi Arabia, which has some of the most affluent consumers, omnichannel strategies (any time, any place) are vital for companies to craft a user experience that cuts across online shopping, social media, mobile apps and conventional stores.

Physical stores still have a place: Online shopping has reduced the need for people to visit shops. Physical stores will still be a powerful asset if they are used for more than shopping. Retailers have a portfolio of well-located spaces that can be repurposed.

Rise of e-commerce: Physical stores won’t disappear, but the high penetration of smartphones and digital services has transformed the behavior of GCC consumers.

Value-seeking behavior after VAT: In a market that has been tax-free, the introduction of VAT, even at a relatively low rate of 5 percent, has caused a shift in consumer behavior. The average Saudi consumer is more cost-conscious than ever. Companies that can tap into additional value through economies of scale, or provide greater convenience, will reap the rewards.


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