The Opportunity!

SARNGA DHARAN NAMBIAR –

It’s a huge opportunity. Not just for retailers and ecommerce platforms, but for technology companies as well. The point is, online shopping makes just one per cent of the total retail spending in Oman. With the younger generation showing enthusiastic thumbs up to e-shopping, this minuscule online spending is not a concern, but a wonderful opportunity for ecommerce stakeholders.
The Sultanate is heading towards a vibrant digital economy, and globally Oman stands at the 72nd spot among 151 countries on the eCommerce Index by UNCTAD, with a score of 57.2 out of 100 on the Index, which indicates the readiness of countries to engage in ecommerce.
But how to enhance online spending remains a concern. The answer lies in innovative technologies, especially VR and AR technologies that allow shoppers to immerse themselves in a fulfilling digital shopping experience that almost mimics physical shopping. This simply means both retailers and ecommerce platforms need to invest in these technologies and integrate them into their selling process and customer service.
What matters in ecommerce is experience, experience and experience. As James Norwood, EVP of Strategy at Episerver noted, “contextual commerce will continue to be the gold standard when it comes to the digital customer experience in the retail space and beyond.”
Content needs to be targeted at each customer, and this means retailers can deliver value-added services based on intent. At the same time, there also needs to be some caution in using individual’s data to create a more engaging shopping experience.
Those ecommerce firms alone will survive who are positioned to offer the customer what he/she requires at a particular point in the buying cycle. Thus, investing in creating a highly personalised experience holds the key to be competitive in the ecommerce sector. And brands or ecommerce platforms that offer personalised experiences rank high in the minds of customers.
Retailers and online marketplaces need to look at intelligent personalisation technologies such as content and product recommendation engines to give customers the best experience.
So will physical retail face a natural death? No way, as it offers tangible product experiences which no e-shop can do. This is why ecommerce giants such as Amazon and Warby Parker, to name a few, open physical stores, which also function as a collection and distribution points for e-purchases.
Definitely, the future belongs to AR/VR, and voice purchasing through smart home appliances like Alexa and Google Home. There is also great scope for better in-app engagement on social platforms.
So what could be the future of ecommerce in Oman? With a sizeable young population that is digitally empowered, and a huge untapped potential, the Sultanate offers a wonderful market for ecommerce. What can really work wonder in ensuring the growth of ecommerce in the country is an enabling environment for all types of ecommerce firms to thrive, and this is possible through proper government regulations and policies that are oriented to nurture the industry.
As mentioned above, local technology companies can leverage this opportunity to come up with innovative solutions that can greatly enhance the online shopping experience of customers in the Sultanate. This also offers great opportunities for Oman-based research and development firms, universities and other stakeholders as well.
The upcoming Oman ecommerce conference, scheduled for September 16 and 17, dubbed as the most innovative tech-conference on eCommerce in the Middle East unravelling the future of Governance, Transportation, Logistics, Commerce and Trade, Finance, Education and Health, to promote the Digital Economy, is sure to lay the foundation for a stronger and vibrant ecommerce industry in Oman.