Customers want more immersive shopping experiences during Ramadan, says Samsung’s Shafi Alam

Ramadan has begun in the UAE – and retailers are anticipating a busy festive season.

ME Retail News spoke to Shafi Alam, the head of consumer business and marketing at Samsung Gulf Electronics, to find out more about shopping trends during the holy month.

Customers want better in-store shopping and personalisation options during Ramadan, trends show.

“Consumer trends seen in the past indicate that shoppers rank home entertainment, household appliances and gaming devices as top shopping categories during the pre and early days of the holy month.

“Our insights also indicate that towards the end of Ramadan, consumers tend to consider Eid gifting options, this includes primarily mobile phones, wearables, and tablets.”

In-store shopping increases in Ramadan

While e-commerce sales will grow during Ramadan, shopping in brick-and-mortar stores also increases during this month, said Mr Alam.

To meet both these demands, Samsung has combined its physical and digital offerings into ‘phygital’ pop up stores across malls in the UAE.

Located in the Mirdiff City Centre and the Dubai Mall, these stores will offer immersive experiences to customers looking to buy electronics. 

They will be able to use augmented reality technology to test the products.

“We are also setting up pop-up stores in Mirdiff City Centre and The Dubai Mall during the Ramadan season and for Eid, where for the first time, we are taking to a physical location and creating a hybrid experience of online and offline shopping.

“The line between online and in-store shopping continues to blur.

“A hybrid shopping model has since emerged, integrating physical and digital experiences within the same purchasing journey. In such cases, customers prefer to touch and have a feel of the product in-store and then purchase the product online – showrooming – or conducting research online first and then coming to the store to make the final purchase – webrooming. These types of customers are much more informed and require an equally enhanced service experience.” 

Shoppers want personalised gifting options

During Ramadan, shoppers expect more personalisation options than other periods during the year.

“This behaviour was noticed more during the pandemic-induced lockdown when consumers were shopping more online and sending Eid gifts via e-commerce platforms.

“Online customers also increasingly expect fast and free shipping, easy returns, and personalised recommendations.”

Gift spending during Ramadan will rise by 44 per cent with overall retail spending in the Mena region expected to hit $66 billion during the month, added Mr Alam.

39 per cent of those surveyed by Google Analytics said that they desire new and up-to-date products when purchasing electronics.

To cash in on this trend, Samsung will be offering up to 40 per cent discounts across its range of products.

Consumers also look for other incentives during this month.

These include “additional and exclusive features such as guaranteed doorstep trade-in, free shipping and returns and extended warranty on products, apart from zero per cent instalment plans”.

The company will be offering these features for its customers during Ramadan.

Research firm Kearney forecast that the regions e-commerce market will expand by 16 per cent annually to reach $50 billion in the next two years.

“The regions digital penetration, one of the highest in the world coupled with the onset of the pandemic, has driven online shopping to new heights, where we have seen a seismic shift towards e-commerce, from all consumer segments.” 

The pandemic has helped the company increase its online sales.

Our online operation has experienced two-fold growth year-on-year since the pandemic began. This success is attributed to our commitment to providing consumers with a seamless and truly personalised shopping experience, such as our Samsung Bespoke product line.”

This allows customers to choose colour combinations, fonts and other hyper-personalisation features. 

Demand for Samsung’s bespoke products will increase in Ramadan, added Mr Alam.

Thanks to the Eid gifting period which follows Ramadan, shoppers are looking for products to give to their loved ones, he said.

Enhancing in-store customer service in Ramadan

One of the main differences between online and in-store shopping is that in-store customers also value recommendations and guidance by sales associates.

This consumer expectation is increased during Ramadan, said Mr Alam.

Many customers still choose physical stores over online offerings when shopping for gifts, and as such, these stores will need more sales associates during the holy month.

Samsung will still add “digital touches” to its brick-and-mortar stores.

“In-store shopping has also evolved to include digital interfaces such as interactive displays and mobile checkout options to enhance the customer experience.”

This will help Samsung with faster checkouts during Ramadan, where stores serve more customers than usual.

Retailers will need to understand changing consumer behaviour if they wish to retain customers.

“As part of our Ramadan campaign, we will be adapting to all that technology has to offer, to meet the increased consumer demand.”